Oxford English:  An International Approach, Book 1  

Oxford English:  An International Approach, Book 1
by Rachel Redford
Published by Oxford University Press

Sunny snapshots culled from the four corners of the globe make this book seem a tempting invitation to take an international tour.

But the attractive presentation, the first in a series aimed at students aged 11 to 16 with English as a first language or a strong second language, belies a lack of direction.

The contents page, with thematic chapter headings such as ‘Water, water’, ‘Climate’ and ‘Wildlife’, makes this feel like a geography textbook rather than an English one and questions which turn up further on, such as ‘What happens under the Earth’s plates?’, simply serve to confirm your initial hunch.

Thematic selection tends to relegate quality to a subordinate position and this publication is a case in point: there is space for just two lines from Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in the opening section on water and the first piece of serious literature given any proper space at all – an extract from Robinson Crusoe – does not appear until page 116 and, because it sticks out like a sore thumb, it is given the title, ‘Classic fiction’.

The writing exercises, such as the first, entitled ‘Writing a composition’, combine a dated diction with a vagueness in terms of purpose and audience.Instructions including ‘Write your own poem
about some aspect of fire’ are unlikely to set the average year 10 imagination alight. The ‘Toolkit’ language and grammar sections, moving from the early focus on ‘modal verbs’ and ‘the first conditional’ to later sections on the use of apostrophes and rhyme, suggest a lack of progression.

The book is clearly intended to take you on a journey, but for the students who climb aboard, the destination must seem uncertain and the outcome unclear.

Review by
Peter King