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English for Academic Study series

Book Review: ETAS Journal Volume 30 No 3 Summer 2013

(The EAS series comprises seven separate EAP Coursebooks and Teacher’s Books, covering the essential skills for English-medium study.)

Garnet Education (2012)

See www.englishforacademicstudy.com and www.garneteducation.com

The 2012 British English edition of the English for Academic Study (EAS) series consists of the following set of Coursebooks and Teacher’s Books at B2 to C2 levels: EAS Speaking, EAS Listening, EAS Reading, EAS Writing and EAS Extended Writing & Research Skills. A further book, the EAS Reading and Writing Source Book, is needed in order to be able to use the reading and writing coursebooks. Finally, there is an EAS Vocabulary Study Book and an EAS Pronunciation Study Book.

The series of books has been produced in collaboration with practising lecturers at the International Study and Language Centre (ISLC) at the University of Reading, UK. The overall aim of the series is to prepare university students for English-medium study. They are given skills practice in listening and note-taking during lectures, in presenting and participating in seminars, and in developing their reading and essay writing skills. These skills are complemented by vocabulary building and pronunciation practice. Each course provides X hours of classroom study plus X hours of self-study.

Speaking, reading, and listening skills

The EAS Reading course aims to help students work on effective reading strategies, detailed comprehension of sentences and paragraphs, and text analysis. The reading texts are authentic and meaty, addressing topics like science selling out to commerce, food security, and the biological implications of social networking. They go into more depth than the average newspaper article and could provoke lively discussions.

The EAS Listening course works on macro-skills such as note-taking and micro-skills such as recognising word and sentence stress. The listening audio and video recordings are based on authentic lectures and provide a realistic experience of listening to (mainly) native speakers giving a lecture. I tried some of them out with my C1-level English for Academics class, attended by Business school lecturers and academic staff. We listened to a comparison of characteristics of lectures in China and the UK, and also an economics lecture on contestable markets. My Swiss and German lecturer colleagues found the expressions in both very useful, but, amusingly, were critical of what they considered a "very badly structured" economics lecture. It would, of course, have been tempting for the writers to artificially spike the lecture with “firstly/secondly/lastly” type signposts, but the lack of these in this particular lecture makes the listening task more challenging and realistic.

As an aside, I found most of the texts very interesting and got so absorbed in reading a listening text on Britain's transport policy on the tram home from work that I missed my stop.

The EAS Speaking course helps students develop their presentation and speaking skills in order to take part in academic seminars and discussions. They provide students with practice in skills areas such as examining their assumptions, collecting and presenting data, and supporting their points of view.

Extended writing and research skills

The Extended Writing & Research Skills coursebook could be a good way to teach students at university (e.g. universities of Applied Sciences and the Arts and pedagogical universities) to write projects, seminar papers, and Bachelor’s theses in English. It builds on the reading and writing skills coursebooks, and focuses on developing critical thinking, discursive skills, structuring, sourcing information, and following academic conventions. Examples of tasks I would find useful for my students include identifying a thesis statement, distinguishing descriptive from evaluative (or analytical) writing, avoiding plagiarism, and incorporating data and illustrations into their work. The skills are applied in two project tasks set: the first as a guided project paper and the second on the students’ own academic subject.

Vocabulary and pronunciation

The EAS Pronunciation Study Book is well-structured, introducing the phonetic alphabet and teaching students how to pronounce all the 44 phonemic symbols of Received Pronunciation (RP). Students can then read the phonemic transcription of words in the dictionary and pronounce new words correctly. Each chapter focuses on different problem areas such as vowels (useful to French and Italian speakers), word stress, consonants, consonant clusters, and voiced/unvoiced consonants (useful to Swiss-German speakers). Diagrams are provided showing the position of the tongue in relation to the teeth, lips, and roof of the mouth for consonants.

I would recommend this course to individual students needing to improve their pronunciation. My only reservation about it is that it is not stated clearly that the course is teaching RP. Many of us would have to change our accents in order to model all the vowels and diphthongs as they are transcribed. Fortunately, there is no need for this, as the self-study book and two CDs allow students to work on it alone.  

The EAS Vocabulary Study Book is an excellent self-study book. It introduces the most commonly used words from both general and academic word family lists, which I find very useful. It also provides extensive practice. The units are based on topics such as multi-meaning words, word classes, collocations, and word grammar. Each unit has web links offering additional information and activities, and the appendix also provides an extensive list of word families.  

Overall, I was impressed with this set of coursebooks. I imagine they would be worth having in the libraries of tertiary institutions where English is one of the languages of education. The main drawback I envisage is the time required to cover the territory. If I had to choose one coursebook for a 3-credit point course it would be the Extended Writing & Research Skills course, which I found the most helpful of all. Most of our students need these skills, no matter how good their English is, and any support given to them in this area would also be appreciated by the harassed supervisors of their papers and theses.

Margaret Oertig