Latest News of the “In Use” Series
The third edition of Raymond Murphy’s Essential Grammar in Use – elementary level reference and practice book - is one of the latest publications of the famous series of grammar and vocabulary self-study books. It seems to have always been there - since time immemorial, though it was first published only in 1990. ELT materials as old as this should go through revision and change because neither the English language nor approaches to teaching stay the same for as long as 17 years. On the other hand, the demand for Murphy’s grammar books in the world is still extremely high, showing that new generations of teachers and learners are not willing to work without them. Moreover, there are new books in the “In Use” family that keep on appearing every year, the latest being Business English in Use in three levels and Professional English in Use of four types: Finance, Medicine, Law and ICT (Information and Computer Technologies).
Apart from the professional series, general English “In Use” books develop and expand too: there are four levels of English Vocabulary in Use and three levels of English Pronunciation in Use all supplied with compact-discs, two levels of English Phrasal Verbs in Use as well as unique English Idioms in Use and English Collocations in Use. They all retain the left- and right-hand-page structure of Murphy’s original but are now based on the Cambridge International Corpus of English. That means that the frequency of every language item included in the book is checked through the one-billion-text computer database. Thus, there is a lot of tradition and a lot of novelty in this big family of teaching materials. What should the publisher do to be conservative and dynamic at the same time?
Cambridge University Press took into account three important requirements when adjusting Essential Grammar in Use to the demands of today’s learners. Number one is theoretical: the theory of language learning/language acquisition and the theory of multiple intelligences is integrated into the grammar book. These theories claim that both the rational and the emotional spheres of human mind are involved in mastering a foreign language and that various types of perception, memory and cognition can act simultaneously: visual, audial, logical, linguistic, and kinesthetic. If a grammar book is to be effective, it should activate both hemispheres of a learner’s brain and as many types of “intelligence” as possible. The second requirement is using the communicative approach to teach languages, which presumes that we teach grammar for developing adequate communicative skills rather than indoctrinating abstract knowledge of grammar. Finally, number three is using multimedia which has become a must in the last several years due to its motivational potential for children and young adults.
How does Essential Grammar in Use meet all these requirements?
Relying on the theory of language learning has always dominated in any grammar book, including Murphy’s: we see a lot of explanation and drill in every unit. However, the use of full-colour pictures, humorous situations and amusing characters appeals to human emotions and leads to more natural acquisition of the models. To internalise grammar structures more effectively and use them in real-life communication, students drill them in very typical contexts which they might encounter everywhere: in an airport, shop, school or university (I’ll phone you tomorrow, OK? or I don’t think I like this bag). The book also caters for the students’ sociocultural competence introducing and explaining politeness formulas (We use Can you…? or Could you …? when we ask people to do things: Can you wait a moment, please? Could you open the door, please? We use Can I have…? or Could I have…? to ask for something: Can I have these postcards, please?). To enhance the communicative value of explanations and examples, minimal dialogues are presented (Shall we sit outside? – No, it isn’t warm enough).
All these features become more conspicuous when we work with the compact disc that accompanies the book or comes in a separate package. The CD-ROM installs itself very quickly and contains hundreds of exercises all of which are different from those in the book. There are several types of exercises: printing a word or dragging it into a gap, rearranging words in a sentence, clicking on a right word or structure, etc. The audio perception of the learners is fully engaged because the exercises are accompanied by a sound track. Besides, there is a self-recording facility: just click on an icon and record your own reproduction of a sentence or mini-dialogue to compare your pronunciation with the original. You can repeat it as many times as you need to ensure harmonization of your imitation with the speaker’s sounds and intonation. Before you listen to all the exercises and record your voice, you should do the tasks one by one and check your answers. Only then can you click on the correct answers and listen to them – a reasonable measure for those students who want to hear the result before they apply their effort. The disk relies on longer dialogues more than on isolated sentences and also uses full-colour pictures to activate human memory.
There is a note-pad that appears when you click on its icon. You can put down your notes and they will be remembered for your following sessions. If you need a definition of a word, you can click on a built-in dictionary and instantly get all the lexical units from the book in alphabetical order, explained and pronounced, even if you don’t have the internet connection. However, if you are connected to the internet, you are granted access to “Cambridge Dictionaries Online” – a huge database which exceeds by far the elementary level you are working with. There is a network version of the CD-ROM for 30 simultaneous users who can sit in the same or different rooms or buildings who will be remembered with their logins so that they themselves or their teacher can keep track of their progress.
The most unusual function of the CD-ROM is its ability to continuously produce different tests. There are hundreds of built-in test items that can be used for self-assessment when working with a computer or printed out and used by the teacher in class. The unique feature of the tests is that they always spring out onto the screen in a different form than your previous sessions even if the grammar aspect is the same.
Grammar games are also unique: they are similar to computer games but instead of killing people or monsters, students hunt suffixes, prefixes, auxiliary verbs, etc. and combine them with appropriate words or sentences. There are two complete grammar games on the disk designed for teaching and motivating elementary-level learners.
By Liudmila Gorodetskaya,