The Cambridge English Course

From Teflpedia

The Cambridge English Course is an English-language course for adults and young adult learners published by Cambridge University Press. Based on three coursebooks and supplementary material written by Michael Swan and Catherine Walter, it first appeared in the late 1980s.


Target audience[edit]

Level 1 (complete beginners and false beginners)[edit]

Level 2 (to lower intermediate level)[edit]

Level 3 (to mid-intermediate level)[edit]


Possibly the most eclectic of coursebooks, it made use not only of functions, very much in vogue in English language teaching in the 1980s, but also of notions, such as movement, grief, sound, and so on. Unlike most other coursebooks of the day, which often used a clumsy, made-to-measure humour, the CEC coursebooks made much use of "real" cartoons, i.e. published in mainstream publications such as Punch and other newspapers. Another major feature of the course was that of the numerous pronunciation exercises (many based on authentic listening) and dictations, aimed at getting students used to the fact that English is a stress-timed language, identifying unstressed vowels, and so on.

The coursebook's grammar summary not only set out the grammar, structures and vocabulary used in the corresponding lesson, but also included the phonetic transcription and typical mistakes.

The practice book (workbook) again made much use of authentic cartoons and reading material.


The course was written with experienced teachers in mind, and based on the premise that such experience would allow them to give the students the freedom to direct their own learning process and not be so dependent on the teacher.

The major flaws in this outlook are that teachers with experience are often set in their ways, i.e. not flexible enough to admit eclecticism, and most importantly, most teachers teaching English as foreign or second language have little or no formal training in teaching a language.

Ease of use by teachers[edit]

Detailed lesson plans, with answers to all but the easiest exercises, transcriptions to listening material and pointing out possible problems depending on nationalities of students made the course easy to use for experienced teachers.

Student reaction/opinion[edit]

Quality of the authentic texts/listening[edit]

The quality of the listening and reading material was excellent, with a variety of, mainly BrE, regional accents used, rather than Received Pronunciation and/or actors putting on exaggerated accents that had been the norm until then.

Updated versions[edit]


See also[edit]

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