Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Book Review: 'Professional English in Use: Management' - Arthur Mckeown - Ros Wright

Professional English in Use:
Arthur Mckeown & Ros Wright
Cambridge University Press 2011
ISBN 9780521176859

Publisher's Website
From the blurb: "Part of the hugely popular Professional English in Use series, this book offers management vocabulary reference and practice for learners of intermediate level and above (B1-C1). Key MBA topics, covered in 40 independent units, including Leadership, Change Management and Finance are presented through real business case studies. The course has been informed by the Cambridge International Corpus to ensure that the language taught is up-to-date and frequently used. Primarily designed as a self-study book, it can also be used for classroom work and one-to-one lessons. This book is a must for both students of MBA and other Business programmes and professionals who need to use English in a managerial context."

The world of English teaching's moving fairly fast these days, with the tendency towards ESP (English for Specific Purposes) being confirmed by all the major publishers. The danger is that poor little 'run-of-the-mill' language teacher is getting left behind in this mad rush towards professionalisation and specialised business skills which a lot of English teachers simply don't possess.

Indeed, I've just been working with a language school here in Paris which not only divides its offer into 'standard' English and 'professional' English, but pays teachers capable of teaching the latter more. That might seem blindingly logical but in fact it has rarely been the case, at least in my experience, where your average 'competent' teacher is expected to wear many hats, including that of business skills consultant. They are often woefully underqualified to do so.

Which is where books like Cambridge's latest Professional English in Use title, Management, are supposed to come in.

Personally, I've always felt a bit confused as to what exact role these sort of books are actually supposed to be playing, and who the target audience is, both in terms of student and teacher.

Be that as it may, let's check out this new and long-awaited title. Accounting and catering and air traffic controlling are all very well, but management, now there's a challenge for an ELT publisher. A lot will be resting on this book, both in terms of credibility and actual usefulness, in a series I've found, in common with all publishers in this area, often tends to only have about three or four double-spread 'units' which are of direct relevance to any given professional.

The problem is, if it's a business or management primer, then why not just use one for native speakers which already exists instead of going to the bother of reinventing the wheel?

If, on the other hand, it's an English language teaching book, then is there not a danger that in trying to please everyone and keep your target audience reasonably large (for commercial purposes) you end up dumbing down the subject and not providing anything of much use to anyone? We'll see.

Nothing much more needs to be said about the layout and the professionalism of the presentation that I haven't already said in five other reviews of Cambridge books in this series: it's good. Having said that, it's surprisingly dense, even for a professional business title. It'll take some ploughing through, which is why its original remit, I assume, of covering given topics in good depth for one-off purposes in the context of a properly prepared and varied lesson is probably what's in play here. There's meat. (I may have to revise that last comment, as you'll see later...)

As to the topics, well one of the authors, Arthur Mckeown, is 'an experienced teacher of management English and designer of courses in management English for MBA students and professionals', so I'll defer to his knowledge of the business world and assume the topics are representative of what your average manager (does that exist?) needs to know.

I've photographed some of the contents pages so I don't have to run through them here - just click on the pics for larger versions.

Personally, I enjoy all of these books because they give you a real insight into other worlds, be it the arcane rituals of accounting or the scary seriousness of law or one I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to, English for Football!, which I see is coming out soon from one of the big ELT publishers.

I don't think it's from Cambridge, but they're stuck in the Conference League so it's probably not surprising. Anyway, plenty of football jokes coming when I get my hands on that one, rest assured about that Brian.

Back to Professional English in Use: Management, then (without the colon actually, but that bothers me), and you could say it's a book of seven sevenths (I've still got English for Football on the brain, sorry).

The section headings are fairly standard, although occasionally slightly opaque: Management in Context; Innovation; Marketing: Operations; People and Human Resources; Finance; Strategy and Change, but the chapter headings give you a good idea of what to expect.

The book doesn't seem to have been webbified yet - it's just good old pen and paper folks - unlike the fancy new Murphy grammar book, the granddaddy of all of these 'In Use' titles, which I'll be reviewing shortly.

So what I'll do to finish this review is teach myself a new business management concept - you know, there's always the latest fancy-pants buzz word gimmick what-have-you, whether it's 'Sigma 6' or 'Time Management' or 'Getting Things Done' or 'Management by Objectives' or any number of weird and wonderful concepts - and I'm going to find myself a new one. Now, let's see (promise I haven't looked beforehand!)...

Aah! Here we go: 'Transactional and transformational leaders' - perfect! Management jargon at its finest. Now let's see what all that's about...

Some time later that same review:

Hmm, well, quite interesting, tons of argot (paradigm shift, contingent reward leadership, management-by-exception, laissez-faire approach, hey, that's French, that is!) and of course the usual linking and gap fill exercises to test students' 'understanding' of, err, the language.

Whether they can actually use it, or would need to use it, or have learnt anything about management which is relevant to their own particular situation will depend on... their own particular situation.

In the end, and joking aside, this is a 'horses for courses' type of volume, and as I've said before, it's the sort of book I would use a relevant double spread from with an interested party and end up with them rather impressed by my evident investment in their progress.

I've always liked these books a lot, so don't think this review is a negative one; it's not. But this book will come into its own in the hands of an already competent and experienced business English trainer, and as a back up to less experienced teachers who can get students to discuss the relevance of certain approaches to working life in their country in a more general manner. OK, admittedly they tout it as primarily aimed at the self-study market (see above) and I'll finish with two comments: it could well be excellent for MBA students studying full time; for busy business people with families, forget it.

Congratulations on the book, by the way, Ros. You can be justifiably proud of it  ;~Sab


Sab Will is, or has been, a freelance teacher, teacher trainer, director of studies, ELT writer, fanatical blogger, Facebook freak and website weirdo. He is also a well-known street photographer, abstract artist, poet and Paris city chronicler. The 'well-known' bit only applies to those who know him well, however.
Hotch Potch English: 'The ELT Resources Review Blog' ~ Book Review: "Professional English in Use: Management"
© 2012 Sab Will / Hotch Potch English

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