This month we begin a new column in which we recommend books for foreign students of English. We asked Rachel Roberts, whose voice is a regular feature on the Speak Up CD and website, for some advice. She says: “Books for younger readers are also great for foreigners as the language is clear and simple, while the story is entertaining, and there are enough interesting themes to keep a more mature reader involved. The Harry Potter books are perfect as most people will have already read them (or at least seen the films) in their own language. There are seven books and they progress in terms of difficulty, as Harry grows up, but the vocabulary is repeated throughout the series. There are none of those difficult double entendres that you find in more adult literature.” And, last but not least, “J.K. Rowling is a cracking writer!”
WATCH THE VIDEO!
Speaker: Mark Worden (Standard British accent)
Speak Up voice artist Rachel Roberts has some suggestions for foreign students who would like to read books in English:
Rachel Roberts (Standard British accent)
Well, I’ll tell you about some books I think that can be useful for learning English. And I think an important thing is to ask yourself why people read books in English and there are some students of English who are absolute anglophiles and love English literature, but most people just read English books because they want to learn new words, and familiarise themselves with new structures in English. So I think it’s… I’m a great believer in “edutainment,” that is something that is educational, but also fun and entertaining at the same time. And for that reason you probably won’t want to choose something that’s complicated like a Charles Dickens or a Jane Austen, even though they’re marvellous books and can be very funny, they’re also rather difficult, if you’re not a mother tongue, or very advanced student of English. So I think a really good idea is to choose something that’s written for young learners because writing for children is a very fine art, and it’s very important to maintain tension and interest etc. So children’s books tend to be very exciting, and what we call “page-turners,” you know, you can really lose yourself in the story, and they don’t necessarily need to be for babies. I mean, anything that is aimed at age 11 or above can also contain themes that are interesting for adults. Obviously, children’s writing doesn’t have a lot of slang expressions, there aren’t many double entendres or hidden meanings, so everything is much clearer and much easier to understand. And a lot of friends I know have… Italian friends who wanted to study English have read the entire Harry Potter series, and that can be an excellent choice because there are seven books and the first book starts off quite easily because in the first book Harry is 11 years old and so the level is quite low, and then, of course, the books progress. Another reason is, of course, that most people have either read the Harry Potter books in their own language, or they’ve seen the films, or they have a general idea about, you know, what the stories are about, so you’re mentally prepared before you read, and J.K. Rowling writes very, very good prose, so they’re… it’s very simple, very clear, and you’ve got excellent dialogues.
(Rachel Roberts was talking to Mark Worden)