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There are few ESL textbooks that I hate more than this series
on August 7, 2009
I have been unfortunate enough to be forced to use this book several times in my teaching career, which spans 20 years. I cannot understand why this book is so popular. It's utterly dreadful. The only reason I give it 2 stars instead of 1 is because there are books that are worse. Here's why I despise this series.
The #1 reason is that it is page after page of horribly fake conversations that students are supposed to practice over and over...what is known as substitution drills. I suppose if you like substitution drills, this book may appeal to you. There is a place for such drills but this book overdoes them; in fact, that's the main focus of the book. You take a grammatical structure and practice the same conversation using it about a dozen times, just changing a few words each time. It gets boring very fast. But worse yet, the conversations themselves are so terribly unnatural. I only use these books because I'm forced to, but I'm embarrassed to even present such garbage to them. I try to add some more natural expressions where I can, but the whole structure of repeating the same conversation over and over is in itself problematic to me. Unless you have the students memorize the whole conversation, they end up reading from the book. And what's the point of memorizing any conversation? No two conversations are alike. So basically they end up reading conversations and substituting words. I don't see why this appeals to teachers.
The book has some listening passages too. The listening passages are as unnatural--even embarrassingly corny--as the printed conversations. The topics are dull. There are no topics in here that really draw the students in with something new and interesting to learn, or something with any kind of suspense or humor. Nothing is natural; it is all horribly contrived both in content and topic.
Text series that I do like are Cambridge's Touchstone series and Oxford's American English File series. Both of them have much more natural English, both in the listening and the practicing, have more interesting topics, and more variety in presentation. There is no need to make students suffer through this horrible series of boring topics, repetition so extreme as to cause boredom that borders on insanity, and ridiculously unnatural language. Avoid this series.