Learning English in Australia: ESL books that sound like we do

Before my son was born, I taught English as a second language (ESL) for almost a decade, mostly to adults. It’s the job that took me to Japan, Slovakia and Germany before returning to Perth to teach English to people who’d come to Australia from South America, Europe and Asia – some to improve their English and return home, and others because they’d either already migrated here or were trying to. It was a job I absolutely loved, for numerous reasons (and in Perth, one reason was the great mix of hilarious students – like Pedro whose test got blown away …).

Since then, the ESL field is still one that interests me (and every so often I get the urge to go back and teach, I must admit!). I couldn’t resist finding out more, then, when one of my clients in my blogging and social media business turned out to be a writer who’d published a series of ESL readers for learners new to Australia. And it turned out that Clare Harris’ ESL books are so good that I wanted to recommend them further!

ESL Extras series – readers plus teacher activities

Clare kindly let me choose a couple of ESL books from her ESL Extras reader series to take a look at. They are lovely stand-alone books for learners from beginner and elementary levels to be able to read themselves, plus there are teacher’s guides/workbooks so that ESL teachers can photocopy the stories to distribute and have a range of class exercises to choose from to reinforce what students can learn from reading the books.

ESL books for students in Australia

 

I started off tackling Six Stories from Hope Street, a series of tales which stand alone but are all about residents of Hope Street. They are simple (and all told only in simple past tense) but manage to be interesting – very tricky to achieve! There are stories of late buses, young love, doctor’s visits and missing keys and what I like most is that they are identifiably Australian without being full of “yobbos” and “sheilas” – but instead with typical Aussie phrases like “No worries” and “Sorry, love” used in natural ways.

I also read Can You Keep A Secret? which is about George, an immigrant working at a factory and dealing with a few (secret!) issues. This one’s a whole story told in short chapters and for slightly more advanced beginners, and again, a great story.

The worksheets provided in the Teacher’s Guides are really varied, so teachers can easily choose the kind of activity that suits their particular setting. (Reading these was one of those moments when I imagined going back to do some more ESL teaching!).

ESL Easy-read ebooks

Clare’s also written a couple of mini-novels aimed at English learners too, and I read Blood Kind first – it’s about a passport forgery artist who, well, has a blood transfusion that kind of changes his life. (I’m not giving you any spoilers so you’ll just have to read it yourself). I also enjoyed The English Chip (for intermediate level learners) which is based on the (very enticing) premise that someone’s invented a microchip to plant in your brain for instant language learning but of course, it’s not all quite as simple as that.

ESL Easy Read books by Clare Harris

I know from my old ESL students that finding books that suit their level AND which are interesting, good reads is a really difficult task – but I heartily recommend these two. Like the ESL Extras, “The English Chip” is also very much Australian in feel, although “Blood Kind” is a bit more general in setting and content.

Learning Australian English

It’s not easy to land here in Australia and pick up our version of English. When I brought my German husband here about eight years ago, I remember very well our first evening, having dinner at my father’s house and listening to his fairly Australian language, realising immediately how many phrases my husband would have no hope of understanding. (I’d lost a lot of my Australianisms after being abroad for a few years.)

I really admire Clare for doing her best to help learners of English by publishing some properly interesting ESL books set in Australia – so if you know some Aussie learners or Aussie ESL teachers, let them know to head to The Book Next Door to find out more.

 

 

Full disclosure as always: Clare gave me these books to review, but the opinions are completely my own – as was the idea to ask Clare if I could review them, actually!

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