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September 18, 2013 / subramanyam

English Bites :: A must read for all English enthusiasts.

          The importance of English (The global language) in today’s world needs no introduction.  We all know, how important it is to learn, be comfortable with and have a command on the language that is connecting the globe.  With disruptive technologies and subsuming markets ruling the knowledge based economy we live in,  a good command on English language is not just an asset but is actually a necessity.  

          While one can improve one’s grammar doing grammar exercises, speaking to others and  constructing simple sentences etc..  Learning new words, remembering and reusing them are completely a different cup of tea altogether.  Imagine a situation where you are on a call and you do not understand the word or a jargon used by your foreign counterpart, for that matter imagine reading a report  that makes you refer the dictionary quite often.  Embarrassing and time-consuming isn’t it? Probably that’s the reason why almost all management aptitude tests have a section that tests the candidates’ proficiency with the words.

           Learning words is never easy, at least that’s true for me. While sitting for my CAT,  I remember receiving word-card-decks that TIME used to give us to learn the words.  I found it tough to remember the words and was confused with the subtle nuances and idiosyncrasies  (Manish, if you are reading this , don’t accuse me of plagiarism J) of the language. I was always looking for an easier way  to learn and remember these wonderful words and expand my vocabulary. For, most of the times when we read word lists,  the biggest problem is that  we have to create a story around the word and when you see the word you ought to remember the story and get the meaning right? 

           Now,  what if there a story that’s woven around 1000+ tough words. What if the story is a pretty enjoyable read  that arouses interest and makes you look forward for the next chapter.  What if it is ornated with few tough words here and there and also provides you the meanings at the end of the page.  An offer you cannot refuse, isn’t it ?  Well, that’s what Manish Gupta did in his book “English Bites — my Fullproof English learning formula”. He has by and large provided an easy way to tackle this otherwise tough and obnoxious task of improving one’s vocabulary. 

          The story starts with he going to school and the perception it creates about English in his mind.  Then, we get to see English-Bites his years at college where he resolves to improve his English speaking skills. The   troubles, travails and travelogues (cathay pacific incident) of the author tell us about his struggle with English and how he made himself proficient with the language. Revealing too much would be a  spoiler here  and hence I’d say this,  by time the story reaches his toddlers, the reader would have smiled, guffawed, felt awed, enjoyed, scratched his head and still got all his words, their usages, a lot of trivia and a lot of GK too.  Manish has embedded awesome trivia, nice anecdotes, hilarious jokes and interesting stories regarding the word origins in the book.  From now on,  every time I hear the word bedraggled I am gonna remember Manish’s joke on that. Again every time he speaks about a tough word, it is in bold and italicized.  At the end of each page the meanings and usage of all these tough words are well elucidated.

          While the flow of story keeps us glued to the book, the trivia and the other stuff makes it more interesting.  Manish speaks about words that have come from animals, behaviors, vehicles (penny farthing was ultimate), voyages (never knew that the word “POSH” had something to do with the British sailing to India ), medicine and a wide variety of professions. Once you read the word and the story behind it you are not likely to forget either of them.

          Then he talks about mnemonics that help us remember the words,  spooners that make stuff look funny, self contradicting oxymorons, palindromes , lipograms and a wide variety of words and techniques that  stimulate our curiosity and rouse our interest to learn more.  

          The biggest complaint I have against Manish and the book, is that he took too long a time to finish and release it.  Had he released it 3 years ago I too would have used it for my CAT prep.  Coming to the things that could have improved, at times I felt as if  there were too many words on a page and I also felt that some of the topics were slightly getting dragged but it is okay as the essence of the book is to teach new words and help the reader.

          From my experience with CAT, I would say it is a must buy for the CAT/GMAT and GRE aspirants. It would teach you a lot more stuff in a way that’s fun.  Not just For MBA aspirants, it’s a must buy for any person who is serious on building good vocab skills.   An ideal book for people in the services industry who are in customer facing roles.

          Having said that, I would say that anyone who is reading it must read it in a slow and phased way, read a few pages –>  pick a few words–> use them in front of your friends–> imbibe and internalize them and then move to the next chapter /pages in the book . That’s  the best way of reading it. Read it – use the words then reread it and you would have made yourself proficient in the vocabulary.

                       Read the book, every penny you spend on the book is worth it.


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  1. Manish Gupta / Sep 18 2013 11:14 am

    Dear Subramanyam,

    Thanks very much for a wonderful review. I am glad that you enjoyed the book and gained something out of it. I am also relieved that the book lived up to your expectation. I have noted your feedback and will definitely incorporate it in the next edition of the book. If there is any other feedback to make this book more relevant and more interesting for the learners of English language, pls do share it with me.

    I am counting on your support to spread the good word about the book esp. when people ask you for recommendation on books to improve their language. And I am sure, given your background and the accomplishments in this field, there are just so many of them who keep seeking your guidance.

    Many thanks & best regards, Manish
    Twitter: @English_Bites
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