One of the most common goals students have is to sometime in the future use their English to get a promotion or start a new career. While there are many very good “standard” class textbooks and “discussion” class textbooks I’ve yet to find a business English textbook that I felt comfortable with. In today’s article we’re going to take a look at Cambridge University Press’s Business Explorer series. The Business Explorer series is a three level course designed for students who want to learn business English. The series covers the levels from beginner to lower intermediate and can be used with both group and private classes.
Each textbook has 15 units. Each unit focuses on a specific topic or theme. Generally each unit’s theme is matched with a particular grammar pattern that can be used to talk about the themes. There are five review sections that go over the previous three units. Each unit has various activities and exercises that go over vocabulary, some grammar, listening writing skills with some other communication activities that are mostly role-playing type exercises. The back of the book has the transcripts for all of the recordings and there’s also a section titled “help folder” which more or less looks like another review section or perhaps it was made to be used as homework.
Student Age Range: from 15 and up
Author: Gareth Knight, Mark O’Neil
The basic topics of each unit and the basic grammar that they set out to teach are very well thought out and could be useful for any teachers who have little experience teaching business English. Having this curriculum could help many teachers understand when and what they should teach in a beginning business English class. A lot of the role-playing activities could be very useful provided that the students learn enough sentence structures and grammar. There is some focus on phone calls and emails which is absolutely essential for anyone studying business English. There are also many sections on traveling which again is essential for any businessman or woman.
To be honest there was a lot about this book that I did not like. First off, it purports to be a business English textbook for beginner and lower intermediate students yet there really are no sample conversations that usually make up the foundation for most lower level lessons. Having a simple sample conversation is essential when teaching beginner students. Which leads me to another complaint, each unit just seems like a jumble of slightly related activities and exercises without much thought to the structure. Each exercise doesn’t build upon the previous ones. I also found a problem with the number of vocabulary words that are introduced in each unit. The amount of vocabulary words that each unit introduces seems to be more than most lower level students can absorb in one or two classes. As a whole I would say that the textbook is not easy enough for many beginner students. I would be much more comfortable using this textbook with a student that has taken a year or so of “standard” classes and is at a lower intermediate level than any true beginner. I think that for the most part, all of the textbooks recommended levels are slightly off.
Another problem is that there is not a whole lot of explanation for each activity. For example, there is an activity in the second book of the series which in theory should be aimed at beginners. This activity is from unit three which is all about occupations. There are three people on the page with short resumes. The resumes go over their age, if they’re married or not, what their nationality is, their previous work experience, qualifications and what languages they can speak. The situation is set as follows: there are two senior managers and they need to send one employee to their Mexico City office to be a product manager. The students are supposed look at all of the personal histories of the three people and talk about which one they would send and why. The basic concept of this activity is very good and sound. But there are no sample conversations, no examples on how the students should go about this. The previous four activities also do not lay out any kind of conversations or even sentence structures to do this. The closest thing is a small grammar exercise that shows students how to introduce themselves and talk about the company and which department they work in. If the textbook had given the students some example sentences or example conversations then this activity would be worthwhile but without it the teacher has to spend way too much time explaining how to do it and the basic sentences the students should use. The teacher ends up having to create their own sample conversations or sentences to help the students. So much of this text book series is like that. Great ideas but with little structure or support behind each of the activities.
This series was a little difficult for me to review because there were a lot of very good things that I can use in my own business classes that I found in this textbook but that is only because I’ve had nearly 20 years of teaching experience. I can look at each activity and take what I need for my class and ignore the other parts of the unit. If you’re a beginner teacher or even an intermediate teacher I think this textbook could be a little difficult to use. There’s a lot of good in the textbook but there’s plenty that needs to be fixed as well. If you already have this textbook or this is the only one available to you then I would say you certainly can use it but you’re going to have to invest a lot more time in preparing your lessons plans.