English as a second language is a huge market. There are a lot of books out there, all of which promise to teach you perfect English. All of these choices may feel a bit overwhelming.
First, let’s get familiar with the acronyms that are used. They are all slightly different, so it’s good to know which ones pertain to you.
- ESL (English as a Second Language): English is the country’s most common language
- EFL (English as a Foreign Language): English is NOT the country’s most common language
- TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language): Teaching English in a country where English is the most common language (e.g., United States, Canada, Australia, UK)
- TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language): Teaching English in a country where English is NOT the country’s most common language
- TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages): A more general term for teaching English, regardless of whether English is the common language
- TOEFL (Test of English Fluency Level): Used mostly in the U.S. as a university entrance exam to prove English competency
- IELTS (International English Language Testing System): Used mostly in Europe, but considered more international
Books for Learning English as a Second Language
Do you want to learn English for everyday use? These books focus on grammar and daily English.
- Headway by Oxford University Press: This series offers American English or British English. Both have four levels, which increase in difficulty. Student books include CDs to practice listening.
- Interchange by Cambridge University Press: This series offers international English and has four levels, from Intro to Level 3. Student books include a self-study DVD.
- The Blue Book: A simple and fun guide to learning English grammar and punctuation. Includes examples and practice tests.
TOEFL Exam Preparation
Do you need to study English in order to pass the TOEFL exam? Here are some great books.
- Official Guide to the TOEFL Test by ETS: This guide is made by the company that makes the TOEFL test, so you are getting the real questions. Includes a CD-ROM and practice tests.
- TOEFL iBT Superpack by Barron’s: This Superpack includes four guides and is a great deal when bought all together.
- TOEFL iBT Premier by Kaplan: This book has four practice tests plus a CD.
IELTS Exam Preparation
These are some good books to help prepare for the IELTS exam.
- The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS: The student book has eight practice tests and a video DVD.
- Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS: Learn the vocabulary needed for the IELTS test. Includes CD. There is also an advanced edition.
- IELTS Advantage by Delta Publishing: There are three separate books: Speaking & Listening, Writing Skills, and Reading Skills. These books are great for upper-intermediate to advanced levels.
Extra Reading Material
As your English level advances, you may want to try reading novels in English. English books can teach you advanced vocabulary and everyday expressions.
However, avoid reading Shakespeare. Shakespeare is difficult even for native English speakers. The English is out-dated and may make you feel confused and frustrated.
Here are some great novels to get started.
- All Quiet on the Western Front
- Harry Potter
- Huckleberry Finn
- Of Mice and Men
- The Hunger Games
- The Kite Runner
- The Old Man and the Sea
- The Tell Tale Heart
- Tom Sawyer