Pillai, Sabina (2016). Spoken English for my world. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-946080-9 (Paperback)
It is an established fact that LSRW are the four pillars of language learning. However, reading and writing skills are taught and evaluated throughout formal education, while listening and speaking receive relatively scarce attention. Lack of a proper framework and a trusted methodology for providing training in the field of spoken English has been a major hurdle in addressing this issue strategically. Pillai (2013) observes that at the ground level, teachers are “not pedagogically equipped to deal with the challenge” of bridging the gulf between learning objectives and learning outcomes, and that “there is no move on the part of policymakers to address the situation”. Engaging meaningfully with this concern, Pillai’s Spoken English for my world seeks to plug this gaping lacuna in English language teaching and learning.
Seeking to instil and develop confidence in a beginner / learner of English, the book comes across as the ideal self-learning tool—an effective, complete package armed with simple, comprehensive exercises, an accompanying DVD and the AREAL app (downloadable for all versions of Android and iOS). Ensuring a detailed coverage of all aspects of spoken English, the book is specifically aimed at advancing the learners from A1 level of English up to at least B1 level of English, in accordance with the standards laid down by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
The fifteen chapters of the book are divided into three sections, in keeping with the cognitive and behavioural requirements of the learners. Each section is prefaced by a realistic set of “Can do goals”. The first section, “My Personal World” begins with the chapter “Introducing Myself”. Different sets of interactive exercises allow the learner to practise all four LSRW skills. For instance, there is an audio clip that the learner has to listen to carefully and thereafter fill in the blanks in the exercises that follow. Similarly, exercises marked with a video icon prompt the learner to watch the relevant videos. Each chapter carries useful definitions accompanied by simple illustrations and graphics. Separate sections on grammar and pronunciation in each chapter ensure a holistic coverage of all aspects of language learning.
One of the most impressive features of this book is the “Reflect” section at the end of each chapter. In this section, prompts steer the learner towards a slightly different but immensely important direction of reflecting upon and analysing varied aspects of their lives via language learning.
The second section deals with “My Professional World”. Over six chapters, this highly useful section engages in detail with vital issues such as jobs, interviews, meetings and group discussions (GDs), small talk and networking, telephoning skills, and good manners and etiquette. The final section titled “My Global World” addresses issues of negotiation, holiday, travel, leisure, shopping and food, covering the whole range of language requirements in the global world.
There are bonus conversations for practice and vocabulary support (encouraging self-recording), and a complete answer key coupled with over 100 audio transcripts, adding to the practical utility of the book. Sabina Pillai’s Spoken English offers to both the teacher and the learner, an easy-to-use, highly interactive and tech-enabled package to improve spoken English skills across the personal, social and professional spheres of their lives. It would be pertinent to mention that an English-Hindi edition of the book has also been launched in the market. The discerning and sincere efforts of this adept author and her pragmatic expertise that is attuned to the needs of present day learners make this book beneficial for teachers and learners alike.
Pillai, Sabina. (2013). The need to put teaching first and reclaim pedagogy in the English Classroom: A perspective. Fortell, 27, 7.
Kalyanee Rajan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Evening College. Her research areas include English Language Teaching, Shakespeare Studies, Translation Studies, Indian Writing in English and translation, Classical Indian Poetics and Dalit Literature.