This book is a recommended acquisition for the intermediate student of MSA, and is reflective of the improving standard of study texts available to students. The book is outstanding.
The thing that most struck me about this book was the terrifically useful and interesting pedagogical structure. The book is divided into chapters by subject area and each chapter is further divided into a repeated pedagogical pattern that aids learning by reinforcing a systematic method of analysis. The student is shown distinct tools for engaging with the written text and these approaches are reinforced through numerous drills.
The chapter subjects are:
Unit One: Meetings and Conferences
Unit Two: Demonstrations
Unit Three: Elections
Unit Four: Conflicts and Terrorism
Unit Five: Trials
Unit Six: Business and Finance
Revisions of Units Five and Six
Glossary (i.e., of key words for each unit)
Each chapter (or unit) is then sub-divided into the following areas, in repeated sequence for each unit:
Pre-reading: Students are provided with a photo and vocabulary in Arabic text with English translation (no more than about ten terms). This exercise is about pre-empting or predicting the nature of the exercises about to follow; getting students thinking about and discussing their predictions.
Reading for main ideas: this is about reading the opening paragraph of a news article to extract key ideas: where, what, who, when and why. Students are provided with a short text plus key vocab items (less than ten) in Arabic and English and a list of main issues to extract, indicated in Arabic. For example in the first unit the main issues are "the kind of meeting", "place of the meeting", "the participants", "the subject of discussion". The student is given a sequence of about half a dozen similar exercises each covering the subject but building on and expanding the knowledge in the previous exercise.
Understanding text organization: This section provides a media example then points (with arrows) at key terms to extract the "What, Why and Where" to teach students about archetypical sentence and paragraph structures - thus accelerating the ability to extract key issues from a text. The section then provides tables of standard vocabulary, prepositions and expressions used in media articles. These tables provide more than a flat translation but rather provide expanded contextual meaning that a native reader would comprehend but that won't always be apparent to a student. I found this to be extremely useful, for example, in providing a dual translation of connectors: you get the literal translation and a contextual translation which shows what is indicated by the choice of connector.
Reading for detail: provides several, denser, examples of text and asks the student to identify key points then make summaries and answer more detailed questions about content.
Vocabulary building: A series of exercises including building network diagrams of vocabulary, cutting out and scrapbooking newspaper images with student-chosen vocab, creating lists of vocab associated with a supplied image and various exercises in which the student must select terms from a list to fill in the blanks of various text examples. Finally, the student is provided with photos and a list of vocab items and must write a descriptive paragraph making use of the supplied vocab.
Skimming: the student is given texts and asked to read quickly and draft a title that summarises the piece. This is an exercise that would need a teacher to be of most use, in assessing the success or otherwise of the student's interpretation.
Critical reading: this is a very interesting section as it asks the reader to compare multiple reporting of events and detect opinions and biases of the writers through the terms chosen to describe events. As the book progresses the reader is given specific vocab examples (i.e., "mafroud") to show that word choice is a key to understanding the possible position of the author.
Each of these units, as noted, follows the same pedagogical pattern. This ensures that an expected familiar pattern exists in order to aid and compound the learning, but there is such a diversity of exercises that there is never any chance of the student (whether self-taught or under instruction) finding the process tedious.
This is quite simply one of the best learning tools for an intermediate to upper-intermediate student of Arabic. I would recommend this purchase along with Jabra F. Ghneim's Ace My Language - Arabic Edition and Shukri Abed's Focus on Contemporary Arabic (Conversations with Native Speakers). Indeed, if I was studying Arabic at college, that trio of texts would make up a terrific curriculum for intermediate students. I certainly wish I had a book like this five years ago.