As a student of English, it can be difficult to know what reference books are out there. Walking into a bookstore and seeing shelves upon shelves of English textbooks, dictionaries, and reference books can be overwhelming. Asking a clerk for advice can help at times, but more often than not, if the clerk doesn't know English herself or has never been an English language learner, she probably isn't the right person to ask. Teachers can provide ideas of where to look for references that might help, but sometimes teachers themselves are overwhelmed or unprepared to recommend books outside of their level. To help sort it out, we have compiled a short list of reference books pertaining to very specific learning needs.
Giving presentations in English
If you have to give a presentation in English but are unsure of what presentation style is appropriate, Presentations in English by Erica J. Williams will be a good place to start (the book is not published yet). This book will help you work through some of the steps to presenting in English, helping you find your own unique presentation style. It is appropriate for self-learners, but may also be used for classroom activities. The books offers not only presentation skills and tips, but helpful language. A DVD is also available, showing different presentation techniques, and using real students as they work through the course. It is intended for levels Intermediate to Advanced (B2 to C1 on the Common European Framework).
Another option is Mark Powell's Presenting in English - How to Give Successful Presentations (1996). This book focuses on the rhetoric of public speaking as well as techniques for handling audiences. A drawback to this book versus the one above is that there is no DVD, and the audio is still in cassette form.
Writing emails in English
Email English by Paul Emmerson is the perfect resource for business students who need practice writing effective emails in English. It is ideal for self-study, but may also be adapted for the classroom. It includes a Phrase Book with functional phrases commonly used in business and formal emails. It also deals with the informality of emails, teaching students how to switch from formal to informal and providing practical knowledge like knowing when one style is more appropriate than another. Intended for Intermediate to Upper Intermediate students (B1 - B2 on the Commom European Framework), this resource is ideal for anyone wanting to learn the "fine art" of email writing.
Improving reading comprehension
Reading the News by Pete Sharma (2007) is a good resource for students preparing for international exams such as the TOEFL®, TOIEC®, or IELTS®. Students get practice reading authentic news items while learning more about contemporary global issues. It is a great place to start for getting practice outside of the classroom. It includes a special section focusing on journalistic writing conventions, intended to help students become more familiar with newspaper style. An audio CD is also available.
Focusing on grammar tenses
For students who would like to improve their use of grammar tenses, Tense Situations - Tenses in Contrast and Context by Pamela Hartmann, Annette Zarian, and Patricia Esparaza (1998) is the book for you! This text works through the different grammar tenses in English, comparing and contrasting them through a variety of oral and written exercises. Pictures supplement the grammatical explanations, providing a visual representation of how and when certain tenses are used.
Heinle Online Speaking Labs taps into this amazing resource that we all have at our fingertips: the Internet. Through speech-recognition technology, students receive immediate, visual feedback on their speaking sessions. Speaking Labs are available for all levels. Unfortunately, at the moment it appears to be available only for language labs for schools and universities, but maybe someday in the future this program will also be avaiable for students studying from home!