Macmillan Readers help improve reading and listening skills

Textbooks of reading material, or readers, improve reading and listening skills, especially when accompanied by the recording of the written material. This text is short overview of the listening problems, with the explanation why texts with recorded narration are useful. In addition, we will describe Macmillan Readers Series.

Listening problems in EFL

What are the problems regarding listening in language acquisition? We will use the list from an article Barriers to Acquiring Listening Strategies which states that major listening problems are:

  1. Lack of control over the speed at which speakers speak ,
  2. not being able to get things repeated,
  3. the listener’s limited vocabulary,
  4. failure to recognize the “signals,”
  5. problems of interpretation,
  6. inability to concentrate, and
  7. established learning habits.

Benefits of using Reader and recorded narration

By using reading materials and recorded narration, learners can address some of the problems. For example, the learners can gradually train themselves to read faster, they can repeat the recording when they like and as often as they like. Further, learners are not under pressure to know unknown words, as they can at their own time work on the text and then again on the listening.

A CD accompanying Macmillan Reader

The listening material is very important in dealing with the proper pronunciation, stress, accent and sentence rhythm. This is great way to acquire pronunciation, especially if learners can record themselves and then compare their own reading with the narration on the CD.

Introducing Macmillan Readers Series

Without any wish to promote it as the best available, we will in short describe Macmillan Readers series. The series consists of booklets with CD that contains recorded material spoken by professional actors. It is published at six levels, and each level has structure and vocabulary that suits learners’ ability. More difficult words are explained within text, or shown in the pictures. According to the publisher, the texts are “retold versions of popular classic and contemporary titles as well as specially written stories.”

Back of the book indicating a level
Back cover of the book indicating a level

The number of words is different at each level:

Starter, about 300 basic words
Beginner, 600;
Elementary, 1100;
Pre-intermediate, 1400;
Intermediate, 1600 and
Upper, about 2200 basic words.

The readers contain a glossary and comprehension exercises as well. You can visit Macmillan Readers
on a bookstore site for further information. Feel free to suggest similar products in the comments bellow.

Phonetic Reader – Improve Your Pronunciation and Prosody

Phonetic readers contain phonetically transcribed texts which you have to read properly. Not only you have to know how to pronounce phonemes, but you also have to pay attention to prosody, that is, to the rhythm, stress, and intonation of your utterance (spoken sentence).

During my English Language studies one book was very useful in Phonetics classroom, and helped me and other students to practice spoken English word. After introductory classes about different phonemes in English and detailed instructions on how to pronounce the phonemes, we began practicing. We would listen to our teacher and her perfect English accent that flawlessly conveyed every syllable in the Reader, and then we would practice our pronunciation. The first attempts were unsatisfying, and we had to work hard for the final exam.

Pronunciation

To learn more see article
Top 5 Phonetic Charts

You are probably wondering what we used in classes? We used great little book titled Advanced Phonetic Reader, written by J. D. O’Connor and published by Cambridge University Press. The book consists of three parts. The first is an introduction to different utterance boundaries (pauses in the speech) and tone marks (varying of the stress).

Rhythm, stress, and intonation
Rhythm, stress, and intonation

The second part consists of phonetically transcribed texts. This is the most interesting part of the Reader, and it contains transcription of different spoken styles: declamatory, formal colloquial, colloquial and familiar. See the pictures bellow for the samples, click to see the larger version.

Formal Colloquial Speaking Style
Formal Colloquial Speaking Style

The third part of the Phonetic Reader contains “normal” text, that is, text previously written by using phonetic symbols now is printed in orthographic characters. It is great to read the normal text later and feel how you acquired proper intonation and stress for each spoken style.

Colloquial style in speech
Colloquial style in speech

I would really recommend the Advanced Phonetic Reader to all aspiring English learners. It is such a great resource of knowledge and skill that one always returns to.

I am not sure if you can buy it online, but you might want to check.