Friday, February 24, 2017

McGraw-Hill's Conversational American English – Book Review

McGraw-Hill's Conversational American English
by Richard A. Spears, Betty Birner, Steven Kleinedler, and Luc Nisset

Okay, I want to be honest here. Everyone has their own weak areas when it comes to English proficiency and my lexical resource is one of those things I need to work on.

That's why I bought this not-so-thick book called McGraw-Hill's Conversational American English by Richard A. Spears, Betty Birner, Steven Kleinedler, and Luc Nisset. Before purchasing this book, I could speak English well to the extent that everybody would understand what I said; however, I needed more, yeah, more! It is monotonous to use the same expressions over and over, so you need to add variety to your speech to make it more interesting. On top of that, native speakers use a broad range of expressions when having conversations and discussions. This book has done a good job in preparing me for better English communication in that regard.

What makes McGraw-Hill's Conversational American English worth paying a small chunk of your income for?

Although it is not comparable to a big dictionary like Merriam-Webster's Advanced Learner's English Dictionary, McGraw-Hill's Conversational American English contains almost 5,000 conversational expressions that are put into 464 groups. These expression groups are arranged under topics which are grouped into 11 headings of social interaction: Basic Social Encounters, Polite Encounters, Family Matters, Food and DrinkShopping, and so on. I also find it easy to find the right expressions as it is well organized. In short, this book is a comprehensive reference that you will surely return to again and again.

Additionally, it really does its best to help learners understand the meaning of the expressions and the circumstance in which you can use them properly or you are likely to encounter them, For example, on page 26, under the Launching the Conversation topic and the Requesting that the speaker get to the point group, there is one entry as follows:

Cut to the chase. (idiomatic)
     = Switch to the focal point of something.

The label in the brackets, idiomatic, tells us that it is an idiomatic expression. Such labels are present in this book and include formal, informal, jocular, cliché and vulgar among many others. They are important because they give us information which we need to know to be able to use them appropriately – you wouldn't want to use a formal expression in an informal situation, for instance. In addition, there is an explanation of the expression below it (in this case it shows the meaning of the expression). Explanations like this definitely assist readers in working out the meaning of the phrases.

Reading text without pictures can be dull and not fun. This book addresses this issue by displaying cute images made by Luc Nisset (ah yeah! The subtitle says "Illustrated"!) which aid learners in visualizing the situation where the expressions might be used. However, bear in mind that the number of images in this book is minute compared to the number of expressions presented.

One thing that you need to take into account before deciding whether or not to buy this book is that, as the title clearly shows, the phrases included in this book are used in American English. Then, if you are aiming to improve your British English conversational vocabulary, this might not be the best choice for you, although many of the expressions surely can be used in British English as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment