Book of the Month
5-Minute English

Publisher: Berlitz
Author: -

ISBN 978-9812688590


This book is one of a series produced for beginners in a number of languages. So one can also try '5-Minute French' or '5-Minute Italian'. Indeed, one might eventually find a language where it is correct to have a number-word mix in the title such as the apalling mish-mash of '5-minute'. This sort of mangled English might be expected on a discount supermarket soup can, but it should hardly be on the cover of a book which purports to teach the language. Furthermore, as anyone who has actually studied English well knows, the amount that can be acquired in five minutes is hardly worth bothering about. The time would be better spent with several good cups of coffee - and by not buying the book you could certainly afford them. However, putting the abominable title aside, are the actual contents of the book good value?

If one is buying the book just for itself, the answer is certainly 'no'. There are just 128 pages to the thing, and a great deal of that is taken up by white (unused) space and colour pictures. Some of these pictures illustrate very basic vocabulary indeed, such as that showing a 'woman'. However when used together with the accompanying CD the book provides more value, as the audio versions of the simple dialogues in the book help students to learn word stress and timing. The book has eleven lessons - and they are of more than five minutes each. These lessons cover the standard beginner subjects such as the family, going out, weather and professions. There are also crosswords and gap-fill exercises, reading, and listening comprehension exercises for the material on the CD. The book features an answer key at the back. A useful feature is the 'smart tips' which cover things like the meaning of abbreviations, the difference between 'good evening' and 'good night' and the fact that 'too' can mean something is included (if at the end of a phrase) or excessive (if before an adjective). The book gives both US and British English usages of words, but the CD has native United States English speakers. Tips on British and north American culture are scattered throughout the book, and there are regular review sections for grammar revision. Overall, as might be expected of a language publisher with the skill and experience of Berlitz, the book is reasonably comprehensive and is also well-laid out and edited.

Who is this book for? Given that there is not that much material within it, the book is not really suitable for self-study. At the same time the answer key and the fact that every book comes with its own CD means that it is not suitable for classroom work either. Perhaps the best use for the book would be as a homework book for a beginners class, where the rather skimpy content can be added to by the teacher the following morning. The advertising claims 'Fun, easy lessons to get you speaking English in minutes.' This is correct only for certain definitions of 'fun' and 'speaking English'. However, the 'easy' part is about right.

Verdict: Not recommended.
Assessment 2/10

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