Management English Listening
Z. Ardó, R. Bardgett, J. Clemence, K. Dameron, D. L.
Prentice Hall International UK Division
Pp. viii + 188
ISBN 0-13-407586-2 (paper); 0-13-803396-X (cassettes)
UK £8 (book); £9 (2 cassettes)
Management English Listening (MEL) is a humorous yet professional book, which prepares students both for real life and real life listening. The listening tasks provide a unique experience to listen to and the book is enjoyable, profitable, and challenging to read. According to the authors, this workbook and the accompanying two audio cassettes can be used as an in-class textbook or as supplementary material based on themes in management, but it seems particularly appropriate for self-study, with the key and the transcript provided in the appendices. The person-centered approach of Carl Rogers provides the theoretical framework and the main guiding principle of the book. As stated by the authors, the book takes a communicative approach. Thus MEL sets out to "prepare for real-life listening, to enhance the listener's abilities in cross-cultural communication, to develop awareness in active, sensitive listening and effective communication, to explore management and professional issues in a personal, humorous tone, to integrate listening with discussion, reading, writing and critical thinking and to encourage several types of listening through recycling techniques" (p. vii). Surprisingly enough, this book manages to fulfill all its objectives and remain interesting at the same time. MEL consists of 15 chapters, the transcript, and the key. There is no set format for the units, which is good for two reasons. Firstly, one does not get bored of the same pre-listening tasks and group and pair discussions, and secondly, because without realizing it, one still does a little bit of everything, i.e., improve one's general listening skills, develop critical thinking, and become familiar with management issues, which is useful for students and teachers alike.
The structure of the book closely follows that of English for Practical Management (Ardó, 1988) written by Zsuzsanna Ardó, who is co-author of this book. In order to save you time let me give you one piece of advice. If you like Ardó's earlier book, do not read any further; just get a copy of MEL and you will not regret it. If you do not know what I am talking about, do not be puzzled. MEL is a free-standing publication which shows strong resemblance to English for Practical Management. In general, both books have the same design, style, and humor in them, and in particular the same content pages with the same titles (Definitions, Why Work?, We are only Human, Your Resume, First Impressions, Dressing for Business, Presentations that Sell, Where is Your Time Going?, Gwad! Another Meeting Again, Got a Problem?, Making the Right Decision, Telecommunications, Transport, High-Tech Startups, New Technology: [-1-] Thorny, Transcript, Key). Yet the perspective is different. There are direct references to English for Practical Management in MEL e.g., explanation of a cover letter or a questionnaire about boring meetings. However, these are always given as options. Consequently, if you do not have a copy of English for Practical Management you can still use, enjoy and benefit from MEL.
If you see, listen to, and teach MEL you will realize the potential it has and the qualities that are hard to describe. Firstly, it is professionally written with a wide range of general activities (gap-filling, problem-solving, skimming, scanning, listening for the gist, discussion, and so forth) and special business activities (decision-making, brainstorming, giving presentations, managing your time and yourself, preparation for a job interview including resume writing, dressing for business). Secondly, these activities and discussions will help students prepare for situations that they have to face in real life, whatever profession they choose. Thirdly, you will find MEL just as stimulating and beneficial as your students do. If you are getting tired or exhausted you will always find delight in either the design, illustrations, quotations, or in the content. I particularly recommend the chapter on meetings for teachers who have to participate in compulsory department and school meetings.
All in all, MEL grabs your students and your eye. The artwork is done by Daniel Erdely, whose innovative drawings and illustrations both enrich the book and add further spice to it. The proverbs from Stop the World (Salamon & Zalotay, 1992) are well-chosen and strongly linked with the general framework of the units and provide good ground for further discussion. The unscripted recordings are of varying length and good quality. The music that introduces and divides each unit is relaxing. One small note of dissatisfaction is about the cassettes: the length of the recorded material is not printed on the cassettes and the length of the individual extracts does not appear, either.
The crucial importance of MEL is that it can be used in a variety of ways. The tasks and the listening materials are recyclable; they can be used according to the needs and interest of students and teachers. The same principle applies to the book. It can be used in a semester-long class focusing on listening or as the core material of a business course in an ESP class, but it is also adaptable for shorter terms as a supplementary text in a general English class. Thus, the listening tasks can be incorporated into any general or business English course. At the same time, inevitably, this distinct feature of the book can be attributed to the authors who managed to find the right balance between listening activities and topic areas. Furthermore, the voice of an experienced teacher of business and general English is always present throughout the book. [-2-]
In addition, there are two aspects of MEL I would like to highlight. One main asset of the book is that it sets out to promote cross-cultural communication by including interviews with people of different cultural backgrounds (American, Canadian, English, German, Hungarian, Indian, Italian, and Japanese) and professionals who share their personal views and experiences on management with the audience. Another asset of MEL is its humorous style and the friendly atmosphere of the recordings, which bring liveliness into the classroom.
Having discussed many positive aspects of the book, I come to a significant negative point, namely, that the book ends rather abruptly. It is mentioned in the introduction of MEL that your questionnaire is in the back of the book so that we can listen to each other" (p. viii), but it is left out. This questionnaire is not a new idea, since it can be found in the back of English for Practical Management. So tell your students not to look for it, but do not discourage them from summarizing their opinion of the book. I think that the authors are still interested in hearing feedback and would appreciate your comments, too. I personally like this idea and the questionnaire for the following reasons. When we design our courses we want to provide our students with an interesting, useful, stimulating, and satisfying course based on their needs. When we choose a coursebook we follow our criteria and add more according to our students' expectations. When we finish the coursebook we ask for student responses and the advantages and disadvantages of a particular book or material for our own purposes and future work. Therefore, if the authors are willing to evaluate such questionnaires and face the possible outcome, be it accomplishing or criticizing, I strongly feel that the questionnaire should be there.
My second observation is not that serious, yet it is worth mentioning. Since the authors emphasize the cross-cultural background of the interviewees, I would devote more space and time to identifying their accents with discussion questions such as these: Can you hear the difference between the following persons? Where are they from? Could you list a few characteristics of the way Germans, Australians, French, and Spaniards speak English? I am fully aware that this is not a course on dialects, but due to the richness of the listening tasks it could be dealt with in greater detail and depth. This may be something that would have needed a book of far greater length, however.
In spite of these shortcomings, users of MEL should find the book useful, stimulating, thought provoking, and creative. The listening tasks always stay vividly topical, giving a comprehensive picture of managerial skills. The strength of MEL is its variety and the ability to provide both students and teachers with the opportunity of having fun and thinking creatively at the same time. Both experienced and novice teachers will find it helpful, and it will definitely make them smile and even laugh. [-3-]
Ardó, Z. (1988). English for Practical Management. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Salamon, G., and Zalotay, M. (1992). Stop the World. Budapest: Biograf.
Eötvös Lóránd University, Budapest
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Editor's Note: Dashed numbers in square brackets indicate the end of each page in the paginated ASCII version of this article, which is the definitive edition. Please use these page numbers when citing this work. [-4-]