Mystery Tour



Handshake by Peter Viney and Karen Viney is a course book with a difference. Rather than the usual theme-based units, the eight units in Handshake are organised around aspects of communication. These are, in order, opening and closing, non-verbal communication, exchanging information, social interaction, conversation strategies, presentation, expressing feelings and a final unit based around a case study in industrial relations. This seems to me to be a very good idea, designed to extend a student's awareness beyond the structure-and-vocabulary picture of language learning that they have become used to in high school. The book also contains an appendix of material for pair or group work (Interaction appendix) and a grammar appendix, which contains explanations and a limited amount of additional exercises. A workbook is also available separately.

Within each unit, Handshake presents structural elements necessary for the functional task in hand, a larger than usual helping of relevant listenings and a much more limited amount of reading material. The topics presented are designed to interest adults, and to be immediately useful to to the traveller, on business or holiday. Considerable emphasis is placed on politeness and appropriacy, whether expressed in words, intonation or gesture, and on cultural comparisons. Unfortunately, from an Australian point of view, these latter are largely designed foe European situation and there is little of specific relevance to Asia. Nevertheless, the information on non-verbal communication, conversation strategies, humour and presenting information would be useful for students of any nationality and is not often found in such detail of quantity in course books.

I turned to the chapter on expressing feelings to see whether the range of feelings re[resented stretched beyond the usual bland selection, and found that there were indeed, segments on expressing anger and on effective criticism. This is a step in the right direction, but it seems we will have to wait longer for the brave textbook which deals with what people really talk about, the one with functional titles such as 'expressing boredom', 'talking about relationship problems', 'saying how fed up you are', 'chatting someone up in the pub' or 'replying to people who are rude to you'.

Handshake is designed for pre-intermediate to intermediate students, but includes functions often found in elementary books such as greetings, giving personal information and asking 'WH' questions. However, the way in which they are presented makes it possible to use them for revision without having the students feel that they are demeaning.

Among sections of the book which I particularly liked were 'If you don't know words', , (how to order at a buffet when you don't know the name of dishes), 'Turntaking' and 'Women and Men' in the unit on conversation strategies, and 'Paraphrasing' in the case study unit. 'Women and Men' is the only instance I can remember of a textbook which makes any detailed reference to the differences between women's language and that of men.

On the negative side, I found some of the practice activities for structures or vocabulary a little meaningless and/or perfunctory - for example, adding a list of vocabulary items to the 'She's looking for someone who is/has....' in Unit Three or changing sentences to a negative form in the section on modal verbs in Unit Four.

Handshake is well presented, with very clear, attractive layout and enough but not too many illustrations. Attention is paid in the illustrations to avoidance of racial and gender stereotypes.

This book would be a useful text for a pre-intermediate or intermediate class of ELICOS students, but would need supplementing with additional reading, and vocabulary exercised. Some of the exercises on cultural differences and politeness would also be useful for migrant classes.

Anna Dash is a Senior Teacher at Sydney Language Centre.

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©Peter Viney & Karen Viney 2004