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Any recommendations for a general English textbook available on the mainland?


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I've been asked to help someone to chose a textbook for studying English, but I wouldn't know where to start without going to a bookshop and looking at books, which is far too time-consuming.

Basically looking for a general textbook series that'll cover a bit of everything, probably designed for classroom use but also suitable for self-study. Something like the Headway series for anyone who knows that, although that's not available in China, bar as an import (I think, if it is available here that would probably be perfect).

I remember a couple from my teaching days but never actually used them so don't know if they're any good or not. Plus my memory doesn't go as far as names - New Interchange? Something like that?

Any of our active teachers got any suggestions?

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Popular series include: Longman's, New Interchange, New Concept (written in 1967 and still used :lol:) Cambridge, and training center specific ones can be good if you can get ahold of them. ( I have a set of EF :wink:) It can also depend on the age group you are teaching too. There is a myriad of chinese-centric produced books, but at least 2 of those that I have contain some engrish or other mistakes. I have found even small local bookstores will have a section with at least the student edition of several english training books, it may ultimately be worth spending an hour or two anyways to peruse them before making a final decision. If I had to suggest general texts I guess I'd go with Cambridge or New Interchange

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Yep. NCE is widely used and there is a plethora of transcripts, electronic versions, and audio files widely available to download as an augment. I am surprised they haven't heard of it. Or maybe they have and are looking for something else. Content is fairly solid and systematic albeit rather typical and boring in many ways.


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Roddy, you didn't say what age the student is. However, I'll assume they are adult or at least teenage. It would also help to know if they have studied any English before but I'll assume they haven't.

Interchange English - Published by Cambridge - is the range I use most for my own classes. I've used it for two years now both at university and at private schools. If studying on one's own without a teacher then I recommend the student to get the full range of books, especially the workbook, to compliment the students book. There are DVD's that go with the course plus there are exercises on the Interchange web site that you can work through.

The vocabulary used in Interchange is useful and builds systematically. I'd say it's a more practical vocabulary for modern English than the NCE range (below) gives. The grammar is clearly explained but only briefly and only in English. If you don't have a teacher, you might not understand the the grammar sections in this book. On the up side, the grammar builds logically throughout the range of books. The books are well balance with a mix of reading, writing, listening and talking exercises. Though you would need to be in a classroom setting to make the most of the talking sections.

New Concept English - This is the standard at every school. It has it's good points and some distinct bad points. On the plus side it's very thorough. Every element of grammar is covered by the time you finish book 2. That is also one of it's down sides. It can sometimes spend too long teaching some rather special grammar in book 2 that could have been left till book 4. The books have explanations in both English and Chinese so you can read it yourself however, I'd recommend still taking classes as you will learn faster. The pictures in the books lack the visual appeal of some other books but are functional. There is a bit too much emphasis on reading and writing skills and not enough conversation. This is especially true of books 3 and 4 which are basically just reading comprehension exercises.

I have used some other books, but the are for either young children or for specialist topics or I don't like them. If your student has already studied some English before and is just wanting to improve, then I'd give a different set of recommendations to that above.

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  • 1 year later...

I recently came across something that looked like a reworking of New Concept, called Charm or (New Charm) English. It's published by New Channel (新通道). One of the complaints about New Concept is that it's out of date; this series shouldn't suffer from that particular problem - although I perhaps it has other flaws.

I'm living pretty much opposite a New Channel school at the moment, so if anyone wants more details let me know.

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  • 2 months later...

Hmm. I actually have never been too keen on Interchange, in that it seemed to rely too heavily on listening, on having the CD there with you. I understand that it is the one recommended by everyone, everywhere, but I've never really been too fond of it.

For supplements to regular lessons I've used Side by Side...the big drawback to which is it is a textbook designed for immigrants to the US, and has some vocabulary which is not quite relevant to Chinese students ("Maria went to the Social Security office today"). However, it is extremely easy to use for setting up oral pairwork and drills.

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