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“People cut themselves off from their ties of the old life when they come to Los Angeles. They are looking for a place where they can be free, where they can do things they couldn’t do anywhere else.”
The legends surrounding Los Angeles attract millions of tourists and thousands of immigrants and international students each year. Los Angeles, the “City of Angels,” boasts good weather, glamorous celebrities, great museums, and some problems. Piera Fumagalli, an energetic English instructor at California State University at Northridge (CSUN), CATESOL enthusiast and good friend, teaches intermediate language learners how to flourish in this alluring city in her book, English in Los Angeles. With a splatter of color on every page, Fumagalli skillfully guides readers through LA in two parts: Conversation and Exploration.
In general, Fumagalli’s choice of chapter topics mix broad themes in specific places. Some book activities instruct students on widely-used items, like superlatives and progressive tense, and others weave in particular destinations, like marketplaces or museums. In her Exploration section, Fumagalli starts bringing in specifics, like Native American history, Starbucks and the Getty Museum. While still throwing in several activities and highlighting important key terms, she brings light to the city’s cultural history and historical background that can’t be found in many other ELL textbooks. However, these examples and exercises can be done outside the context of LA.
Perhaps the most pleasantly striking feature is the variety; something interesting always presents itself on the next page. In the Conversation section, Fumagalli tosses in useful reference lists, realistic model conversations, engaging partner activities and vivid visual representations. California students and English teachers will greatly appreciate the practical information that can be absorbed in an attractive, captivating ESL textbook.
English in Los Angeles presents the fascinating metropolis in several lights–historically, culturally, socially, artistically, scientifically and financially. This mature approach, with many nods toward social responsibility, moves the readings and exercises beyond a superficial, celebration of Los Angeles found in many travel brochures. The magazine-like format also cloaks a subtle, yet clear, scaffolding of crucial language skills for intermediate students.
Much like my own flexible, ESL books, each assignment can easily be used on its own. I appreciate this flexibility, and many other English teachers and tutors will too. Some programs, however, might need to tweak or modify their multiskill curriculum to follow the chapters in order. Additionally, some “intermediate” assignments probably work far better in community college and university ESL programs than many adult education or intensive English programs. I did note, however, some materials while teaching at ORT, a quality intensive English program known for high standards and sometimes demanding students. (We briefly worked together at LA ORT many years ago.) The title accurately describes the book’s content, but might also unintentionally create the false impression that only English teachers and students living and working in Los Angeles will benefit from the book. I’d suggest that many English language learners in New York, Texas, and even Japan and Brazil would enjoy using this quality ESL textbook.
Yet the this wonderful book fills a real niche for Los Angeles English language programs for immigrants, international students, and summer visitors. Going beyond the usual cliches and predictable exercises, English in LA introduces Los Angeles in a compelling style. Fumagalli crafts a wonderful primer on Los Angeles with academic vocabulary, conversation topics and cultural aspects. I strongly recommend it for ESL teachers and English language programs working in our fascinating, sometimes frustrating, and always changing city.
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