International Express Upper Intermediate
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  • International Express Upper Intermediate
  • Keith Harding and Adrian Wallwork
  • Published by: Oxford University Press
  • Level: Intermediate
  • First Published in:

International Express: Upper Intermediate is a Business English course book with a heavy focus on grammar. While working with this book students will focus on analyzing audio dialogues, email writing, telephone conversations, and communication techniques to apply in the workplace.

REVIEW BY Maureen St. George Book EXPERT
Review posted: 28/10/2013
Have you used this book?

International Express strikes the right balance of general and business English, and more importantly, business and pleasure. The images flick between photos and cartoons, and the subjects range from business emails to hobbies and casual English, but the tone remains consistent without talking down to the students. The pages are slick and glossy, the models in the photos are from a range of backgrounds, and the text is gathered in colored boxes, giving it a modern look and feel that reflect the students it serves.

The International Express package comes with a teacher’s book and DVD; a student book with DVD-rom and pocketbook; and a student workbook with CD. The teacher’s book goes through each point and explains clearly how to teach it. The book also has a few supplemental materials that rehash the grammar in worksheet or game form. Unfortunately, it’s pretty much a step-by-step guide without offering any insight on how to extend the exercises or relate them to another practice.

"International Express strikes the right balance of general and business English, and more importantly, business and pleasure."

The workbook doesn’t offer any further examples of the points introduced in the book, but goes over each point in the same order as the book. The exercises are similar to those in the book but focus on different subjects, giving the students a chance to read about something new and possibly learn some new vocabulary.

The upper-intermediate book has a pretty heavy focus on grammar, but as this is for more advanced students, the grammar is enveloped in a more business-friendly package. The various tenses are hit again and again throughout the first half of the book through telling stories, boasting of achievements and making predictions. Modals and conditionals are presented through the lens of images and brands and emotional traits.

Each of the ten chapters focuses on four points: “language focus,” “wordpower” (i.e., phrasal verbs), “skills focus” and “focus on functions.” There’s a review unit after every two chapters that goes over each grammar point and skill through closed exercises. At the back of the book, students can find the pocketbook, which contains all the main points, vocabulary and functions in compressed form, not unlike a phrase book when traveling in a foreign country.

IE uses British English and most of the characters speak in English accents, although there is a bit of variation. The book does point out the American version of certain words and phrases, which I always appreciate. The business English pages are a continuing story and use the same main characters, so the students can get used to their habits of speech, even if it’s an accent they’re not used to.

Without a doubt, the stars of this book are the skills focus and functions. By focusing on all the verb tenses for half of the book, students can get used to using these tenses to make arrangements, have a phone conference and navigate working relationships, which are just some of the excellent skills presented that can be modified by the teacher to work more for business, tourism, pleasure and the like. In fact, this book has a heavy emphasis on talking on the phone, which business students appreciate. If space allows, the teacher can set up in one room and the students in another while they have the class over the phone, encouraging heightened listening skills and a focus on functions, from asking to speak slower to practicing refusing politely.

"To counteract the inherent frustration of phrasal verbs, idioms and easily confused words also get a fair bit of page time, so it’s possible to mix and match them as you please with a little bit of effort."

There’s also a lot on writing emails. With emails and talking on the phone, a lot of nuances can get lost, so this book is an ideal choice to focus on the verbal and non-verbal details. In addition to skills like being less direct and reacting to bad news, IE also focuses on phrasal verbs, the bane of most students’ time in the classroom. To counteract the inherent frustration of phrasal verbs, idioms and easily confused words also get a fair bit of page time, so it’s possible to mix and match them as you please with a little bit of effort.

IE does an excellent job of laying out the information in a simple way, although the first section goes off like a gunshot with a huge review of all tenses that may intimidate some students. In other sections, the text almost borders on minimalist. The instructions are explained clearly, and although the grammar sections could stand to have some more examples, the function skills pages tend to fare better in the example department, and get extra support from the CD and DVD-rom. Students looking to do some extra practice on their own time would do well to pick up this book or workbook, as long as they also get the accompanying audio and video. If the student finds him or herself struggling with a certain grammar point, they should ask a teacher or look online for more in-depth explanations or examples.

The book takes care to not date itself through trendy language or out-of-date fashion in its images, so it stands up to the test of time pretty well. However, the new edition is coming out in January 2014, and I’m pretty excited to check out the updated version and see if it’s a complete overhaul or just a few changes. That being said, this edition is strong enough to hold up for quite a few years to come.



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