Survival English by Peter Viney and John Curtin
In Memory of John Curtin
Note: This article is written with British spelling, though quotes from the books have American spelling.

The original version pre-dated Streamline and was originally written for courses at ACSE-London and published by Mary Glasgow Publications. When Mary Glasgow ceased promoting course books, John had trouble buying copies for his classes in Brazil, and mentioned the problem to Michael Boyd of Heinemann at a conference in Brazil.

Heinemann offered to re-publish the book in a new version. I was keen to see the book looking as good as possible, and suggested Shireen Nathoo as designer. Shireen had worked with my materials for years, including Grapevine II and Grapevine III. We discussed the look of the book at great length. We also decided to do it in American English.

Survival English icons What started off as a simple revision soon took on a life of its own, and the eventual book is very different indeed to the first MGP edition. As we were now working in two different countries (John in Brazil, me in England) we divided responsibilities and I rewrote the Student's Book. We already had a group of characters, but I was interested in tying them together more clearly. Our ideas had changed greatly, and the broadly functional framework of the first edition was enhanced by more emphasis on communication strategies and a greater emphasis on generative activities. We lost the gapped dialogues of the first edition, and instead highlighted key sentences in the texts and dialogues. We used photograph instead of cartoon, and employed professional actors to retain the humour. Anne Delestrée from Paris wrote the Survival Files, as well as the Workbook and revising the Teacher's notes. The whole book was framed in clear, single-page units for ease of use. We scrapped the original division into twenty topics in favour of seventy-two more sharply focussed units. Having spent the intervening years travelling extensively on business, I had a much better idea of what real situations were likely to arise. We chose six situational areas:




food & drink



Each unit was keyed to the situational area by a coloured symbol at the top of the page. Sometimes there was one symbol (the unit on 'Lost Baggage' - unit 33 is "Travel"), sometimes there were multiple symbols (unit 17 'Traveling Companions' is about socializing with strangers on a plane, so has two symbols, 'Travel' and 'Socializing.')

Original Survival English illustration 1  

Here is an example of a unit that was set in a similar situation in both versions. Two characters have just had dinner with the Managing Director. MGP version, page 22 "Hope you had a good time". You'll notice that in those politically-incorrect days, a character was seen smoking and there's a joke about drinking too much.

Original Survival English illustration 2 Original Survival English illustration 3

Heinemann version, unit 21 "Courtesies". Alcohol and tobacco no longer feature. In this case, Wilbur's boss has fallen asleep out of sheer boredom (and we've seen the earlier part of the dinner party in unit 20, so we know why). There are very few units this similar! The woman in the photo is Valerie Gossage, who edited the Student's Book.
Survival English photo unit 21

Basic Survival by Peter Viney
Basic Survival was a response to the success of the first book, and we decided to write a 'prequel' - a lower level book that would lead into Survival English. Shireen Nathoo again designed the book. This time, I tied together the storyline a little more, and set it on the Pacific Rim. The story takes place in San Diego, Vancouver and Alaska (which made a change from the normal American settings). I was particularly pleased to be writing to locations that I had recently visited, and was able to use my own photographs in some places. This extract from unit 57 'Skagway' has my pictures on it. Basic Survival Unit 57

Location of story in Basic Survival

Map from unit 5

 'Baggage in Hall' - Basic Survival unit 5 The map in unit 5 'Baggage in Hall' shows where the story takes place.I was very pleased with the way we managed to combine a clear structural point (demonstratives) with a very real situation at the baggage carousel.




This time there are seven situational areas, spread over 60 units: Basic Survival icons


 I'm particularly proud of Basic Survival. There's a lot of humour / humor in the storyline too. Until we prepared the web site, I had never actually realised that this is the only course book I've done entirely on my own.



Survival Teacher's Files

These are loose-leaf so that extra material can be added. This was something I had always wanted to do. You can integrate the student pages with teacher's notes, your own notes, and perhaps pictures or pages from the photocopiable resource packs. For added convenience, the CD version of the audio materials can be stored in the file.


Basic Survival diagram

Survival Resource Packs

These resource packs, with photocopiable worksheets for paired activities were developed by Kevin Miller in Nagoya, Japan.

Survival Workbooks

Anne Delestrée prepared the Workbooks for both levels.

Survival Audio

Recordings are available on both CD and cassette.
Go To...

Survival English Page
Macmillan Heinemann ELT's Survival English Page


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©Peter & Karen Viney 1999.