Saturday, 1 September 2012

Book Review: 'English for Football' by Boyle & Chersan

English for Football
Alan Redmond & Sean Warren
Oxford University Press 2012
ISBN 9780194579728

Publisher's Website
From the blurb: "English for Football is... the ideal quick course for anyone who needs to communicate in English with players, coaching staff, journalists, agents and fans. It is also suitable for students interested in a career in the football industry as a player, an official, an administrator, or a trainer. [It] will help you communicate effectively across the world's favourite sport."

I was over the moon when I discovered the existence of this book, although, to be honest, at first I thought it must be some sort of joke. English for Football? Who are they trying to kid. I imagined a book of two halves, the first devoted to classic footballing clichés and metaphors, and the second a sing-along section to the fans' favourite off-colour chants.

How wrong I was, and naive too, as I realised upon reading the blurb above, the About The Book section and especially Sir Alex Ferguson's Foreword. So, conceding that there are no easy reviews, I'll risk feeling sick as a parrot, not just being here to make up the numbers and, well, at the end of the day, put this thing under the microscope. Brian.

As Ferguson says, "Just as in business or science, in football too, people increasingly tend to use English to communicate." I must say there's an interview with him in an old ELT course book and most of my students haven't got a clue what he's saying, but that's beside the point.

The point is, football is international - probably one of the most fluid international environments you can imagine actually - and the interest in and scope of the profession is vast. I really hadn't thought of the countless thousands of students doing sports oriented courses where football terminology could be highly relevant, never mind the communication problems of foreign players and managers trying to get their messages across to groups of bemused, slack-jawed interlocuters.

I still have a problem imagining your average international footballer sitting in an English class going through this book, but I guess the self-study approach could work very well for a newcomer to an English speaking environment, and the book is well suited to this.

To do things backwards somewhat, there's a CD-ROM (at the back) with both all the listenings from the book and interactive exercises covering grammar, vocabulary and useful footballing expressions. There are transcripts for all the recordings, each of the eight units has its own test/consolidation page and the answers are given too. There is, therefore, no teacher's book or additional CD to purchase, but Oxford do claim to provide 'teacher's notes and extra resources' on the web, although I couldn't find any for this title.

There's a good range of accents on the CD, both native speaker and foreign, and the speech is surprisingly natural for this fairly basic level. The interactive part is basically a set of three multiple choice and gap fill exercises for each unit. Standard consolidation stuff.

And as to the book itself. There are eight frighteningly colourful units, as I said, and what at first glance looks like a bit of a mish-mash of material turns out to be fairly well organised under the following chapter headings: It's My Club; Defender; Midfielder; Striker; Goalkeeper; Scout; Manager; The Greatest.

Each of the eight-page units has a trio of themes, such as Midfielder: Formations; Midfield maestros; Number 10, Manager: A manager's job; Manager or coach; Goalkeeping coach. The first three or four pages deal with these topics and the second half of the unit gets into the language and skills needed to flesh out the student's English abilities with a bit of grammar and functional language thrown in for good measure.

The joyful presentation (all those colours and boxes and photos) almost takes over from the pedagogical aims of the units, but I suppose they must have done in-depth studies on what was going to keep a footballiing student's attention focused and gone with what they concluded.

I should say it's bang up to date too, with Leo Messi and Christiano Ronaldo featuring prominently. Anything less would seriously damage its credibility if you ask me.

As for my conclusion, well first of all I think this book is in a group of one - it's the first of its kind that I've seen - so it'll be interesting to see what the other major ELT publishers come up with if they decide to take their ESP offerings in this direction. Knowing them it shouldn't take them long if they do. If there's one thing they hate its their competitors having something they haven't got. I imagine we could expect golf, tennis, sailing, horseriding, judo, and why not tiddly-winks titles in the foreseeable future. Is this the start of a new ESP goldrush I wonder?

I was slightly disappointed in the end not to find any footballing clichés or chants, but the Express series is far too professional to include such frivolity, and the final result, as one would expect from a publisher of the calibre of Oxford, is very pleasing indeed.

P.S. Am I still allowed to publish this review if I say that I can't stand the game..? Only kidding, my son, only kidding.


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: "English for Football"
© 2012 Sab Will / Hotch Potch English

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