Book Review of American Ways: A Cultural Guide to the United States
Transcript of the Episode:
Main Intro: Welcome to the English for Everyone ESL Podcast! I’m your host, Caren Hayden, and I’m here to help you improve your English.
Ep intro: This week’s podcast is a book review of American Ways: A Cultural Guide to the United States by Gary Althen and Janet Bennett. I really like this book, and I’m excited to tell you all about it! Stay tuned.
Welcome back everyone. Today, I’d like to review a very useful book for ESL students. The book title is American Ways: A Cultural Guide to the United States. It is the third edition, written by Gary Althen with Janet Bennett, and it was published in 2011 by Intercultural Press. You can find a link to this book’s amazon page on the English for Everyone ESL Podcast website. That’s at www.englishforeveryonepod.com .
So, the audience for this book is anyone wanting to learn more about American culture.
I’ve been using the third edition of this book as a textbook with my private lesson students for a few months, and we are really enjoying it. We read a chapter each week outside of class, and then we discuss what we’ve read during our lesson.
The vocabulary can be quite advanced at times, which provides a great opportunity for my students to learn a lot of new words.
The book is organized in three parts, plus there’s an introduction at the beginning. Part one is titled General Ideas About American Culture. In this section, there are four chapters that discuss American values and assumptions, the communication style in the U.S., how Americans reason, and differences in customs.
Part two has 17 chapters, and is titled Specific Aspects of American Life. The topics range from politics to religion to dating, shopping, healthcare, and business. My students and I have had some very good discussions comparing their culture in these areas with the U.S.
Part three is called Coping with Cultural Differences, and it’s just two chapters. This final section of the book gives international visitors some helpful ideas about adjusting to life in America and various activities to help the reader learn even more about American culture.
Finally, there is a conclusion chapter and several references and suggested readings for further study.
Let me tell you a bit about the authors of this book. The authors seem to be quite knowledgeable, and they really try to present information in an unbiased way. Gary Althen, the main author, who is now retired, has 35 years of experience in international education. He has lived abroad and worked with international students at the University of Iowa. Janet Bennett, who is also a contributor to the book, has a PhD in intercultural communication and anthropology.
Overall, it’s been very interesting to read this book as an American. I mean, there are many aspects of our culture, values, beliefs, assumptions, and customs that I just take for granted in my day-to-day life. I may not realize why I have certain beliefs, or that I even do have those beliefs. You know, I think a lot of us think that some of these beliefs are just “facts” that pertain to all humans, but really, they are culturally specific values and assumptions, and they may be confusing for international visitors. So, this book does a great job of explaining a lot of the confusing and maybe even unknown aspects of American culture. I highly recommend this book to anyone from another country who wants to live in the U.S. for any amount of time. It will definitely make your life easier. Your English level, however, must be high intermediate or advanced because the language in this text is pretty advanced. It’s basically at a college reading level.
There is, of course, some bias in this book. And, sometimes when I’m reading, I do find myself disagreeing with the authors. But, this really creates a great opportunity for discussion. Also, there is some outdated information because statistics, laws, and demographics are changing all the time, but overall, I find this book to be an essential resource to learn about American culture.
So, I hope you will check out American Ways: A Cultural Guide to the United States and tell me what you think!
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