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Success (Upper Intermediate)

Success (Upper Intermediate)

Jane Comyns Carr and Jennifer Parsons

Pearson Longman, 2007


What would you expect if you team up Pearson Education and Jane Comyns Carr, co-author of the hugely successful and popular Cutting Edge? A well-organised, well-structured and well-edited book? Well, two out of three isn’t bad! I was disappointed that a good teaching package, which is educationally sound, has some small and irritating editorial inconsistencies.

The book appears to be aimed at teens/ young adults and has a refreshingly modern use of language, not only within the material but also in the titling and structure of the book.

The components of the package are: a Students’ Book, Workbook, Teacher’s Support Book (with ‘Testmaster’ CD-ROM), Class Audio CDs/Cassettes, Testing and Evaluation Book and DVD/ Video. I only had access to the Student’s Book and the Audio material for this review.

Structurally, most teachers would feel comfortable with the content and layout of the book: a familiar mix of situational pieces, features, history and culture and so on; to this has been added some novel features such a “Train Your Brain” (useful condensed aide-memoir paragraphs) and “Mind the Trap” (easily made errors or exceptions to the rule). “Check it out”(grammar reference section), “Work it out” (practise) and “Think back” (revision/reinforcement) are nothing new but certainly make navigating the book more attractive and the often less attractive tasks, more readable. Each Unit has a listening and speaking skills section, which is likely to stretch the student. It is sometimes difficult to engage younger Upper Intermediate students, however this book certainly makes that task easier. References to and material from John leCarre, Pirates of the Caribbean, Carlos Ruis Zafón and Maria Sharapova are likely to keep the attention of the student (as well as interesting any jaded English teacher).

The pictures are colourful and usually of good quality but, surprisingly, are mostly Anglo Saxon/ European. Much of the text would fit in a multi-cultural environment but the pictorial images don’t suggest that. Even the four items in the “Culture Shock” section at the end of the book are quintessentially English and pay scant lip service to the culture and traditions of other countries. They examine ideas, events and quirky facts about Britain and the British and are undoubtedly amusing and interesting. The book certainly doesn’t come across as xenophobic but neither does it seem to take account of the diversity of English language speakers. In his paper Future of English for the British Council, David Graddol estimates that there are 750 million L1 and L2 speakers of English and the US Census Bureau estimates that there are over 2 Billion English language users of the Internet. Some students will find references to Marmite, black pudding and cheese rolling quaint but those of us teaching in schools outside UK may find realia difficult to obtain! It is my experience that many students have never been to the United Kingdom; indeed many say that they are unlikely ever to visit the country. I believe that the relevance of this book may be somewhat limited for many students.

There are two small but significant editorial inconsistencies that I found unnecessarily irritating: throughout the book word lists, phrase options etc are described as being displayed “in the box” (small enclosed space -OED ) but, in fact, they were between two dotted lines   – I don’t relish the prospect of having to make excuses for the student book during my first lesson; additionally, although the book is annotated where articles or passages of text are available on CD ROM, it doesn’t tell the user which track it is!  On the other hand, the references adjacent to the text, to the Class CDs are excellent, enabling teachers to skip easily should they wish. The tapes, provided for those of us who like being able to “go back and just listen the end of that last passage” are also voice-tagged with references to the CD tracks shown in the book and make them also very easy to use.

In summary, Success is a bright and lively book with lots of aspects that many younger Upper Intermediate students will find engaging, current and relevant. Teachers will find it easy and fun to use – although somewhat derivative in terms of layout and structure.

Reviewed by Alan McTeer, IH Malta

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