Vocabulary itself is a dreading word for many and I will not hesitate in confessing that I too belong to the same petty group. I have often expressed hopeless surprises at the eccentricities of English language, only to forget the self-deprecating instances and move on – for the lack of any strength and courage to fight against the oddities and absorb them. The Reverse Dictionary by Readers’ Digest and Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis have incessantly failed to bear any fruit on me and threaten to bite the dust some day; and I, among all the hue and cry of intellectuals musing on contemporary issues of the nation, fail to appreciate them fully.
English Bites comes as a relief, playing the last ray of hope for the all those that aspire to mastery of English –be it a vernacular speaker hailing from the hinterlands of states of low literacy, an abbreviated-titled-exam aspirant or just a language nut. The book claims to add over a thousand words to your vocabulary and pours down on you informal and exciting ways to expand your database of active words. Well, let us move on to an appreciation of the book done with ease and see how it is designed to help you be better.
Simple, isn’t it?
How does Manish Gupta, the author of the book, manage to teach you over a thousand words in a book of just 334 pages? The answer is simple – he talks to you, tells you stories and gives you ample time to absorb the word till he gives you the next. The words are used in the right context that further helps you get an idea on how you should use it thereafter… and till the time you finish the book, you come to realize that many new words have been added to your memory.
The author starts with his story of learning English and the sea of words it contains. In the initial chapters, he tells you of his journey and challenges he faced while struggling to learn new words and use them. In the story telling, he highlights the difficult words and gives its meaning and various variations in the footnote to help you understand the concept better and interpret the correct meaning out of his writings.
The footnotes at the bottom of each page are a great aid. The sole purpose of these footnotes is to keep acquainting you with the meaning. This is how you come in contact with the new word and learn it then and there.
The next great way to remember those words, Manish points out, is to associate its meaning with something you would never forget. Anecdotes and jokes have also been used very effectively to convey new words to the readers as well. Over a funny incident, conversation or joke, Manish introduces words that may initially look foreign to you, but after he has explained their meanings, you will laugh out loud.
Manish, in his book, does not preach. He talks to his audience. He tells you stories like a grandma – things that you did know – that dinner was initially had in the afternoon, candidates wore only white dresses, the costliest coffee beans are collected from civet droppings and sandwich was initially served as food that did not interfere in a poker game. There are many of them, enough to leave you awestruck many times in one chapter!
‘Learn an idea, not a word’ is an old saying. Manish helps you do the same. Explaining the concept behind words, how they originated, their etymology and how many other words are formed from the same root word makes it an interesting read. The impact is such that next time, you encounter a word whose root sounds familiar, you are sure to guess out an almost correct meaning although you may not have seen the word all your life.
The usability of the words taught in the book is unquestionable. They are everyday words, that are used in newspapers, fiction and non-fiction books and in advertisements! Leaning them expands your concepts, understanding and ability to express your thoughts uninterruptedly.
In this article of review, I must also point out what could have been better and what included so as to add to the overall presentation. First, the author has interchanged adverb and adjective a few times (i.e. page 130, in the footnote) and this may result in a few cases in confusion on how to use those words practically. The second improvement/addition in the book may have been the /phonetic transcription/ of words presented. When leaning a word, one must also learn how it is pronounced to avoid any moment of shame in front of others.
The next thing and the most important thing that the author missed out putting in the book is the guide on how to use this book. For the pickers, I must mention that this book is not to be read in a single read. It must be studied and not read, to be precise. A few pages or a chapter at max is what you should bite and make sure that it is fully digested before moving on to the next chapter. Such practice will ensure your understanding and learning of new words introduced.
Overall, English Bites has been an excellent effort towards interests of word learners and has come out very well. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone who has even slightest of interest in enriching their vocabulary. Enhancement of their general knowledge is a plus, enabling them to boast of knowing things that nobody around them knows.