Saturday, 1 September 2012

Book Review: 'English for Law Enforcement' by Boyle & Chersan






English for Law Enforcement
Charles Boyle & Ileana Chersan
Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2009
ISBN 9780230732551

Publisher's Website
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From the blurb: English for Law Enforcement is a language course designed to meet the communication needs of 21st century law enforcers, including customs officers, military police, security personnel and police officers. Starting at CEF level A2, it equips students with the langage they need to operate effectively in English in a range of standard law enforcement contexts.
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"Task 2: Listen again. Write the names of the speaker(s) who:
1) was beaten and locked up by their captors... 3) is afraid that their family could be in danger... 6) was forced to work as a prostitute..."

The last time I opened up an ELT book to be confronted with such surreally hard-hitting topics was LTP's ground-breaking and controversial Taboos and Issues back in 2001 which still remains a quirky classic in my eyes.

That was before the days of highly career-specific ESP publications like Macmillan's English for Law Enforcement, however. Nowadays the least likely of industries are getting their own specialised titles and this is a great example.

Of course, questionnaires on human trafficking or cartoon strips about getting beaten up are the most gruesome side of the topic. The vast majority of the book covers less scary subjects, with chapter headings such as Traffic and Vehicles, Out in the Community, and At the Police Station showing the more mundane side of the profession. Other chapters like Drugs and Alcohol, Civil Disorder and Organised Crime don't shy away from the grim realities of the work of a modern law enforcement officer though.

English for Law Enforcement is a sister title to English for the Military, which I reviewed recently, and much of what I said then goes for this title too. It's beautifully laid out, with tons of variety and colour making it quite the jolly read, despite some of the less than joyful topics being covered.


Each chapter again follows the rather cool Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta structure of four double-page spreads, covering all the language skills and a great deal of fascinating profession-specific topics in detail with great variety and panache. As an idea of the breadth of the material included, opening the book at random reveals sections on Interpol Notices, Protective Equipment, Identity Parades, Domestic Abuse, Assault at an ATM, The Big Match (football), and Kebab Shop Attack, to name but a few.

There's a 12-page set of Pairwork Files at the back, which emphasises the interactive nature of the course and I can imagine this stimulating lively exchanges between participants and I'm quite sorry I won't have the opportunity to use the book myself in the foreseeable future. So interesting is it, I'm tempted to wonder if any of the units could be included in a more general English language course, but I fear the topics are a bit to profession-focused for this to be the case, unlike the more abstract approach of a book like Taboos and Issues, which I mentioned earlier.

But highly specific professional titles are all the rage at the moment, and I can't see the trend slowing down for the time being. For example, if you wished to come at football from another angle than hooliganism and crowd unrest, you could check out a new English for Football title from Oxford I'm excited to be reviewing shortly. But I digress.


I almost didn't slip what I though was just the CD of the recordings for the exercises in the book into the player. When I did, though, I realised that is was, in fact, an 'integrated self-study CD-ROM including interactive language practice and consolidation of key language points', no less. It has a good variety of straightforward language comprehension and testing exercises and is a worthwhile addition to the package. As for the actual recording for the exercises, I only have the tapescripts at the back to go on, so I can't tell you how realistic or otherwise they are. I assume they are actors reading them, judging by the slightly slower than natural and crystal clear presentation of the recordings on the CD-ROM I do have to go on.

Macmillan's English For Law Enforcement is a model of its kind and I can fully understand why it won a prize for innovation as it proudly touts on its front cover. If I were teaching any of the individuals mentioned in the blurb (customs officers, military police, security personnel, police officers...) I'd definitely be including English for Law Enforcement in my armoury.

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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.
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Hotch Potch English: 'The ELT Resources Review Blog' ~ Book Review: "English For Law Enforcement"
© 2012 Sab Will / Hotch Potch English
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