Vol. 3. No. 3 R-5 September 1998
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InfoTech: English for Computer Users

Santiago Remacha Esteras (1996)
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Pp. viii + 152
ISBN 0-521-45980-X (paper)
Singapore $22.95
Teacher's book: Pp. ii + 126; ISBN 0-521-45981-8; S $19.95
Cassette: ISBN 0521-45982-6; S $9.95

InfoTech is an intermediate level coursebook targeting learners who need to understand and use English in the field of computers and information technology. The compact, B5-sized book is formatted (pun intended) into 7 sections: "Computers Today," "Input/Output Devices," "Storage Devices," "Basic Software," "Creative Software," "Programming," and "Computers Tomorrow." The five topics covered in most sections provide contextualisation of the target vocabulary and associated grammar. For example, in section 1, the units are "Computer Applications," "Configuration," "Inside the System," "Bits and Bytes," and "Buying a Computer." Each unit has listening, reading, speaking, and writing components with a grammar focus clearly presented, and vocabulary trees to link the lexis with the syntax.

Tasks such as matching exercises, pairwork discussions, listening activities, picture labelling and gap-filling are used to set the scene for each unit, thereby reducing the predictability and monotony of some of the more well-known EFL coursebooks. In addition, there are resources for supplementary work on the Cambridge University Press Web site:

The text-based material includes formats such as brochures, lecture notes, technical specifications, instructions, and explanations. The texts are short, varied, and authentic; they are utilised for discussion, grammar, or vocabulary follow-up tasks. Although some of the texts may appear dated, most are still relevant to the majority of business and educational institutions. InfoTech was printed in 1996, and we are all aware of the immense rate of change that the computer industry is thrusting upon us.

The quality of the cassettes is good, with no exaggerated background interference and prosodic features that are clear for learners at this level. Although the content and delivery of the listening texts may not be authentic, they do allow students to develop the confidence required when dealing with difficult technical concepts in a foreign language.

The speaking focus is always on students working in groups on mini-projects; for example, making decisions about which publishing [-1-] software a company should purchase. There is also pairwork material available for information exchange activities. Each of the speaking tasks and projects can be undertaken within the class time, but they also provide excellent contexts for teachers who wish to expand the projects utilising locally available materials; for example, students can review multimedia CD-ROMs, discuss their merits and pitfalls, and later write a related report.

The writing tasks are brief and tend to focus on the use of the contextualised grammar. However, EFL teachers are very resourceful, and often like the freedom to introduce their own tasks, related to their students, in their school, within their own educational and cultural environment. InfoTech, intentionally or unintentionally, provides the instructor with room for manoeuvre. The coursebook covers a lot of information: a lot of vocabulary, a lot of topics, a lot of grammar and a lot of jargon (after all, it is an information-related course). There is even an excellent glossary and acronyms and abbreviations section at the back.

Teachers who are interested in technology (CALL practitioners, for example) will be comfortable teaching with this text. But non-computer-literate teachers fear not--the teacher's book is comprehensive and has detailed explanations, tapescripts, suggested procedures, and, most importantly, answer keys.

Computer technology is important for English learners in all professions, whether they are designers, artists, business personnel, engineers, or whatever. Consequently the need for English for computer users will increase. InfoTech addresses this need and provides an excellent course of study.

Michael Vallance
Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore

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