Communication Beginnings: An Introductory Listening and Speaking Text for English Language Learners
Della Jean Abrahams, Portland State University
Copyright Year: 2017
ISBN 13: 9781387268634
Publisher: Portland State University Library
Conditions of Use
In her introduction, Della Jean Abrahams states, “It is my hope that this text can create and facilitate a communicative and productive learning environment for students and their instructors.” Her text, which I think is generally well thought... read more
In her introduction, Della Jean Abrahams states, “It is my hope that this text can create and facilitate a communicative and productive learning environment for students and their instructors.” Her text, which I think is generally well thought out, well organized, and engaging for her target population, largely meets those goals and could easily be used as a general structural foundation upon which to build an effective adult listening/speaking course. However, if I were to use this text in a course, I would want to carefully check each activity and audio resource to be sure that it is level-appropriate: while the author’s target audience is advanced-beginner / low-intermediate, I find that most of the grammar focused upon would be more appropriate for a beginning-level course, while many of the audio clips and videos contain vocabulary and grammar constructions that would be far more appropriate for intermediate/advanced courses. Also, I would want to elaborate on each level-appropriate grammar or pronunciation focus by providing more in-depth context and explanations plus a greater variety of practice exercises. Nonetheless, I believe that the text provides a valuable structure, a variety of good resources, and a solid approach for learners wanting to strengthen their English listening and speaking skills.
While I did not notice any bias in the text, I did notice several errors – all of which were in discussions of pronunciation or grammar points. For example, chin movement does not always accompany shifts from syllable to syllable, and each syllable has one vowel sound, not “at least one vowel” (p.7). Another example is on page 67: /s/ and /θ/ were not included in the list of unvoiced consonant sounds. Other content may be confusing or misleading due to brevity. For example, from the very brief introduction to reduced speech (p.48) and lack of recordings of the two lists of sentences, learners may assume it is fine to use reductions when speaking informally, even if they are speaking slowly.
The seven major topics upon which the chapters focus are all areas that adult beginning and intermediate English learners usually find relevant. Some of the specific content, such as prices or particular locations, may become dated over time, although I am guessing that given the nature of open resource texts, those references would be relatively easy to revise. Also, it may be possible to adapt the content for courses that are not university-based, or to highlight the location where the course is being offered.
Throughout the text, new terms are explained, directions for exercises are usually clear and concise, and written explanations of concepts generally use vocabulary and grammatical constructions that would be accessible to learners at the advanced beginner/low intermediate level – especially in a classroom setting where learners can ask questions and a teacher can provide elaboration. However, the content of many of the explanations is too brief and could lead to confusion or misunderstanding of the concept being introduced; because of this, I think it would be important for the teacher to use those explanations as starting points for presenting the material and then to provide elaboration, rather than letting those sections stand on their own. In particular, I am thinking of the sections explaining grammar points and facets of pronunciation such as syllable stress and sentence intonation.
The content of many of the recordings – especially the ELLLO links – is full of vocabulary and grammatical constructions that are more appropriate for intermediate/advanced learners. These recordings would be inaccessible to most learners at the level (advanced beginner/low intermediate) targeted by the text. However, the screencast video presentations on cardinal/ordinal numbers (p.55), describing food (p.45) and “My Day at PSU” (p.58) were comprehensive and would be accessible to advanced-beginner / low-intermediate learners.
Each chapter follows roughly the same format and sequence, and has similar types of exercises and resource links; as a result, learners should find it easier to focus on new content because they do not have to puzzle over how to navigate the text. This consistency in presentation also reinforces the author’s focus on stressing the dual importance of vocabulary development plus actually using the language both in and out of class in a variety of settings. Also, I appreciate how the vocabulary and concepts are often “recycled” from chapter to chapter. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, however, there are inconsistencies in skill level across various linked resources and elements of the content.
While I think there would be definite advantages to using the textbook in its entirety, each of the chapters could easily be used as a stand-alone supplement to a course. The numerous external resource links could also be helpful for learners at various proficiency levels, and used within a wide range of skill-based contexts.
The learning strategies and overall structure – repeated from chapter to chapter – can help learners strengthen their approach to enhancing their listening and speaking skills, which they could then apply to other settings as well. The frequent in-class discussion activities plus structured opportunities for interviewing non-classmates may also help learners build confidence in their ability to engage in conversations about daily life.
To me, the layout of the text seems clear and easy to follow, and there are no visible distortions of any of the elements when downloaded as a PDF file. However, in some sections – particularly in Chapter 3 – there seem to be pagination issues which could be confusing to learners: section or assignment headings are “orphaned” at the bottom of the previous page. Also, in the middle of page 63, the directions say, “Turn to the next page to practice listening to the different sounds of past tense verb endings.” but the exercise follows directly on the same page.
The “Foods in the United States” form linked from page 45 did not contain the recording link, although the other two forms were fine.
I tried most of the links in the textbook, and all were active. I hope that the author will monitor the links to ensure that the ELLLO links and links associated with PSU in particular continue to be active.
I did not notice any grammar errors in the writing itself, though did note that there are errors and oversimplifications in the grammar presentations. Also, I was a little surprised to find a sprinkling of British expressions, which may be confusing for an American audience: for example, the British “in your own time”, versus the American “on your own time”.
Some of the exercises/resources may be a tad insensitive to economic diversity. For example, the exercise on page 29 asks learners to discuss choosing between 2 very expensive vacations, or on page 61, there is a listening exercise about describing different houses, with the least expensive costing $500,000, and most of the rest over one million dollars. The only apartment included in the exercise is one in NYC that costs $2,000,000. Many of the linked audio resources on ELLLO included speakers from countries other than the U.S. In terms or racial diversity, however, the majority of speakers pictured appeared to be Caucasians, with Asians a distant second. Also, when locations were mentioned, most tended to be in North America, Europe, Australia, or Asia: there didn’t seem to be much content mentioning areas in Latin America, Africa, or the Middle East. Despite that lack of geographical and racial diversity, I did not find anything that I would consider culturally offensive.
It is far easier to critique a textbook than it is to write one, so I would like to thank Della Jean Abrahams for creating and sharing such a well-organized and useful resource in a field which, as she mentions in her introduction, has woefully few open access textbooks. This textbook provides a solid structure upon which to build in-depth listening and speaking courses appropriate for a variety of proficiency levels.
The index is clear and effective. There is no glossary, but one isn't needed. It is very good as a listening text as there are many links in each chapter. The book is described as "introductory" in the title and then as "advanced beginner-low... read more
The index is clear and effective. There is no glossary, but one isn't needed. It is very good as a listening text as there are many links in each chapter. The book is described as "introductory" in the title and then as "advanced beginner-low intermediate" in the introductory comments. Given that these terms can mean quite different things in different programs, it would be helpful to have a CEFR alignment given. The most challenging aspect of the book is that the grammar objectives are at a much lower level than the instructions and some of the practice exercises. I would make a lot of leveling edits were I to use this with an advanced beginner class, but would most likely not use it at a low intermediate level as the grammar objectives are too basic.
I did not find any content errors when reading the book. It is unbiased.
The topics are "timeless" and won't become obsolete. It is arranged a a manner that would make any updates easy to implement. However, there are several examples that assume that the readers are in Portland or at Portland State University. This is very unnecessary and greatly restricts its relevance (and even comprehensibility).
As mentioned in the Comprehensiveness section above, the grammar structures used in the directions and in some of the practice exercises are at a higher learner level than the objectives. A re-leveling of parts of the book would make this far more accessible, especially for learners studying independently and/or remotely.
The text is consistent. The layout of each chapter is the same, which is especially helpful at lower levels.
The text would be very easy to divide into smaller sections. Individual chapters could easily be used as supplementary material for courses.
It is logically and clearly organized.
The interface is great.
I did not find any grammatical errors.
I did not find it to be culturally insensitive or offensive. However, as mentioned above, its relevance is occasionally questionable. For one, there are many exercises that assume that the students are in Portland, or even at Portland State University. One using this elsewhere would need to adjust these parts ahead of time or explain that they needed to be changed. This is easier with some parts than others. Further, given the typical populations at most intensive English programs in the United States, it would be far more culturally relevant and engaging for the students were there to be more exercises with content/examples from China and the Middle East, for example.
The book is written appropriately for the reader it targets and covers all areas that are most needed. The colorful pictures are most helpful. read more
The book is written appropriately for the reader it targets and covers all areas that are most needed.
The colorful pictures are most helpful.
It is in keeping with my understanding of the subject.
There could be some dated material based upon cultural trends; however, it should not be objectionable or distract from the content being shared.
The book is written in such a manner that it invites the reader to progress by completing assignments and activities.
Quite user friendly.
The text is internally consistent in its structure and framework.
It's chapters are modular in content and progress cohesively for the reader.
Yes, extremely well presented logically and progressively for the reader.
There were no distortions or other display features that distracted from the verbiage being presented.
I did not see any glaring grammatical errors; if there are any, they passed me by.
No, the text is appropriate for a multicultural readership.
I think it was well prepared and easy for the reader.
The text does a good job of covering many very useful topics that would engage university/young adult ELLs (travel, food, hobbies, jobs) and it gives many great listening and speaking activities such as pair conversations, oral surveys, and many... read more
The text does a good job of covering many very useful topics that would engage university/young adult ELLs (travel, food, hobbies, jobs) and it gives many great listening and speaking activities such as pair conversations, oral surveys, and many web links to high-quality English exercises and conversations. It also teaches and practices 10 useful, high-frequency vocabulary words in each chapter, giving students the opportunity to hear and use the words, including a focus on the syllable structure of each word. The two areas in which I would criticize the book, however, are a) the intended audience’s language level and b) the grammar notes in each chapter. The book claims to be aimed at beginners and intermediate level ELLs, but the level of the material would be impossible for beginners, though it would be great for intermediate and even low-level advanced ELLs. On the other hand, most of the grammar notes found in each chapter are very elementary (past and future tense verbs, -s on the end of present tense verbs, pronouns, question formation, prepositions, cardinal and ordinal numbers, etc.) and would be a waste of time for intermediate ELLs. There’s no glossary or index, but this doesn’t seem like a great defect.
I only find one or two inaccuracies in the text; on page 69 the exercise says that the
-ed on “helped” is pronounced “id” but this is an error.
I also found the lesson on “intonation” (ch. 3) to be simplistic and potentially misleading. The text teaches that intonation goes up or down or up then down at the ends of different types of sentences, but intonation in English is a lot more complicated than that. Intonation is real and needs to be taught, but the explanation in chapter 3 is not very helpful.
The content is aimed at middle- to upper middle-class university ELLs and reflects well topics that would be of interest to them. However, I only two African-Americans and no Africans or Latinos represented in any of the activities or listening links, so we could say the text is biased in that way. Asians, Europeans, and North Americans make up virtually all the speakers that I saw.
Content is very up-to-date, but should not be obsolete too soon. As mentioned, the text covers many very useful topics that would be interesting and relevant to university/young adult ELLs (travel, food, hobbies, jobs, etc.).
The text and directions are very clear, but would require the students to be at at least an intermediate level in order to use and understand the text. The only thing that is unclear is that many of the audio links are very hard to hear especially in the first few chapters. By contrast, the web-based links to dialogs are very clear and high-quality.
The organization of the text is very consistent; the same types of exercises are found in each chapter. This would help students know what to expect and what to do as they move from chapter to chapter.
The text is very modular in organization. Certain chapters could be omitted entirely at the discretion of the instructor or they could be taught in any order with no undue problems.
The text was well organized in that each chapter follows a consistent pattern of activities and exercises. The organization from one chapter to the next is fine, but as mentioned, a teacher could teach the chapters in any order they want.
: I don’t find any interface problems or distortion of images or charts except for one fill-in-the-blank chart in which the word “discuss” is written vertically, not horizontally due, I think, to the smallness of the box the word is placed in. All the links to audio sources worked well except that many of the audio exercises in the first half of the book (especially) were very hard to hear and were a bit echo-y. Larger, clearer chapter headings would help. The three links to the food audio files are a bit hard to navigate and no scripts are given for those audio files.
I find no problems with regard to grammar in the text.
The text is not offensive in any way except that I find only two African-Americans and no Africans or Latinos represented in any of the activities or listening links, so we could say the text is biased in that way. Asians, Europeans, and North Americans make up virtually all the speakers that I saw. Africans, African-Americans, and Latinos (both from the US and from Latin America) need to be represented.
In general, this is a fine Listening-Speaking text with many useful activities, exercises, good content and topics, and great web-links to audio dialogs. I like the emphasis on vocabulary, the layout, and the engaging photos. The lessons on word stress, the sound of –ed on past tense verbs, and introduction of the concept of intonation (although it needs to go deeper) are all important to include. The book needs to give up the idea of being useful for beginners, however, and the grammatical lessons are mainly a waste of time for intermediate ELLs.
Overall the textbook was well written for its intended audience, the English Language Learner (ELL). I found there were engaging activities for all levels in the NRS panel. The text does index the material well, and offers a vocabulary bank,... read more
Overall the textbook was well written for its intended audience, the English Language Learner (ELL). I found there were engaging activities for all levels in the NRS panel. The text does index the material well, and offers a vocabulary bank, which is very useful in building a vocabulary for the participants, however there is not a glossary section in the text. I was able to speak with the author of the text to see if she was going to do a supplement for the text on additional grammar components or if she was going to write another text. At this time, she is considering a possible addendum with the grammar, but is uncertain as to when and if that will matriculate. I do feel that the text is comprehensive with the basic foundations of the ELL listening and speaking curriculum components for those who are seeking to improve their English.
The text includes audio as well as relevant visual aides to enhance the material’s objectives in each chapter. The only component missing is possibly more grammar skills. The text does give resource link material for vocabulary indexes.
The text was right on point with a majority of the material, however sometimes the instructions appeared to be bit confusing for the lower level participants. In speaking with the author, she did say this was above the basic level, but could be adapted in several ways for the basic ELL.
Very useful resource that is current and culturally modern. Essentially effective in working with intermediate to advanced ELL students.
The author wrote a clear modulated chapter for each of the 7 units. The terminology was concise and would be understood by most intermediate to advanced ELL students.
Each chapter tends to follow the same path in structure and presentation. Each chapter is framed in the same manner and would be consistent for the student.
I felt the beginning through the end of the final chapter had a flow that was again, consistent. The author built each chapter as a module that could stand on its own, yet have components that built up the next chapter.
Each chapter has a consistent theme and labeled according to each activity. As a matter of fact, each chapter could be pulled as a stand alone unit, as I mentioned previously, for extra emphasis if needed, but the content was formatted in the same easy to follow manner. for the student and the instructor. The components led the learner through vocabulary, a small portion of grammar which could be extended, critical thinking and speaking / communication practice.
Visually this text offers many resources for the participant to learn the material. Very well laid out in a clear, easy and logical format that is repeated with each of the 7 units. The author offers resource link material as well, to enhance the text material. The text is easy to navigate for the intermediate to advanced level ELL student.
I did not find grammatical errors, but there were some examples that were city and location specific that could be made into a stretch inclusive example with broader terminology, as well as a more universal perspective.
Accurately portrayed material that was relevant to all ELL students who were seeking to improve their English.
The text could use more grammar content, which again, I did discuss with the author, but overall it is a good start to building a text for the ELL community. It is not a basic textbook for the low level learner, but can be adapted if the instructor adds supplemental material to the text. I do feel it would work well in a multi-level classroom and would enhance class discussions with the audio components. Overall the author did complete a collection of modules necessary, that met educational CCR points and were presented in a logical manner. At this time, there is not a teacher's manual to work with this text.
Communication Beginnings offers an admirably comprehensive foundation for university-level learners who need a rudimentary review of basic tenets of the English language. Written at a level that is acceptable for beginning to intermediate... read more
Communication Beginnings offers an admirably comprehensive foundation for university-level learners who need a rudimentary review of basic tenets of the English language. Written at a level that is acceptable for beginning to intermediate non-native English speakers, Communication Beginnings covers essential skills through written definitions, practical exercises, discussion questions, and helpful audio content.
The content in this book is precise and accurate.
The information in Communication Beginnings is basic and timeless, and the audio links bring the information into an active 21st-century level of engagement.
Abraham's prose is crisp and clear, and she maintains a helpful sensitivity to the needs of beginning language learners.
The content of Communication Beginnings is consistent through all seven chapters, with effective exercises and listening modules throughout.
Communication Beginnings is arranged topically for English language learners, with patterns of definitions, exercises, audio components, and photos that repeat throughout. Each single topic could be taught in isolation, or the content of the book could be offered to students in entirety.
The content is presented incrementally, with each new level of content building on the previous. The progression is systematic and builds logically for non-native English language learners.
The book's layout is clean and effective, and the links to outside content are live and accurate, giving the book an added dimension that makes the content even more accessible and engaging for readers.
The book does not have errors, and the author does a nice job of walking readers through step-by-step reminders of the basic structures of the English language.
The author maintains a sensitivity throughout the book to non-native English language speakers and the plethora of cultures that category likely includes.
I am impressed with the varying modes presented in this textbook: definitions, exercises, discussions, color photos, and audio links. Students at a variety of levels are likely to remain engaged and actively learning.
The text includes an index and page numbers, which is very helpful if it is being printed out and distributed to students. The book lacks a glossary. More grammar instruction would add depth to the book. Grammar points are only lightly covered,... read more
The text includes an index and page numbers, which is very helpful if it is being printed out and distributed to students. The book lacks a glossary. More grammar instruction would add depth to the book. Grammar points are only lightly covered, although it is understandable difficult with only seven chapters.
The difficulty of the book do not match the difficulty of the grammar points. The students who can understand the content would most likely not need these particular grammar tips. Those who would benefit, would not be able to comprehend the instructions.
The text is very relevant and covers topics that are useful to students. For example, housing and vacations will always be topics of conversation.
The book is clearly written. There are pictures to go along with the stories. There are also charts to help students visualize. The only formatting issue I saw was on page 59, and this is an easy fix.
The book is easy to follow and the content level stays the same from chapter to chapter.
Each chapter is structured the same, making it easy to follow. Each has vocabulary, some kind of grammar point, a listening exercise and a discussion section. It is very well organized. Each page also is headed with the chapter number making it easy to know where you are in the book.
The topics are presented in a logical manner, but they are also done in a way that they could each be their own stand alone unit. Chapter 1 introduces syllables (which to me is more of a pronunciation issue than a grammar tip) and Chapter 2 deals with the present tense. By the last chapter the past tense is introduced.
There do not seem to be any navigation or interface issues. The only error I saw, which I already mentioned, was on page 59 and was a simple formatting error. Other than that, the text was distraction free. The charts and images enhanced the content of the book.
I did not come across any grammar errors.
This book is culturally sensitive. I did not find anything that could be construed as offensive.
I believe the content of the book is much to high for a beginner or even an intermediate. The introduction would be very difficult for a beginner or low intermediate student. Even the vocabulary words I consider to be more on the level of low advanced.
There is a good range of topics/themes covered in the book (food, jobs, etc.) and some important skills, such as recognizing reduced speech and intonation for questions vs. statements. There is no index/glossary, although that would be very useful... read more
There is a good range of topics/themes covered in the book (food, jobs, etc.) and some important skills, such as recognizing reduced speech and intonation for questions vs. statements. There is no index/glossary, although that would be very useful for ESL learners. It would be helpful to have more sample speech chunks to help beginning students navigate their interactions, such as "Could you please repeat that?" or "I don't understand".
There are a few issues with accuracy. Firstly, I would never use this book with beginning students - the vocabulary, directions, and activities are far too complex. For example, "strategy" and "region" are not high frequency enough to be useful to beginning students. Some vocabulary words were also used oddly. For example, "Some products are produced ___". The vocabulary word given was "national", but even if a beginning student knew to change it to the adverb form "nationally", it wouldn't be used that way. (We would say, "domestically").
I did not notice any bias.
I don't see any material that will quickly become out-of-date, although I am surprised that language books still teach asking for directions, even in the age of GoogleMaps!
The instructions and explanations were often dense and complex, especially for a beginner. Also, some definitions would likely cause as much confusion as the vocabulary words themselves. For example, "country" is defined as "An area of land controlled by a government." Beginning, and even low-intermediate students, probably wouldn't know most of the words in that definition, nor the passive voice. Activities could have the first answer done as an example that students can use as a model.
There seemed to be a consistent sequence of instruction and activities for each chapter.
The chapters could probably be introduced in almost any order and as stand-alone units.
The topics/themes could be presented in any order, but the grammar concepts generally get more advanced throughout the book, so the current order is probably best. I was confused why syllables are introduced in Chapter 1 and emphasized when learning new vocabulary in each chapter, yet syllable stress isn't taught until Chapter 7. Would stress not be as important, if not more important, than syllabification for comprehensibility?
There are frequent formatting issues, such as spacing, capitalization, and font/bullet size. For example, p. 59 - "similarities" in not capitalized, but "Differences" is. Below that, the word "D i s c u s s" trails downwards. Such formatting issues may cause confusion for beginning students who wonder if there might be a linguistic reason for the inconsistencies. Pictures do not always aid in comprehension of the content, such as the lightbulb in the thought bubble.
Grammar is minimally addressed. Present tense, for example, got very little instruction and never explained the helper/auxiliary verbs do/does. Discussion questions often use verb tenses, such as simple past or present perfect, that had not been covered yet.
I didn't detect any cultural insensitivity.
It would be great to map the objectives of the book to a set of learning standards.
Effective table of content. However, it is lacking and index and glossary. A glossary could be useful being that this textbook is geared towards non-English speakers. All the instructions are in English and written in a way that could be... read more
Effective table of content. However, it is lacking and index and glossary. A glossary could be useful being that this textbook is geared towards non-English speakers. All the instructions are in English and written in a way that could be problematic for novice learners to comprehend.
The vocabulary section of the book seems very weak and the words are not high frequency words. An introductory book needs more basic vocabulary.
The listening activities jump to production, which is a difficult task for a novice learner. There should be a gradual process from interpretive to production. I suggest to model listening activities after the Interpretive Guide from ACTFL
I did not find errors and the content presented is unbiased
The content can stay relevant as long as the supporting materials (websites for listening practice) stay current.
Yes, the words are clear. Instructions for activities are also clear and concise. My concern is that if this is an introductory textbook, some of the activities (discussion questions specifically could be too difficult for a beginner learner.
The order that chapters follow are consistent and each chapter follows the same pattern
The textbook does a good job in keeping activities separated from one another. Activities can easily be assigned at different points.
The topics follow a logical pattern and are appropriate topics for conversations.
Yes. However, it is cumbersome to have to type in the long urls for the multiple sites for listening activities. Consider shorting urls (unless students have access to an electronic version that can take them directly to the websites)
because this textbook is for English learners, it could include more grammar review.
I did not find much cultural information in the textbook. There are a few activities that incorporate culture but the textbook could use more. Also, I wonder why use an image of Copenhagen on page 51. Why not include an image of an English speaking country?
Here's a list of specific suggestions:
-The vocabulary list at the beginning of the book, put it at the end of each chapter.
-The vocabulary words are not high frequency words for daily conversations. Include more basic (real life) vocabulary words.
-The activities to practice vocabulary words are only fill-in-the-blanks with no real-world use. Add activities where students have to use the vocabulary words in a real-world context and must create with the language.
-The activity on page 10 is good but it doesn't require any use of the chapter's vocabulary.
-In order to be successful with the activity on page12, there needs to be a vocabulary list. An introductory book should assume the students have not mastered a lot of vocabulary. The same goes for pg 26. The travel chapter has no travel vocabulary.
-The activity on pg 41 has the potential to be better. As is, it seems scripted, consider asking students to create follow up questions. Do you like green tea? If the answer is Yes, then the follow up question can be, what type? where do you buy it? or practice the past tense: when did you drink it last? etc.
Overall, the book is a great idea but it needs to be adjusted to the level of true beginner. As is, some of the discussion questions seem to advanced for a beginner student. If the book is not intended for beginners, then the title should be changed to intermediate.
This question isn’t completely applicable since the text is for ESOL, and a wide variety of topics could be covered. However, I thought it did a good job of covering all of the elements necessary in a communication textbook. It had vocabulary,... read more
This question isn’t completely applicable since the text is for ESOL, and a wide variety of topics could be covered. However, I thought it did a good job of covering all of the elements necessary in a communication textbook. It had vocabulary, basic pronunciation, relevant grammar points and contextualized listening exercises.
I didn’t notice any errors in the text.
I believe the topics and exercises are currently relevant and will continue to be for a long time. Only a few details (such as home prices) could change, but exercises involving that type of information could easily be updated.
For the most part, the text uses simple and clear language. The author made an effort to use high frequency words. Based on the language and topics, this book seems to be intended for a group of students in a more academic setting, and I think it would very well for that group.
The book has a fairly consistent structure from one chapter to the next. This predictably makes it easier for students at a low intermediate level.
What’s great about this text is that each chapter is self-contained, and the chapters can be used in any order. I think this book could work well as a supplement if an instructor wants to use parts of it. For this course to be a stand alone text for an entire term, the instructor would need to create or find additional exercises, particularly homework.
The book is logical and flows well. The author did a good job choosing vocabulary and grammar points to go with each chapter’s theme. This provides students with the tools they need to understand listening exercises and talk about each topic.
The text does a good job presenting just the right amount of information per “page” in an attractive way.
I did not notice any grammatical errors.
The text includes topics that can be relevant to any culture in an open-ended way that allows students to share different perspectives. The only thing I would consider is that low income students may struggle to talk about some of the topics, such as vacations, choosing a university or buying a home. However, the other did a good job of making it clear that these are hypothetical situations. Also, as I said before, the book seems to be meant for a university audience, and the topics would be more relevant to that group.
My final comment is about the listening exercises. The primary (female) speaker was both clear and natural, which is refreshing since the speakers are often artificially slow in ESOL texts. However, I would consider changing the male speaker. I think most students would prefer to hear native speakers of American English in the recording, or at least someone able to speak with an American accent. The male speaker in the recordings has a little too much of an accent, which can be distracting. When I played one of those recordings for my students, they complained about that. On the other hand, I think the listening exercises were very well-written. They used appropriate vocabulary and the topics were relevant.
The content of Communication Beginnings covers much of what is expected in a beginning intermediate communication course. There are a few places I feel it could be expanded to make it more comprehensive. For instance, in Chapter 2 the third person... read more
The content of Communication Beginnings covers much of what is expected in a beginning intermediate communication course. There are a few places I feel it could be expanded to make it more comprehensive. For instance, in Chapter 2 the third person singular -s ending is introduced but the chapter does not include the three ways that the -s ending is pronounced. This would be an easy addition given the inclusion of the three ways to pronounce the -ed ending of regular past tense verbs that appears in Chapter 5. I would also expect a course at this level to introduce the prevalence of the schwa sound in unstressed syllables.
The textbook as a whole is fairly accurate, but there are several errors that I noticed. Some errors are easily corrected and I plan to share my more detailed copy-edit with the author who will hopefully make the changes. For example, the listening activity on p. 45 is titled “Foods in the United States,” but two of the examples are from Canada. Also, one of the questions connected to this listening activity asks “Which food is fantastic in Montreal, Canada?” but the food is described as “fabulous” not "fantastic" in the recording. It is the lobster in Maine that is described as “fantastic.”
In addition, sometimes grammar rules are not explained accurately. On page 28, it says that WH questions follow the same grammar rules as Yes/No questions without including the variation of when “who” is used as the subject and no "do" or "does" is used.
Other problems are more subjective and would require a more extensive overhaul of the audio components associated with the textbook. In my view, it is misleading to suggest that reduced speech and contractions are not used in formal and professional contexts (p. 46). I believe an intermediate communications textbook should emphasize the importance of reductions in almost all American speech. In many of the audio recordings connected to the text, words are over-enunciated and students are not given the opportunity to hear the word as it sounds in natural speech. The third syllable of the word “environment,” for example, is pronounced /r?n/ rather than the more common /y?rn/.
I found no bias in the textbook beyond the presumption of a particular and limited audience which I discuss in the next section of this review.
The text is written for a specific audience: unmarried, international students living in the United States and studying in a university setting. For example, the exercise on page 9 asks students to find a classmate who “likes the environment of a university.” At the same time, it would not be difficult to adapt the text to suit populations like the ones I teach: primarily immigrants and refugees most of whom have jobs and families and who are studying in a community college.
There are also several specific references to Portland in the text. For example, in the speaking activity on page 41, students ask each other, “Do you know a lot of restaurants in Portland?” Replacing “Portland” with “town” would easily expand the relevance of the text.
For the most part, I found Communication Beginnings to be clearly written. A careful revision of the text, however, should include replacing undefined words that might not be familiar to students with the target vocabulary words (eg. “hobbies” for “interests” and “imports” for “international”).
The overall format of Communication Beginnings is consistent. Each chapter begins with a well-chosen photo and/or quote and discussion questions to introduce the theme of the chapter. Next, ten vocabulary words are presented and students are asked to match them with their definitions and identify the number of syllables in each. This is followed by a cloze activity using the target vocabulary. Each chapter also includes a speaking instruction, grammar rules, and multiple opportunities for practice such as a survey of native English speakers.
Within the chapters there is some inconsistency with terminology. In Chapter 4, there is a presentation that introduces how to describe how food tastes and feels but gives examples of how food looks and smells and summarizes the presentation with the three categories: looks, smells, and feels.
Communication Beginnings has seven discrete chapters which can be easily reorganized or used separately. The activities within each chapter can also be parsed differently according to the needs of the instructor.
I appreciate the organization and structure of Communication Beginnings. As mentioned above, each chapter has a consistent structure beginning with target vocabulary words and including a variety of speaking and listening activities.
The images in Communication Beginnings are very clear on-line and in the print version. They are particularly nice in color but also of good quality printed in black and white.
There are minor interface issues. One issue is that in the audio downloads, the same recording is used for “Intonation Examples” and “Listening for Intonation.” Links from within the text do not share this problem.
I address grammatical issues as a matter of accuracy above.
I applaud the inclusion of a non-native speaker in the audio recordings. The examples show diversity and do not reproduce gender, racial, or ethnic stereotypes.
This textbook covers a broad range of easily-accessible speaking and listening topics, which is very appropriate for a beginning listening and speaking class. The vocabulary included in each section is fairly light, only 10 words, but I like that... read more
This textbook covers a broad range of easily-accessible speaking and listening topics, which is very appropriate for a beginning listening and speaking class. The vocabulary included in each section is fairly light, only 10 words, but I like that the words come from the New General Service List, meaning that the words are all frequently used in the English language. The grammar points are also useful but also somewhat light. I would probably add something on present progressive tense since this is often taught at the introductory level of listening/speaking courses.
I also appreciate that this textbook has a clear table of contents and introduction along with direct links to listening exercises. However, the link to activity one in chapter one took me to a vocabulary listing rather than the intended listening activity and one of the other listening links, from chapter 7 I believe, did not work.
The content seems highly accurate and unbiased. It is clearly written and no errors stood out.
The material in this textbook is generally timeless. The vocabulary and grammar are very standard and should not change appreciably over time. Likewise, the speaking and listening topics are general enough, topics like "learning a language" and "hobbies" so these should still be relevant areas of discussion even 20 years from now.
The written text is very clear. A few (but not all) of the listening passages are a little fast for students at this level, so it could be worth re-recording some of these when the book is updated.
In terms of consistency, the book chapters each follow the same pattern, with similar structure and exercises. I also appreciated the consistency of material at the end of the book: the listening scripts and answer keys.
Each of the chapters could stand alone as a singular module, so this makes the book easy to use for supplemental course material.
Very clear organization.
Overall, the interface is easy to navigate. There are a few problems with the listening activities linking correctly, but that could be easily fixed.
I did not notice any grammatical errors.
The book uses very general topics for listening and speaking, so I did not see any that would be deemed offensive. The listening exercises often include individuals with names from other countries, so I think students will enjoy seeing names from their own parts of the world.
Considering there are very few open ESL textbooks, I really appreciate the author taking the time to create and make this one available. It is clear, consistent, and easy to use. I would probably use it as a supplemental textbook rather than a primary one because I have always taught in very intensive programs (many hours per day of instruction), so as a stand-alone book it would not have enough content for my needs. However, this could be a great stand-alone book for a class that is less intensive such as a free class in the community that meets just once or twice a week.
The textbook is intended for beginning-intermediate English language learners and is a good introductory resource for speaking activities. It is organized around topics that people encounter in everyday life, such as food, hobby. Each of the 7... read more
The textbook is intended for beginning-intermediate English language learners and is a good introductory resource for speaking activities. It is organized around topics that people encounter in everyday life, such as food, hobby. Each of the 7 chapters starts with a picture and discussion questions, dialogues, speaking and grammar tips and a vocabulary list that is relevant to the topic with all the exercises to practice the vocabulary. In the end of the book, there is a script of listening activities and answer key.
In terms of language material, questions and overall input, the book aims at low-intermediate language students, not beginners. The grammar part, though introduces very basic aspects, such as “s” for 3rd person singular in Present tense or the verb “to be”, which beginners would benefit from, but then vocabulary words are too advanced for them.
In addition, I believe that seven chapters are too little for the textbook; therefore it should be used in combination with other materials.
At this point I haven't encountered any mistakes, and it's unbiased. However, I had some concerns regarding grammar usage. In chapter 3 it is stated that the verb “to be” is used with nouns and adjectives, but it can also be used with adverbs. Also who-questions are different from other wh-questions, and this wasn’t mentioned. In chapter 5, the grammar dwells on past tense and only in regards to regular verbs. I haven’t found information on irregular verbs in the book.
The content of the book covers fairly universal and basic topics, and they are unlikely to become outdated. The vocabulary words (10 for each chapter) that the book centers around are also very useful. There is no reference to a specific university or a specific group of learners (Asian, European, etc.) and that is a great benefit.
The textbook follows the same patterns and it’s easy to follow. It has charts, maps, and some graphic organizers. In terms of grammar, the focus is on short, concise explanations and clear models. I would suggest using more colors or table structures to bring readers’ attention to certain forms, because some learners can be very visual.
The book showed overall consistency in regards to terminology and framework. I thought chapter 1 and 7 were smaller than others and could have more input/output material
This textbook is thematically divided into distinct sections that allow learners to find the information easy, and each chapter has the same flow: it starts and finishes in the same way. Almost each chapter has listening or grammar tip.
I could follow the text for the most part, and I understood the logical flow of activity chains that scaffold speaking in the end of each chapter. In the chapter there are external links to presentations and listening activities, and it’s very easy to identify them. In terms of vocabulary, I would prefer to see more visuals. For example, in chapter 4 when describing food, the author mentions what food can be like (e.g. sweet, citrusy etc.). I would suggest grouping the food under certain adjectives and back it up with visuals. Some other chapter on hobby or jobs lacked visuals.
The interface of the textbook is clear and easy to follow. The image of the table on page 59 looks a bit off. I also think that surveys that are assigned as homework and usually look like 5 separate charts can be put as one to save space and be on the same page.
The text contains no grammatical errors as far as I can tell.
This textbook accurately displays the variety of situations that are relevant to language learners and they are not tied around university life since some learners are already out of school and have no intention to go back. Various nationalities participated in listening activities and examples provided in the book.
Overall it is a good listening/speaking resource. There are a lot of interesting listening activities and presentations that come with this textbook. Also there are good listening and speaking tips on intonation, contractions. I enjoyed the presentation on cardinal/ordinal numbers as well.
I do believe that if it is designed for beginners, the vocabulary and sentence structures should be simplified. If it's for low-intermediate students, then grammar tips should be more advanced.
The test covers all areas of the subjects according to the author's presentation. The guidelines are clear. Each chapter presents a vocabulary list (from New General Service List) and all lessons are presented around them. At the end of each... read more
The test covers all areas of the subjects according to the author's presentation. The guidelines are clear. Each chapter presents a vocabulary list (from New General Service List) and all lessons are presented around them. At the end of each chapter the student can really say to have learn at least ten new words.
In general the content is accurate.
Only a doubt:
on Chapter 4, page 38 n. 6 and n. 10 require the same answers?
The text refers to every day life, so it will not be outdated for a while. Furthermore, it will be easy to update and implement it since it has been posted on line.
The author conveys information with great clarity.
The test is very consistent in terms of terminology and framework. I also like the "Speaking fluency practice" and the "Extra listening Practice"part.
The text is divided in six different modules, each one with different goals, but all six can be reorganized and presented in a different order.
The topics are presented in a logical and coherent way that attracts the learners.
The text is free of significant interface issues that can confuse the readers.
There is not a lot grammar, only the essential.I think this is good for the level of the students to which the book is presented.
The text is very inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Great respect for everyone.
I like the book. It is clear and adequate to the students at their second approach to the English language. I think that overall it will be useful to many foreign people, including those who are self learning.
The text covers a variety of speaking and listening contexts teaching basic communication skills necessary for an English Language Learner in an academic or social setting. read more
The text covers a variety of speaking and listening contexts teaching basic communication skills necessary for an English Language Learner in an academic or social setting.
The content is accurate, and useful for a variety of cultural contexts and language learning levels.
The contents provide topics serving a wide audience. May be used in an academic or non-academic environment. Topics included are timeless and can easily be modified or updated easily and effectively due to its overall organization.
The text is written for any English language learner to use, is easily accessible to all levels and used simple language for quick comprehension.
The framework and terminology of the text is consistent throughout each chapter, making it an easily accessible textbook for study or reference use.
The text is divided into seven chapters which can be assigned in order of need. There is no reason to follow content chapter by chapter. Short activities and exercises throughout make the content extremely accessible and user-friendly. Perfect for self or class study.
Topics are presented chapter by chapter and can be used in any order. The content flow from beginning to end makes the text rather easy to use in a classroom setting. It allows the user to only focus on areas of specific need if so desired.
Overall the text is free of any interface issues. There are some formatting problems that might initially confuse a language learner, but can be simply reformatted to correct the issues.
The text is free of grammatical errors--an extremely important component of a book for language learners.
The text provides universal contexts that may be adapted to the cultural backgrounds/needs of its learners. Very accessible topics that are useful to all cultural contexts. No inclusiveness has been found to exist within the text's content.
This text provides a very simple and easy way for language learners to practice speaking and listening skillls for basic interpersonal communication. The topics are current and relevant to language learners, providing them with authentic contexts for daily use. The use of specific vocabulary in context for each chapter gives the reader excellent word choice options for practice. I highly recommend piloting this text for a lower level English language learning class.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1- Learning how to speak and listen in English:
- Tips and strategies for increasing and retaining learning
- Advice on learning English in a university setting
Chapter 2- Introductions
- Describing yourself and other people
Chapter 3- Talking about travel and experiences: Page 25-36
- Intonation in English
Chapter 4- Discussing food and eating: Page 37-50
- Understanding Conversational English with reduced speech
Chapter 5- Describing places around town: Page 51-64
- Addresses and place descriptions
Chapter 6- Communicating about hobbies and routines: Page 65-73
- Agreeing and Disagreeing in English
Chapter 7- Discussing jobs and university majors: Page 74-85
- Word and syllable stress in English
About the Book
This textbook is designed for beginning-intermediate English language learners. It is composed of 7 chapters, each of which covers specific speaking and listening learning objectives and includes dialogues, interviews, discussions and conversation activities. Each chapter includes listening and speaking components such as dialogues, interviews, discussions and conversation activities. Each chapter also focuses on 10 target words from the New General Service List of English vocabulary. The textbook includes an audio component that consists of recorded conversations of native and non-native English speakers, as well as links to additional listening resources on the web.
About the Contributors
Della Jean Abrahams is an Instructor in Intensive English Language Program at the Portland State University.