I remember a number of years ago, after a morning of evaluating student oral presentations with a colleague and wondering why they sometimes said strange things, I mentioned that it seemed to me that people lost their common sense when they were speaking a language they were not very confident in. My colleague – who was a good linguist and had never experiences such issues – disagreed. Continue reading
I’ve often quoted Frank Smith when discussing writing. In Writing and the writer, Smith distinguishes between “composition” and “transcription” in writing. “Composition” is deciding what you want to say, and “transcription” is what you have to do to say it. His advice is “The rule is simple: Composition and transcription must be separated, and transcription must come last. It is asking too much of anyone, and especially of students trying to improve all aspects of their writing ability, to expect that they can concern themselves with polished transcription at the same time that they are trying to compose. The effort to concentrate on spelling, handwriting, and punctuation at the same time that one is struggling with ideas and their expression not only interferes with composition but creates the least favorable situation in which to develop transcription skills as well” (Smith, 1982, p. 24).
After watching Juzo Itami’s 1995 film Shizukana seikatsu (A quiet life) recently I decided to read Nobel prize winner Kenzaburu Oe – on whose novel the film is based. In his novel The Changeling, he deals with a similar situation: Continue reading
I’ve just returned from the IATEFL English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Special Interest Group (SIG) Pre-Conference Event (PCE) in Birmingham, UK.
The theme of the PCE was tensions and debates in ESP and EAP.
As usual it was a very interesting day with teachers from many parts of the world discussing how they go about trying to meet the academic and professional linguistic needs of their students, sometimes with limited resources. Continue reading
I was visiting a colleague’s office recently and he showed me a piece of student work from another university where he was an external examiner. The piece of work was covered with red ticks, crosses, under-linings, crossings out and illegible comments. We discussed it and came to the conclusion that this feedback – if that’s what it was – was not very useful and that it was something that he – as an external examiner – should comment on. As I was leaving the office, I suddenly thought of something and went back to look at the text again. As I thought, the text was on formal examination paper and it was clear that the writing we had been looking at was an examination answer, something that the students would (might) never see again. It made me realise that comment/feedback on student writing – as with all writing – depends on purpose and audience, something that does not seem to have been discussed elsewhere. Continue reading
I’ve been asked to give a short talk at the next BALEAP PIM on the the history of BALEAP PIMs (Professional Issues Meetings). As I was preparing this, I thought it would be interesting to see how the topics, as shown by the titles of the presentations, have changed over the years. Continue reading
I was recently working with a group of students who had been asked to write a list of references using “The Harvard System”. The students asked me how to reference a particular source type. I wasn’t sure exactly what the lecturer wanted so I asked him. He was a little annoyed and simply told me to tell the students to use “The Harvard System”, not realising that there is no such thing, and that such pieces of advice are not helpful. By that I mean that there is no definitive documented version, so he needs to be more specific. Continue reading
EAP is usually considered to be a branch of ESP, along with English for Professional Purposes (EPP) and English for Occupation Purposes (EOP). In that sense, as with all ESP, the EAP teaching content is explicitly matched to the language, practices and study needs of the learners. Most definitions of ESP (e.g. Robinson, 1991, pp. 2-5; Dudley Evans & St John, 1998, pp 4-5) include the following essential feature: ESP is goal directed and based on an analysis of needs.
For that reason, any ESP course needs to specify as closely as possible exactly what it is that the learners have to do through the medium of English, and therefore what their purpose is in learning English. A central role of the EAP lecturer or course designer, then, is to find out what the learners need, what they have to do in their academic work or courses, and help them to do this better in the time available.
Every EAP course is therefore different, as every student has different needs, and therefore needs to be designed from scratch. What, therefore, can the role of a published textbook be in this process?
I have been collecting old EAP textbooks for a while now and have quite a good collection.
You can see a summary of them at:
I’ve been trying for some time to come up with an analysis of trends in EAP as shown through these books. It needs more work, but this is what I have come up with so far, with some examples: Continue reading
I’ve long been interested in whether or not what we do is successful. Do the EAP courses that we teach help our learners to succeed in their academic lives?
There is very little research in this area and one reason for this is that it is very difficult to define what we mean by success and even more difficult to be clear about what causes it. Continue reading
I was discussing the future of EAP with someone at the ESP day at the IATEFL conference recently. It is a complicated question as it depends on international politics and economics. For example, in the UK, the present visa policies and cost of university education and how they change in the future will affect everything connected with HE and therefore EAP. As well as this we need to consider the role of English in the world in the future, including the prevalence of English medium HE and international student mobility – see, for example, Breeze (2012), Jenkins (2014).