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International Negotiations

Book Review: ETAS Journal Volume 31 No. 1 Winter 2013

Mark Powell

Cambridge University Press (2012)
ISBN 978-0-521-14992-1
112 pages, Student’s Book with Audio CDs (2) [Paperback]
CHF 36.20

International Negotiations is the latest in a long line of successful ELT course books written by Mark Powell, one of the world's leading Business English teachers, teacher trainers, and materials writers. Fans of his other publications, including Dynamic Presentations, will find that Mark has once again incorporated a complete package of excellent materials.

As the publication claims, International Negotiations draws on some of the best tips, tricks, and advice from leading experts in negotiations. The course follows a comprehensive approach to reviewing the appropriate language and skills needed to hopefully achieve a win-win agreement with their negotiation partner.

Learners begin with a quiz that focuses on the individual’s needs and any past experience they might have. This not only effectively introduces an overview, but also offers a user-friendly guideline of what will be achieved in the ensuing course. However, though the publisher claims it is appropriate for B1 - C2 levels of English, I find that it would be most applicable for B2+ - C1 classes of Business English.

Taking a step-by-step approach, the coursebook guides learners through the process of achieving successful negotiations, starting with preparing to negotiate and proceeding with the stages of building relationships, establishing a procedure, writing the proposal, questioning techniques, exploring interests, understanding the bargaining zone, apprehending the powers of persuasion, handling breakdowns, and closing with sealing the deal.

Each topical section has two dual-page lessons whereby learners are repeatedly given the opportunity to learn, practice, then evaluate themselves as well as their partner’s ability to negotiate. Complete with two audio CDs, the students have the opportunity to listen again to what they’ve heard in class, affording the weaker or insecure learners a chance to build their language and, hopefully, their confidence in achieving the expected outcomes of the course.

Teachers may find that some of the negotiations are too generic or unrelated to their learners (e.g. discussing how to divide an inheritance with a distant cousin you had a fight with years ago). However, by and large, the scenarios are embedded in likely situations most business learners can relate to; and any others can be adapted to a business situation (sharing an office with a colleague you don’t get along with) or substituted for something else.

What I found particularly useful are the plethora of links to free online materials made available to the teacher and learners. I’ve never seen a course, for example, that offers online Feedback forms as are found in International Negotiations. The 10 forms, as the material claims, allow learners to monitor their progress and establish where their personal strengths as negotiators lie, and naturally the specific areas they might want to focus on to improve (p. 110-111). Each one relates to the specific section of the book (listed above), offering learners an on-going record of their personal achievement.

An unexpected bonus I discovered on the website is the 78-page Trainers Notes, available in downloadable and photocopiable .pdf form. [How cool is that!!?] This provides the teacher with constant online access to the lesson notes (e.g. as .pdf on the PC, tablet, smart phone, or on the website), as well as the comfort of printing additional materials straight from their computer rather than having to queue at the photocopy machine right before class. This valuable resource includes, as many teacher’s books do, not only ideas for conducting the lesson and keys, but additional extension activities and background notes on the specific language used, such as in section one what the expression ‘doubly so’ means (p. 9). There is even a link on the main page for downloading game boards, which can be printed in A3 format and laminated for multiple use.

To be honest, my first impression of the book was not extremely positive. As someone who teaches negotiations at tertiary level, I thought the book with only 40 pages in the main course section a very lightweight approach to covering the wide-ranging complexities that comprise international negotiations. However, that was before I had ample time to review all the additional materials (e.g. role plays, games and game boards, answer keys and transcripts from the CDs, online materials). In the inimitable words of Elizabeth Bennett (Austen, 1813), I must now openly admit that “my feelings are so different. In fact, they are quite the opposite.”

JoAnn Salvisberg

Reference

Austen, J. (1813). Pride and prejudice [BBC Film adaptation, 1995]. London, UK: T. Egerton, Whitehall.
Powell, M. (2012). International negotiations. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.