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September 1997 - Issue No. #28 (p.20)
Speaking Globally is a high intermediate level textbook designed to combine the development of oral English discussion and presentation skills with the study of issues of international concern. The topics covered by the book's ten units are:
In addition to this content, one presentation strategy is explained in each unit, starting with gathering information and systematically building up through summarizing, presenting different viewpoints, persuading the audience, answering audience questions and even controlling a question and answer period. One discussion strategy is also presented in each unit, and these are organized to progress from such basics as making introductions and discussing the pros and cons of an issue, to agreeing and disagreeing, considering different points of view, persuasion, brainstorming and taking turns.
Each unit starts with a short reading on the topic, followed by sections for class or group discussion and ideas for presentations. Most units have a fictional "case study" that highlights different viewpoints surrounding an issue. In the unit on international tourism, the case study is about "the island nation of Fibaluba", which "gets 90% of its revenue from tourism". However, tourism is declining, and students are asked to discuss what should be done. Various explanations are offered: an 8% sales tax, lack of night life on the island, a less-than-friendly attitude on the part of the residents to tourists. Students are asked to consider a number of recommendations, discuss the pros and cons, and then choose one or come up with one of their own.
When compared to authentic readings, this fictional tact has the advantage of not going out of date and allowing the authors to include a wide array of problems that might be encountered. My students found the discussion topics stimulating and the explanations of discussion strategies helpful.
The readings themselves, however, were very short and did not offer much depth. A number of circumstances led me to choose this book for one semester of a course, so the amount of material was all right in those circumstances, but if I were going to use this text for an entire year, I would probably supplement each lesson with authentic materials that offered more depth.
I used this text for an oral communi-cation course in the Ritsumeikan Law Faculty English Minor (Fukusenko) Program. The students were highly motivated and already had been taught basic presentation skills, so my experience with it was hardly representative. All the same, the students enjoyed the activities a great deal, developed their discussion and presentation skills, and gained awareness of a number of issues.
The topic they had most trouble with was "Ethnocentrism". The reading on this was short and confused the students. They asked a lot of questions about the difference between ethnocentrism and discrimination. It led to a good discussion, but much extra material would be needed to cover this topic properly.
On the other hand, I went into the unit on "World Religions" with some trepidation, knowing that Japanese people in general are not very interested in religion. I therefore introduced the unit with a short talk on how religion is hitting the headlines today, pointing out the case of the Jehovah's Witness in Kobe who ended up in court because he wouldn't take martial arts in his high school gym class, and therefore his school refused to let him graduate, and the case of the Muslim girls in France who were expelled from school because they refused to remove their veils or wear gym uniforms which left their arms and legs bare. To my surprise, the students each enthusiastically investigated a religion for their presentation, and asked a lot of questions of each other afterward. In their class questionnaire, they evaluated the whole book, but especially this unit, very highly, as they felt they had little objective knowledge of any of the world's religions, including Buddhism.
Although my experience is limited to one term with a highly motivated group, I would still recommend this book as a well-designed text offering a nice integration of international issues and high intermediate English skills.
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