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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Business Vocabulary in Use

The book starts with 47 two-page topic units, starting with 'Work and jobs' and ending with 'Business across cultures 3'. These units are subdivided into 'Jobs, people and organizations', 'Production', 'Marketing', 'Money', 'Finance and the economy', 'Doing the right thing' (e.g. 'Ethics'), 'Personal skills' (e.g. Time management) and 'Culture'. The 'topic' sections are followed by 6 units on 'Telephone, fax and e-mail' and 13 on 'Business skills' (e.g. Presentations'). Students were generally very positive on the topics included, although some students thought it strange that letters were not covered at all. I generally find that students using self-study vocabulary books are more likely to complete topic-based units than units on 'make and do' or 'suffixes'.

The first thing you notice when you open to one of the two page spreads is the professional 'business-like' presentation, with more colour photos and graphs than cartoons, and good use of shading and boxes to divide up the page. In typical 'Murphy's' style the language is presented on the left hand page in several separate sections. For example, 'Profitability and Unprofitability' is divided into 'A: Profitable and Unprofitable products', 'B: Budgets and expenditure' and 'C: Economies of scale and the learning curve'. Each of the sections deals well with the differences between British and American English, and with common language errors. The discussion of cultural differences also comes up several times through the book. The texts used to present the language are fairly long, and provide lots of commonly occurring collocations and fixed phrases. This and the fact there is a big 'Cambridge International Corpus' symbol on the back! suggest that they language is taken much more from real texts. The examples are obviously not themselves taken straight from real life, however. One example of this is people explaining the vocab they are using as part of a 'dialogue'. This does allow the author to avoid lists of dictionary type definitions, and the format does allow clear differentiation between topic areas. It also means that useful language can be absolutely packed into quite a sparse two page area. It also, however, means that the texts seem no less contrived than those TEFL 'dialogues' containing 25 examples of the present perfect.

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