Where teachers meet and learn

Exploring British Culture

Book Review: ETAS Journal Volume 30 Number 2 Spring 2013

Jo Smith

Cambridge University Press (2012)
ISBN 978-0-521-18642-1

128 pages, Book with Audio CD

This recent publication focuses on teaching English through lessons which concern various cultural elements of modern Britain. I was particularly pleased to see it since I had recently been asked to develop a course based on culture in Britain and I had spent a great deal of time finding out facts and figures myself. This book appears to have it all ready-made and offers a more interesting palette of activities and information than I had managed to put together, so I now enhance my own course with activities from it.    

The book has photocopiable materials on 18 different topics, ranging from an overview of the UK, minority groups, finance, the British class system, British foods, Britain and the rest of the world, home sweet home, to even how the British relax. The topics are up-to-date and interesting both for students and teachers alike.  The point I certainly appreciate is the fact that the topics are always split into three levels: Elementary to Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, and Advanced. Thus I did not encounter the problem that I have run into in the past with some other photocopiable books where the activities are often frustratingly unsuitable for the level of students I want to use them with. In Exploring British Culture, there does seem to be something for everyone. 

The book has a clear layout. Each lesson includes enough material for 45-60 minutes of teaching but also includes an extension activity to use if necessary. These extension activities are also interesting if the teacher wants to do something more task-based on the same topic. 

I particularly enjoyed the book because I learnt so much from it. Some of the reading is from authentic newspaper articles and texts. The listening activities offer a wide range of British accents, with speakers from Liverpool, Glasgow, Ireland, the south of England, and so on. I use the CD to illustrate some of the different Englishes and accents in Britain, and students seem to enjoy being able to hear the variations between some of the stronger accents.           

This book is evidently suitable for a course on British culture but it is also good for slipping a lesson on British culture into any course, either ongoing semester-based courses or a short intensive course. I liked it, I certainly look forward to using it again, and recommend it highly. 

Ruth Benvegnen