Books and Software for Learning English as a Second Language

NOTE: Most of these books and software items are for sale at the U of T Bookstore, and all are available at U of T libraries. To find call numbers and locations, use the “search” functions of the online catalogue.

Azar, Betty. Understanding and Using English Grammar.

Collins Cobuild English Usage (see also Collins Cobuild English Grammar and others).
This series is based on the observed patterns in spoken and written English; it gives you short entries on trouble spots and also some explanations and exercises on general principles. Inexpensive; worth buying.

Frank, Marcella. Modern English: A Practical Reference Guide.
A compact and authoritative grammar analysis. Covers second-language problems. Appendixes on punctuation, spelling rules, and Greek and Latin roots are valuable.

Lange, Janet and Ellen Lange. Writing Clearly: An Editing Guide.
Good review of some tricky points for learners of English as a second language.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (including a CD-ROM).
This user-friendly dictionary is an essential and inexpensive aid. The CD-ROM software provides onscreen definitions and pronunciations for any online reading. By merely pointing the cursor at an unfamiliar word and pressing the control key, you can see the meaning of the word in a separate textbox, along with examples of how it is used. You can also click on a pronunciation icon to hear how the word is pronounced. There is even an option to record yourself and play back the attempt. The thesaurus function (called the “Activator”) works within Word to list synonyms—and also meanings and usage examples, unlike the standard online thesaurus. The language development exercises provide additional self-directed activities. Further software (Longman English Interactive) offers even more exercises and quizzes.

Samuel, Carolyn. Instructional Resources for Pronunciation Practice
This 2002 report by an instructor at the SGS Office of English Language and Writing Support analyses manuals and software that specialize in pronunciation practice. It outlines some of the pros and cons of attempting self-directed study of this element of ESL learning and comments in detail on several sets of manuals and software. Note that, unlike the Longman software, some of the items listed focus on the “suprasegmental” elements of rhythm, speed, and intonation that largely determine accent and clarity.

Troyka, Lynn. Simon & Schuster Handbook for Writers.
This all-purpose handbook includes special material for second-language students. The Simon & Schuster ESL Workbook for Writers by Alice Maclin accompanies the book, or can stand alone. It gives brief reviews of common difficulties and then takes you through exercises for practicing correct patterns.