Richmond Mazes: An Innovative Approach to Business English
ENGLISH LEARNERS AND TEACHERS, TAKE NOTE! We’re teaming up with Richmond Publishing to give away a FREE COPY of Radio Flame. All you have to do is leave a comment HERE and you’re entered to win!
Teaching English as a foreign language is a no easy feat, and teaching business vocabulary is particularly difficult. Given that business terminology is often highly specialized, it can be hard to present vocabulary in a natural context without boring your readers with long lists. And – as anyone studying English knows – if you’re bored by the material, it’s not going to stick.
With their Richmond Mazes, Richmond Publishing takes an innovative approach to make business English instruction both interesting and educational. Their latest book in the series, Feeling the Heat at Radio Flame, follows a radio station employee who’s up for a promotion. Radio Flame is entertaining and chock-full of useful vocabulary. But most remarkable of all, it presents very specific business terms like “asset-stripper”, “unemployment benefits”, and “maternity leave” in a natural and engaging context that will really help you improve your business English vocabulary.
Choose your own business adventure
Radio Flame follows the choose-your-adventure format. This means that you read a short paragraph, and are faced with multiple choices of what you can do next. Your decisions lead you to different paragraphs, and drastically affect the outcome of the book.
For example, in one scenario, the coffee machine is not working in the break room. You’re faced with a decision: you can either press the button again, or you can hit the machine to get it to start. But watch out: this decision can end up leading to a promotion, or it could get you fired!
Usually, it’s easy to listlessly page through a book without really thinking about it. But due to the fact that Radio Flame calls on the reader to make decisions, it’s not a book that one can read passively. This approach promotes active reading, forcing the reader to evaluate what they’ve read – a skill they can carry over to their reading in English more generally.
Beyond the fact that it encourages active reading, this choose-your-adventure style is useful because it presents a wide variety of scenarios without losing track of the main plot, thus allowing several different plots to coexist within a single book. This allows the authors to cover a lot of ground and provide vocabulary for a vast number of situations you’re likely to encounter in the workplace. For instance, depending on your decisions, you will learn vocabulary related to formal business meetings, phone calls with clients, or getting coffee with colleagues after work – all in natural, realistic contexts that don’t seem forced.
Finally, with the choose-your-adventure format, you will often be forced to return to a situation that you’ve already read: for example, if you get fired, you must go back and change your decision. This is a clever way of getting students to read the same text multiple times without being bored, which really helps in memorizing the vocabulary presented.
Radio Flame comes with a scoring system in which you earn points by making good decisions. This adds a fun self-competition element, giving you motivation to finish. At the end, you’re challenged to see if you can complete the book again with a higher score, which constitutes another good reason to review previously-read paragraphs.
The books are available in traditional printed format; however, if you have an iPad or Android tablet, you can download them as apps. These digital versions also include an interactive glossary where definitions of key business-related vocabulary pop up, plus embedded audios of voicemails, conversations, and extracts of radio shows, so you can actually hear the characters in the book (scroll to the bottom of this post to see a screenshot of the app).
Business vocabulary in a natural context
The biggest benefit of Radio Flame is its seamless presentation of business-related vocabulary in a natural context. This is especially important for language learners, as studies have shown that you’re more likely to remember words when they’re presented in context rather than in a list.
After completing Radio Flame, a reader will leave knowing both formal business terms – such as “assets” and “liabilities” – as well as jargon very commonly used in the workplace – for instance, “to jot something down” or “to have your hands tied”. In fact, there’s enough everyday words and expressions that it will prove useful even if you’re not learning English for business purposes.
It’s important to note that Radio Flame is not intended to provide in-depth explanations of grammar. Instead, it’s designed to present a great variety of vocabulary for business and everyday contexts. This makes it a perfect supplement to language classes, as your teacher can answer any questions you have about the text. However, it’s not intended to be a replacement to language classes.
A final caveat: the book is written in British English, and thus some terms might be slightly different from those used in American English. For example, the phrase “I couldn’t get a word in edgeways” in British English means that you were being constantly interrupted. In American English, however, the same expression is slightly different: “I couldn’t get a word in edgewise”. These distinctions are subtle, however; learners of both British and American English will be able to benefit from the text.
Ultimately, Radio Flame is a great addition to the bookshelf for English language learners, especially those who seek a book with a business focus. It’s entertaining enough to be a standalone novel, but educational enough to be treated as a coursebook. As such, we highly recommend it for both students and teachers of English.