Book of the Month
Basic English
Publisher: McGraw Hill
Author: Julie LaChance

ISBN 9780071597623

Beginners +

This book is one of a series of 'Basic Books' which also offer subjects such as 'Basic Hindi' and 'Basic Math'. There's also another book in the series specializing in just English verbs. Many of these 'Basic' books are also available as e-publications, and this is one of them. So if you live in the right part of the world and you find the book in this review appealing, you can be studying from it in minutes.
This particular book has a simple idea which is stated on the cover. 'Practice makes perfect'. The best way to learn English is to use it and practice it - as often as possible. So this is basically a book of practice exercises in simple English. It helps that the writer of this book lives in Montreal, Canada and is both an EFL teaching professional and someone who understands learning in a multi-lingual environment.

Perhaps the biggest problem with this book is that you do not get a great deal for your money. The entire book is 179 pages long, and though none of the space is used up by illustrations there are not many words per page. Overall the book has fifty sections which consist of brief explanations of grammar followed by exercises. Each exercise is designed to take twenty minutes or less, and students can check their work using the answer key at the back of the book. The book concentrates on verbs and tenses, with some attention given to prepositions and almost none to nouns. In fact the first seven sets of exercises and explanations deal with just the present tense and the verb 'to be' and only after that to we get to adjectives. Each exercise starts with a brief but clear explanation of the grammar form (usually a verb or tense) and examples are given of that gramamr form in use. Students are encouraged to look up the meaning of the words in the exercises before they start the exercises themselves. Space is given in the book for students to write into the book translations or definitions of the words they have checked in this way. The exercises which follow are the standard types - sentence rewriting, gap-fill exercises and so on. The advertising describes these exercises as 'engaging and humorous exercises to keep you focused and interested while you gain confidence in your new language'. While the exercises are certainly well-prepared and allow practice with different language points, there is in reality nothing very different from what a student will find in most other language exercise books.

Who is this book for? The grammar explanations are too short for someone learning the language for the first time, but they are a useful refresher for a returning student. The answer key at the back means that this book works less well in a classroom. However because the exercises are short and clear (an advantage of not much text on the page) this is an excellent book to keep in a rucksack and use to practice in a few spare minutes, for example while waiting for a bus or in a waiting room. The ideal user of this book would be someone with basic English who really needs to practice verbs and tenses but does not have a lot of time to do so. The e-book option means that if the user has a tablet then the book need take up no extra space. However, if the tablet has wi-fi enabled, a student can do free interactive exercises on sites such as English for Everybody in any case.

Verdict: Good for practicing basic English
Assessment 6/10
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