September 1998 — Volume 3, Number 3
Build Your Business Grammar
Tim Bowen (1997)
Hove, England: Language Teaching Publications
ISBN 1-899396-45-4 (paper)
UK £6.45; US $12.95
Management and Marketing
Ian MacKenzie (1997)
Hove, England: Language Teaching Publications
ISBN 1-899396-80-2 (paper)
UK £9.95; US $18.95
Since the publication of Michael Lewis’ proposal to rethink language learning and teaching through The Lexical Approach (1993) (cf. review TESL-EJ 1(2)
Two of these new offerings are in the field of business English. Tim Bowen’s Build Your Business Grammar and Ian MacKenzie’s Management and Marketing share several advantages: a) presentation of language in meaningful extended contexts; b) presentation of grammar and vocabulary together in a holistic approach; and c) flexibility of use through short, self-contained units appropriate for self-study, supplementary exercises in class, homework exercises, or as a major component of a course.
One of the most important trends in the last few years, particularly in Europe, has been the development of workbooks designed to fit into any course as supplementary activities. Particularly in business English, the trend has been away from heavy core course books to favor an eclectic mix of published exercises, videos, articles from the press, or perhaps an introductory chapter or two from a business textbook written for native-speaker students. All of this is brought together by the instructor according to the learners’ needs and levels. These two recent additions to the LTP catalogue are clearly designed to be adaptable to a number of teaching/learning situations.
The layout of both books is serious and low-key, with no pictures or fancy multi-color formatting. The Bowen text is simple black-and-white [-1-] with an occasional drawing. The MacKenzie text is an excellent balance, with a serious look, which is appropriate for business training, but in an aesthetically pleasing format with shading and highlighting in magenta. It also contains three humorous cartoons.
The title of the Bowen text, Build Your Business Grammar, could mislead us into expecting a series of finely tuned explanations of the present perfect and other basic grammar points. The introduction states that “the grammar of business English is a wider idea than traditional grammar. Not only does it include ideas such as the present perfect or modals, it also includes ideas such as advising, agreeing, negotiating” (p. 3). Such a claim may be relatively maladroit; nonetheless, I must agree that ESP grammar is rarely isolated from other communication tasks. Each unit of this textbook addresses either a discrete grammar point or a larger communication task, but always in a context of connected expression.
For example, in section 4 (“Facts and Figures”), two units focus on present perfect vs. simple past. Unit 4.3, “Change and Development,” requires choosing the correct tense of the verb in parentheses in order to complete a detailed description of a graph. Unit 4.4, “Reporting Changes,” is a series of drawings of a person presenting a graph on a board. The learner chooses the appropriate expression (e.g. have levelled off, fell quite sharply) to complete the presenter’s talk.
In both instances, the exercise involves grammar review and vocabulary acquisition. The task is set in an extended passage of coherent, connected language. In this way, grammar is not compartmentalized as an independent task, but is presented in a meaningful passage in a business context.
The financial section also contains an exercise for approximating (4.7, “Rough Figures”) and another for “being deliberately imprecise” (4.8, “Room for Manoeuvre”). The quality and variety of the exercises presented make it an excellent supplement to any business English course or self-study program from an intermediate to upper-intermediate level.
One of the major difficulties for ESP trainers, particularly in pre-experience training, is finding a balance between content and language. For example, should a course in English for marketing teach the basic principles of marketing, or simply review the English language aspects of concepts that the learner has already studied or used in L1? This dilemma is particularly pertinent in business school programs, where students typically progress during the course of their studies from pre-experience to more specialized knowledge through extended internships. Ian MacKenzie’s latest textbook joins his earlier text, Financial English (1995) (cf. review TESL-EJ 2(2) [-2-]
Research in vocabulary acquisition in recent years has led the field to rethink the way vocabulary should be presented in ESL/EFL textbooks. The corpus movement, particularly active in Great Britain, now allows researchers to consult massive databases to see how language is actually used, e.g. which words are used together most frequently. Recent developments in neurolinguistics and artificial intelligence have confirmed the position that vocabulary is organized in networks. For every word directly activated in the language processing mechanism, numerous underlying words are activated subconsciously. How vocabularies are structured in the brain is the current focus of many researchers in second and foreign language lexis acquisition (P. Meara, personal communication, summer, 1993). It appears that the presentation of words in isolation is a vocabulary acquisition strategy that belongs to the past. Today, we seek to direct the learner’s attention to the context in which lexical items occur and the inherent semantic relations present in their immediate environment. Recent titles in LTP’s catalogue are an excellent step in the direction to which Michael Lewis has called us in The Lexical Approach (1993).
MacKenzie presents management content that is both up-to-date and interesting. Unit 1.3, “Top Management” is one of the more difficult units in the book. From a list of verbs, the learner must fill in the blanks in an extended text which includes discussion of a mission statement. At first glance, the learners have great difficulty in choosing between verbs that are as closely related as develop, set, establish. They gradually realize that it is the noun which immediately follows the verb that determines the best choice: set objectives, develop human resources, establish good relations with customers. If for some reason this relationship is still not clear to the learner, it is brought home in exercise 2 (“complete the following collocations”), which repeats the collocations just completed in exercise 1. The unit ends with instructions to translate expressions highlighted in the text into the students’ native languages. This involves focusing on another set of expressions from the same semantic field, e.g. set standards, develop strategies.
This reinforcement of relationships between words is present throughout the book, with a wide variety of exercise types such as blank-filling, matching, crosswords, and reconstructing dialogues. An excellent example of how instruction in the content area is balanced with sound language learning pedagogy is unit 1.16 “Theories of Motivation.” A review of the basic theories of Maslow (1954) and Herzberg (1966) is presented following a diagram of Maslow’s pyramid. The learner fills in blanks in the text from a [-3-] list of verbs such as achieve, actualize, reward, perform. Comprehension of the text is checked through true/false questions. Most courses in English for Management will inevitably make reference to Maslow’s pyramid at some point. MacKenzie’s approach kills the proverbial two birds with one stone by presenting the content and vocabulary work simultaneously.
This textbook is for “anyone working in management or marketing, or currently studying these subjects” (p. 3). The introduction includes advice for both pre- and post-experience learners working with or without a teacher. The book is organized into three sections: Management, 26 units; Production and Operations Management, 14 units; Marketing, 14 units. Each unit is presented on 1-2 pages and requires 20-30 minutes for the average learner to complete.
MacKenzie has also included a mini-dictionary of 1,000 terms. Personally, I see the mini-dictionary as contradictory to the pedagogical position of stressing the importance of how words relate together. A heftier, specialized dictionary with more detailed explanations and further examples of usage would be more useful. It is a successful marketing decision, however, as the majority of my students like the short and simple explanations and perceive the mini-dictionary as extra value for their money.
I also use MacKenzie’s textbook Financial English with another class and am pleased with its breadth of content. Putting Marketing, Operations, and Management together in one volume in Management and Marketing puzzles me. Even though the book jacket states that this text could be used as core material for a course, I expect it is most frequently used as supplementary material. I assign exercises as homework to introduce and/or reinforce content covered during class time. Specialized ESP courses in my experience will either concentrate on a more global view of business, in which case the three areas presented here would be insufficient; or, alternatively, divide business into subdisciplines, in which case at least half of the book would go unused for one specialist course. English for Management is perhaps more difficult to single out and separate from other areas because any learner of ESP may one day also need to function as a manager. Perhaps a future edition of this excellent resource will develop the management section into a stand-alone textbook.
Herzberg, F. (1966). Work and the nature of man. Cleveland, OH: World.
Lewis, M. (1993). The lexical approach: The state of ELT and a way forward. Hove, UK: Language Teaching Publications. [-4-]
MacKenzie, I. (1995). Financial English. Hove, UK: Language Teaching Publications.
Maslow, A. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York, NY: Harper.
Institut Superiéur du Commerce, Paris
© Copyright rests with authors. Please cite TESL-EJ appropriately.
Editor’s Note: Dashed numbers in square brackets indicate the end of each page for purposes of citation.