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2002 Heralds New Edition of Leo Jones Classic
Cambridge University Press releases "Let's Talk"

Let's Talk 1 (ISBN 0-521-77695-3)
Let's Talk 2 (ISBN 0-521-75074-1)
Let's Talk 3 (ISBN 0-521-77692-9)

Let's Talk, Book 3, by Leo JonesThe name Leo Jones is synonymous with practical ESL conversation activities, thanks to his many contributions to the field. The revised 2002 edition of "Let's Talk," a three-book series for high-beginning to high-intermediate ESL students, will further establish Jones as an author of effective ESL materials.

Cambridge University Press kindly supplied the three textbooks--Let's Talk 1, 2 & 3--each including its own self-study CD in the book jacket, and an audiotape sampler for the purposes of this ESL MiniConference materials review.

English language learning is an intensely competitive enterprise today, and materials which don't really attract the learner's interest make ESL teaching more of a chore than a pleasure. "Let's Talk" uses modern-day layout, design and graphics to engage learners (and teachers) immediately. There are many, many good quality photographs throughout the books and, whether the graphic is a photo or a cartoon, there is a coherent relationship among all elements on every spread: the headlines, the captions, the text-boxes, the exercises.

Each book is divided into 16 units, based on communicative themes. Each unit is divided into a two-page "A" spread on a general theme, such as describing people ("What do They Look Like?," Book 1, Unit 2A), and a two-page "B" spread which delves more deeply into the theme, for example, talking about personalities ("Your Personality," Book 1, Unit 2B).

Every unit incorporates listening exercises based on realistic conversations, with a great deal of variety to maintain student interest. Learners are encouraged to make their own guesses--filling blanks in a text, listing items in category columns, for example--before listening to the tapes. There are good pair and small-group activities, and they are introduced when students have been exposed to enough vocabulary and language functions to be able to participate confidently.

One of my favorite activities in Book 1 is Activity 3 in Unit 10A ("Can You Remember?"). Activity 3 is a listening exercise, based on four cartoons in which people's childhood memories are evoked by a particular sight, sound, smell or touch sensation. Then, students in pairs compare notes and tell whether they have similar memories to those of the individuals on the tape: enjoying a certain kind of food, taking medicine, buying a new coat or walking on the beach.

The "Join another pair" activity asks students to choose several typical childhood memories from a list, including "the time you learned to ride a bicycle," "a time you had fun with your best friend," "a time you went to the mountains or ocean," "a time you got a special present," "a time you cried really hard" or "your first day of school." One can imagine students momentarily forgetting they are learning a new language, in the midst of such a strong context for remembering and speaking in English about important memories from their pasts.

Another neat feature of the "Let's Talk" series is the inclusion of "Communication Tasks," which go deeper than the pair work. In the communication tasks, each student in a group of three refers to a different set of instructions on different pages in the communication task appendix. For example, in Unit 2B ("Getting Personal") in Book 2, the communication task entails one student looking for people in the room who live in an apartment, have a pet, etc..., while another looks for anyone who has an older sister, likes to cook, etc..., and the third member of the group checks to see if there are classmates who have part-time jobs, have younger brothers, play musical instruments, etc... At the end, the three of them get back together and share the what they've found out about the other students in the room.

After every set of four units in each book, there is a two-page spread of "review puzzles," mostly crosswords and word-search games which focus on the vocabulary learned. In addition, students are able to review each unit by doing exercises from a "self-study" section in the back of the book, while listening to the CD that is included with each book. These self-study exercises are statement recognition, fill-in-the-blank, T/F and others. Each book also has a grammar appendix, with very clear examples of the different structures the student has encountered.

Leo Jones has produced a logically-sequenced, graphically rich, visually inviting and linguistically appropriate set of materials. Each book in the series supplies 40 to 60 hours of instruction. "Let's Talk" has set a new standard for ESL/EFL materials. Students (and teachers) are going to have much less patience with the typical fare of the past decade or so. Thanks to Jones, perhaps we can look forward to similarly imaginative, inspiring and engaging projects from more authors in the years to come.

Story by Robb Scott