Richmond Vocabulary Builder B1 and B2
Elizabeth Walter and Kate Woodford
Richmond 2013
978-84-668-1528-4 (B1)
978-84-668-1528-7 (B2)

Both these books are subtitled Vocabulary usage and practice for self-study, and this is exactly what they are. Each book has 50 units, which introduce language on a variety of topics, such as ‘Describing appearance’, ‘Computers and the internet’ and ‘Polite language’ at B1 level; and ‘Social problems’, ‘Art’ and ‘Trying, succeeding and failing’ at B2. It is noticeable that the language in the books is organised not just around topic areas but also around functions (eg ‘Making and accepting offers’, ‘Arranging to do things’ and ‘Advice and information’) – a really valuable addition for learners. Both books also have units that introduce phrasal verbs, collocations and idioms and explain these concepts in an accessible manner. Obviously, phrasal verbs and collocations come up in the other units throughout the books, making for a well-balanced, varied and practical set of words in each section. Each unit in the books has two pages in a format familiar to learners: the lexis is introduced with images or clear definitions and then practice exercises follow in the form of familiar-looking gap-fills and matching tasks. 

Each unit also contains a nice section called ‘Putting words together’, which introduces collocations with some of the target language and provides examples of use. More useful phrases on the topic of the unit come in regular sections devoted to speaking. These teach language in whole sentences, such as What are you having? (B1 ‘Eating out’) or It was a complete nightmare! (B2 ‘Problems and accidents’) which are then practised in exercises. Each unit closes with a section called ‘Use the words you’ve learned’ and offers freer and more personalised practice of the target language – these tasks will be useful for getting the students to write short texts for homework. All in all, the selection of lexis at both word- and sentence-level seems very appropriate to the ability of the target students and is consistent in both books. There are also revision units, answer keys and – very helpful – word lists and lists of irregular verbs. 

And here’s the best part: each unit of the book includes audio, easily downloadable from the Richmond website (the links and instructions are on the back cover). The first track for each unit is always a list of new words, allowing the students to read, listen and repeat – ideal for self-study and effectively solving the problem of pronunciation and dealing with phonemic script! Each unit then includes at least one dialogue or text with the target language alongside, with exercises on the page. The fact that the recordings use different speakers means that students get good exposure to a variety of accents. At the same time, at both levels, the tasks with recordings are perfectly manageable for students working on their own.

Although classroom use is mentioned in the text on the back cover, from the organisation of the material it is clear that the books are more suited to self-study.

However, the list of topics will fit in well with most commonly-used coursebooks, allowing a teacher to easily assign a unit or two from Vocabulary Builder for homework – and the listening material that comes with both books is a wonderful idea for homework, too.  

Straightforward and learner-friendly, Richmond Vocabulary Builder B1 and B2 provide varied self-study material for students – and for teachers, a reliable source of vocabulary and listening homework practice.