Publisher: Pearson Longman
Authors: David Bonamy
Components: Student’s Book, Teacher’s Book, Workbook (with or without key), CDs
Reviewed by: Nicholas Whitely, edited by Alex Case
Summary: A clear-cut, no-nonsense course for elementary and pre-intermediate students in technical fields, with a focus on communicative tasks and skills practice
Are you an overworked teacher who’s tired of teaching (for example) your beginner-level structural engineer students lessons from a general Business English textbook with little to no relevance to their jobs? Have you ever torn your hair out trying to create communicative grammar practice activities for your class with the forklift operators down at the port? Or perhaps you just need a book that will help you teach not only the words for “chisel” or “U-joint” but will also provide a technical focus for the typical functions of BE (making arrangements, meetings, etc.) Well then, the “Technical English” series from Pearson Longman may be just for you.
Technical English is a two-level series of coursebooks aimed at students in technical fields, be they workers studying in an in-company context or pre-experience students studying in technical education. The two levels correspond (according to the teacher’s book) to levels A1 and A2.
Level 1 is definitely geared more towards plainly technical language—describing materials, action verbs and processes, specifications, etc.—while Level 2 includes more “customer service” type functions (dealing with complaints, etc.) and a wider array of vocabulary (vocabulary for computers, careers and working life, etc.) along with all the “pressure sensors” and “four-stroke-combustion-engines” and whatnot.
Both books share a very “nuts-and-bolts” approach (if I may) in the lay-out and organization of the lessons. Each two-page spread (corresponding to at least an hour of class time) contains a variety of practice activity for vocabulary and grammar (though they studiously avoid using the word grammar, instead using language focus), or for skills work. There is also no shortage of communicative activities suggested in each lesson, as well as the occasional rudimentary role-play. These are simple (meaning by no means revolutionary) suggestions they make, but helpful and effective nonetheless.
They activities are presented simply one after the other vertically on the page, in a way that I found very easy to follow- unlike some texts with more overwrought page layouts.
As you can imagine, there is a very strong visual emphasis (after all, what’s easier, explaining to an elementary level student what an axle is, or just showing them a diagram of a car axle?), and the graphics and illustrations provided are useful and pleasing to the eye.
The listenings are pretty standard fare, as are the indications provided by the Teacher’s Book—nothing too outrageously different from any other book, ESP or not (though I did notice that the print was very faint in the TB, maybe it was just a problem with my copy?). I did like the “Test Master” CD-ROM included with the TB, which provides teachers with tests (placement tests, progress tests, unit tests, all kinds of tests really…) i Word format. This allows you to miss some exercises out or add more (depending on the material you may or may not have covered) and in general to customize and personalize the exam material.
The only real complaint about Pearson’s Technical English is its incompleteness with respect to level. Teachers looking for a technically focussed text book for students intermediate and above won’t find what they’re looking for here. Ina any case, the series could be, I feel, a very worthy addition to the ever-growing field of ESP materials.