EL本棚紹介(50) Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare, by Darren Shan

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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Cirque du Freak is designed for TOEIC 600-level extensive reading (多読). In other words, if you are studying for the TOEIC, this book has good vocabulary and grammar…but it is an entertaining story instead of boring test-prep material. Each chapter is very short, so you can easily read one chapter a day. It is also the first book in a series, so if you like it, you have lots more books to read. If you read carefully, you will notice that it is written in British English.

This is the story of Darren Shan, a middle-school boy, and his friend Steve. The two boys visit a magical “freak show” where they see the wolf man, the snake boy, a trained and deadly spider, and lots more. When Steve discovers the horrible secret of the spider’s owner, he and Darren get sucked into a nightmare mixed up with vampires, death, and lying and backstabbing between the two friends.

My two cents: This was a pretty interesting book, but the story doesn’t warm up until about chapter 7. I suggest reading chapter 7, 8, 9, 10, or 11 first to see if it is a good book for you.

EL本棚紹介(49) Time for Kids: The Amazing Fact and Puzzle Book, by Jeff O’Hare

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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Although this book is “for kids,” it still may be good for you to read. There are pages about science (biology, environment, animals, scientific history), popular culture (movies, animation, music), sports (baseball, football, Olympics), US states, and more. Each topic is only two pages long, including photographs and puzzles, so you can read the whole section very quickly. Also, although the language is not very difficult, there are good explanations of some science vocabulary as well as some interesting slang.

This is not a book to read every single page: read what looks interesting and skip everything else. It is a good book to practice your “English habit,” too. Making a habit of using English every day or every other day is a great way to learn. One way of making your English habit is to decide to read one page in this book every morning, for example, while eating breakfast. It’s not too difficult, but it will support your English learning a lot.

My two cents: The puzzles in this book are very easy for a native speaker. However, understanding the instructions to a puzzle—even a very easy one—is actually very good English practice, too!

TIME For Kids The Amazing Fact and Puzzle Book: The Editors of TIME for ...

EL本棚紹介(48) Disney Trivia from the Vault, by Dave Smith

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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“The Vault” is an imaginary place where Disney locks away all of its knowledge and intellectual properties. Sometimes they used to take old movies “out of the vault” and play them in theaters again. That is how I was able to see Snow White in a movie theater when I was a child. This book is full of “insider” or “lost” information about everything Disney, written by an archivist (like a librarian) from the vault.

The book is basically what you think it is. Lots of people sent questions to the author, and he goes through answering them with his special knowledge. If you are interested in the history or trivia about Disney (Walt Disney, movies, theme parks, or anything else), you might like this book. You will probably not read every page, or even full pages. Instead, practice skimming and scanning for questions about things you are interested in, and just read those.

My two cents: It might be fun to read this book with a friend.

New Perspectives on Foreign Language Learning 3: Language Learning with Parsed Corpora [Prof. Alastair Butler]

English Lounge is happy to announce the third English Lounge Forum: New Perspectives on Foreign Language Learning.

Title: Learning English with a treebank/parsed corpusSpeaker: Alastair Butler (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences)
Date: June 17
Place: English Lounge and Teams


A corpus is a large database made up of samples from a language.  A parsedcorpus is a corpus with linguistic analysis added to the data.  The kindsof analysis added can be quite varied, but analysis often takes theform of syntactic trees.A parsed corpus with syntactic trees is called a treebank.  Treebanks ofquality and size are extremely costly to create and entry restrictionsare normally imposed.  But when you can participate, there is a lot ofvalue to be found.  For starters you can explore the sample data, but thereal power comes from being able to search the linguistic analysis thataccompanies the language data, which brings together related instancesof language use.This talk will tell you about a treebank/parsed corpus for Englishthat you can access, not least because it is being created atHirosaki University.  Also it can be found on the internet, fromhttps://entrees.github.io/.  Use of this corpus will be connected tosuggestions for improving your English skills.

EL本棚紹介(47) 365 Simple Science Experiments with Everyday Materials, by Churchill, Loeschnig, and Mandell

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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There is a British-English saying: “Exactly what it says on the tin (can).” This book is just that: it contains 365 simple science experiments using everyday materials. Some are interesting and some are very simple. You will probably not learn a lot of new science from this book. However, you can learn good science vocabulary in context, which is better for remembering than studying a vocabulary list. As I have written in other blog posts here, it is always easier to learn what you already know. That means that it is usually easier to study scientific English by reading about concepts you already know in Japanese.

This book is also useful for showing how to give examples, describe a process, and explain simple ideas in an easy-to-understand way. You might want to look at this book if you have to give an English presentation explaining an idea or a scientific experiment. Depending on your assignment, you might even try doing one or two of the experiments for your class.

My two cents: This is another book written “for kids,” but I believe that the language and contents can be useful for college students learning English, too.

EL本棚紹介(46) I’ll Mature When I’m Dead, by Dave Barry

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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Dave Barry is a famous humor writer who worked for the Miami Herald newspaper for many years. This book is a collection of short essays and stories about modern life. They are full of a sort of old-fashioned type of American humor. Dave Barry often uses “hyperbole,” or exaggeration, in his jokes. In fact, when I was in middle school, I had to read a Dave Barry story in English class (about “first dates”) to learn about hyperbole. I used to read him in the newspaper ever week, too.

Unfortunately, the humor in the first three or four stories in this book is really out of date. They are all about “the differences between men and women,” and are even a little offensive at times. HOWEVER, the rest of the book is mostly harmless and sometimes quite funny. I recommend the essays on “Technology” and “Dog Ownership for Beginners.”

My two cents: Dave Barry uses some pop-culture references, but I think you can still understand most of his jokes if you read with a dictionary on hand.

EL本棚紹介 (45) I Left My Sneakers in Dimension X, by Bruce Coville

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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This book continues the story started in Aliens Ate My Homework (although you don’t need to read that one first to understand the story). This time, Rod Allbright is joined by his cousin Elspeth and their alien friends on an adventure in Dimension X, a strange world with shape-changing aliens and giant monsters. It not only contains a whole new adventure, but it builds the relationships between the characters and develops some of the themes introduced in the first book.

What makes this book interesting, especially for language learners, is the description of the different alien environments. Dimension X is not a “snow planet” or a “volcano planet,” etc., like you see in so many movies and video games. The environments are very creative, and you must use your imagination as you read. Of course, there are some pictures to help!

My two cents: This is another great book for extensive reading (多読), although I think the final twist on the last page ruins the story a bit.

EL本棚紹介 (44) Aliens Ate My Homework, by Bruce Coville

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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This is the story of Rod Allbright, a 6th grader living in America. Rod is bullied, comes from a single-parent home, and has to take care of his younger brother and sister. His life is not very great…and then an alien spaceship crashes into his room and changes his life forever! Rod is forced to aid the alien crew in finding an intergalactic criminal and bringing him to justice, or perhaps be killed—or worse?—in the process.

Although I never read it before, Aliens Ate My Homework was popular when I was a child. I did not know what to expect, and it was surprisingly good! Even though this novel was written for school children and contains a lot of rude humor, the story is still interesting and the characters have heart. There are themes of bullying, family, gender (one alien is non-binary), and more.

My two cents: While most of the text is just a fun adventure story, a few lines stand out. My favorite is, when encountering a new alien species, being told: “Biology is strange and wonderful, and not subject to moral judgement.”

EL本棚紹介 (43) Everything You Need to Ace Biology… (Matthew Brown) and Everything You Need to Ace Chemistry… (Jennifer Swanson)

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.] _______ I am old compared to you, and it’s been a long, long time since I have studied science. I was surprised by how much in these books was different from what I learned in high school! Where Everything You Need to Ace Science… is aimed at middle school students, these two books are high-school level. HOWEVER, while the science content gets more difficult, the language is surprisingly friendly. The whole point of these books is to make science easy to understand. For that reason, all of the difficult science words have definitions. There are also pictures and charts to help you understand the English. If you are interested in studying English seriously, I recommend Everything You Need to Ace Biology…. This is because vocabulary words are often introduced with explanations of their Greek and Latin roots (e.g. bio = “life,” logi = “logic” or study; therefore “biology” = “study of life”). Also, there are short quizzes in all of these books, so you can check your learning progress. My two cents: I think that these are excellent resources if you are going to study science as a graduate student. Highly recommended!

EL本棚紹介 (42) Everything You Need to Ace Science in One Big Fat Notebook, by Micheal Geisen

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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This is a big—a very big—textbook introducing basic scientific concepts. It was written for middle school students in the US, but it can be useful for you, too. As a general introduction, there are units on all physics, chemistry, engineering, outer space, biology, weather, ecology, and a lot more. The vocabulary is a little challenging, but important words are underlined and definitions are highlighted. There are lots of pictures and some jokes that make reading a pleasant experience.

Don’t borrow this book and expect to read all 533 pages! Look at the table of contents (目次) and skip to a unit that you are interested in. Even reading just one unit will be an accomplishment, and you might even learn something interesting, too.

My two cents: Science books are good for “learning what you already know.” I think you will learn more English by choosing a topic you already know about in Japanese than by reading something completely new.