Shahnaaz, Tasneem, Savitha, C. & Rao, Cheryl (2015). English and communication skills I. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press.
ISBN 978-1-316-50786-5 (Paperback)
English and Communication Skills I has been commissioned to serve the needs and requirements of the Uttarakhand Technical Education Department. However, it can serve the needs of any young adult looking to improve their English language proficiency and employability in the current global scenario.
Today, most stakeholders are keenly aware of the importance of enhancing interpersonal communication, English language proficiency and workplace related world knowledge. However, they do not find an easy-to-buy and well brought out course book/study material that will help them work on these inter-related skill areas. In my view, the present volume under review fits the bill exactly on several counts. Firstly, it lends itself to both classroom use and self-study mode by motivated adults. The format, the unit break up and the simplicity and directness of the language used in the book make it accessible to the average Indian adult learner. The “Communication Skills” section is replete with activities for the students to engage with in the classroom. The last section on “Developing Oral Communication Skills” has many examples to listen to and read through. Along with role play activities on how to greet others, introduce oneself and others, take leave from others, thank others, etc., this section gives learners adequate practice material.
Very importantly, almost the entire content of the book is provided both in Hindi and in English. I think this is a feature that ought to be highlighted because lower level learners are often intimidated by a text which is entirely in English. Also, students who study in a regional language medium, often lack the reading acumen, skill and vocabulary necessary to efficiently understand the concepts or protocols of usage that have to be applied in performing the tasks set in the units. Having the content in both the languages allows easy access and possibly provides the necessary practice to the learners to move from one language to the other, at their own pace and will. For example, a learner who wants to practice, exercise and/or test her/his reading skills and strategies, may begin with the English text and then move on to the Hindi version to find out how accurate her/his comprehension has been. Further, recent pedagogical research in ELT shows that bilingual support ensures greater learner comfort. It is a pity that this has not been suggested in the “Introduction” of the volume that acts like a “Note to the Teacher/Student” or “How to use the book” page.
While we are on the topic of reading comprehension, I must congratulate the authors for tapping fourteen interesting expository pieces of topical interest and interest-sustaining lengths. Topics such as the Dubbawallas of Mumbai, Numaish—an annual consumer exhibition started by a batch of Osmania University students, which include pie charts and bar graphs on time spent on mobile phones and music preferences go down very well with both teachers and young students.
The “Facets of Literature” section, however, has dated texts, possibly because of university requirements and pragmatic issues such as saving copyright costs! However, it has copious bi-lingual glossaries which help the reader in comprehending these texts.
Finally, the cherry on the cake is the accompanying CD that supports the listening and speaking exercises given in the units. The audio scripts have been thoughtfully provided at the end of the book, should there be an absence of audio equipment. The use of appropriate graphics and pie charts, graphs or diagrams enlivens the text and captures the reader’s attention as well.
Mukti Sanyal teaches English at Bharati College, University of Delhi and has been active in the ELT field for over three decades as materials producer for COL (Commonwealth of Learning), NCERT, NIOS, SCERT and IGNOU.