The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Key Words for IELTS

Last week, I received advanced copies of three books I worked on earlier in the year - Collins COBUILD Key Words for IELTS. I was involved with the books right from the early stages; planning the layout, developing the features and putting together the word lists, so it was quite exciting to see the finished product.

The books kind of bridge the gap between a vocabulary practice book and a specialised dictionary. Each of the three titles (Starter, Improver and Advanced) contain vocabulary that's aimed at helping students move from using general English towards the more formal, academic-style language needed for the IELTS exam. The words are presented in expanded dictionary entries, with definitions relevant to the academic usage of the word, examples, collocations, synonyms and usage notes.

I know that my own IELTS/EAP students sometimes find standard advanced learner's dictionaries a bit frustrating because the more formal and academic senses and derivatives of words often get little or no coverage - because they're less frequent in everyday usage. In these books, the more unusual senses and formal parts of speech (such as the abstract nouns so common in academic English) get equal coverage and IELTS-style examples.

Also at this level, it's often the case that the first word a student comes up with doesn't quite work in the context, so they need to be able to play around with vocabulary. For this reason, we've shown different parts of speech together (because sometimes a noun form works where a verb doesn't fit) along with possible synonyms that might fit in better.

The books are out in January and I'm going to be really interested to see how they go down with teachers and students. As a writer/editor, you really hope that all the ideas you put into a book will be obvious to the user and that they'll get as much out of it as you'd hoped. Keeping fingers crossed and looking forward to feedback in the New Year.

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Hot air rising

In the recent spell of very cold weather, once again, I've been feeling particularly pleased with my super-cosy workspace. My 'office' is a kind of mezzanine floor at the top of the house, in the roofspace, overlooking the living area and as such, all the warm air generated by the central heating rises up and keeps it wonderfully toasty. On even the coldest of days (and it's been down to about -5 during the day lately), I'm finding that I don't have to keep the heating on all day, because the warmth lingers up in my workspace for ages.

This little mezzanine space was one of the main reasons for choosing the house when we moved just over a year ago. Although it's quite small - about 2.5x2.5 metres - it's big enough for my two desks and a couple of bookcases. And it doesn't feel cramped because it looks out over the living area and across to a double-height window with views down the street. I've got a Velux window too, looking out across the rooftops. So loads of natural light, even on a winter's day.

I particularly love the fact that it gives me a separate workspace, away from the living area, up it's own flight of stairs, but at the same time, not too tucked away. And going up and down those stairs keeps me fit too!

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