Peter Viney and Karen Viney
Oxford University Press
A Course in communication
The package includes a student's book, a workbook, a teacher's book, and a cassette.
Handshake looks fun! It aims to deal with language in the order it's needed by pre-intermediate students who have to operate in an English environment, whether for business, or social reasons, and as such quite radically reorganises the sequence in which language is taught, concentrating first on the function "getting help", then going on to a long and meaty chapter on non verbal communication before dealing with various language strategies. It will make a lot of teachers' lives easier, especially those of us living and working in England, as this is precisely the order of priority of many of our learners. For those teachers abroad and missing "The Archers", the tape cannot be too highly recommended. Aside from that, the dialogues on the cassette are interesting and quite difficult, requiring register recognition as will as semantic comprehension.
Handshake provides loads of material to stimulate lively classroom debate, but I have to say that I would not attempt to present this to a group that I didn't already know will, and that hadn't gelled enough to be able to share confidences. A lot of the material requires the learners to give opinions that reveal a lot about their attitude an cultural orientation. It could easily be every teacher's nightmare with those who do not like to give their opinions. The ideal group to use this with as coursebook would probably be a young pre experience or recently graduated group. However, it's possible uses are considerably extended by it being a book that can be dipped into, as will as worked through systematically. It can also be used in response to the particular needs of a group or an individual, either for Business or General English. There are even sections which could have a wider application in a classroom discussion with a more advanced group.
There is excellent cultural awareness raising discussion throughout Handshake, but structure is not forgotten. Each unit includes a grammar focus, and if followed up with exercises from the workbook these would provide a sound structural base to a course. The emphasis is always on communication rather than structural perfection, and concentrates on making sure that the learner has all the strategies needed to understand, get repetition, clarify the information received, instructions, directions etc. At the end of this course, a student will at least be equipped with the language awareness tools to survive the UK or US, or working for an English speaking company, but will obviously need extensive practice. The emphasis is rather on recognition of and response to style, mood, etc. than on creating it.
There are eight units, each dealing with a topic in depth: the last unit being a case study, which provides an excellent shift of focus away from the individual, and gives the learners the chance to reinforce and practice all the strategies they have learnt.
- Introductory Unit: Asking for help
Unit One: Opening and Closing
Unit Two: Non verbal Communication
Unit Three: Exchanging Information
Unit Four: Social Interaction
Unit Five: Conversation Strategies
Unit Six: Presentation
Unit Seven: Feelings
Unit Eight: Case Study
This genuinely fresh approach to pre intermediate teaching deserves a place alongside our old favourites and standards. It at least attempts to present English as a living breathing thing, and acknowledges that the reason most people learn the language is because they need to do something through using the language, and that, increasingly, the impression made while performing that task is as important as the actual results.
Reviewed by Daphne Laing
Business English, SIG