Thirty years of grammar with Raymond Murphy #3 – going digital

Raymond Murphy

It’s the thirtieth anniversary of Raymond Murphy’s English Grammar in Use this year. In the third part of our exclusive interview with Raymond, we discuss how English Grammar in Use has adapted to the twenty-first century world of apps and ebooks.

RM: Ebook versions of English Grammar in Use are being produced at the moment, and will be out pretty soon. Ebooks have an advantage for people who want to work using a screen instead of paper – using a screen and their finger, or mouse, or whatever, rather than a pen and paper – so it’s good to have this alternative presentation. But the ebook content is the same as in the book. An important advantage of the ebook, though, is that it has audio, which of course the book itself doesn’t have, so it means that somebody using the book by themselves can now hear all the examples. That’s a big plus.

We produced a mobile app for ‘English Grammar in Use’; I think it was a year or two ago. This is distinct from the ebook. The ebook is just a screen version – a digital version – of the print book. The mobile app, which is ‘English Grammar in Use’ – not ‘Essential Grammar in Use’ but ‘English Grammar in Use’ – is rather different, because it was written particularly for phones. (And iPads, but I was thinking particularly of phones, which means a very small screen.)

So, using a very, very small screen is going to be a bit different from using two fairly large pages. In the book, you have a left-hand page and a right-hand page. The left-hand page has information, and the right-hand page has exercises. So you look at the left-hand page, you study the left-hand page as much as you want, and then you move to the right-hand page for exercises, and you can go back and forth if you wish.

With the app, on a small screen, on a phone screen, you can’t really do that. You can’t get the content of the left-hand page, if you like, on one screen. So it’s divided up into smaller chunks. And after each small chunk, you are taken to an exercise. Then you go back to the second chunk, and then to another exercise or maybe two exercises, building up gradually to the end of the unit.

Also, the exercises have been significantly changed in order to fit the limitations of a digital product, one that can be easily checked. So you can’t have lots of exercises which are open-ended, because there’s no clear way of checking it. You can’t say “right” or “wrong”; there are too many possibilities. And also if you have a lot of typing, then people are going to make typing errors, and you have that problem to contend with as well. So it’s better to have exercises which are more closed, where there are a very limited number of right-or-wrong possibilities.

Those are the main differences. The app, of course, like the ebook, has audio which is, again, a huge benefit. It has the same function: it’s for use as self-study, for people to use by themselves to select what they want to study. That’s exactly the same as in the book.

We’ll be back next week with more from Raymond Murphy

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