In schools that train pupils in the vocations and in special techniques, in those devoted entirely to the arts or sciences, and in those offering specialized courses and training for other than an academic degree, great care must be exercised not only in selecting textbooks but in drawing up a course of study which will be in harmony with the particular interests of the students. Unfortunately very few specialized language textbooks are available for such schools, but material can be mimeographed and distributed to the students.

In some large centers variety in the course of study has already been achieved. Nevertheless, every teacher, especially in small communities, should bear in mind the various talents of the students and their particular interests, especially when those students can be easily grouped or directed toward a definite goal. Language study has taken a great spurt in schools where students working for a domestic science degree with emphasis on cooking, dressmaking, or millinery, have been introduced to the French vocabulary in these fields and have been encouraged to read French books, articles, and pamphlets dealing with their special interest.

To be specific, for majors in cooking, French, Italian, or Spanish menus can be mimeographed and lists drawn up containing technical words such as soufflé, fondue, pièce de résistance, filet, pâtisserie, paté, ragoût, sauté, brioche, croissant, cave, and any others that are useful in translating the recipes to be found in the many cookbooks now published in French. Particularly attractive recipes that the girls might use in their cooking class or at home may be mimeographed and distributed to the students for their cooking notebooks. The same method can be used in an Italian class in high school so that students will become familiar with such words as antipasto, minestrone, ravioli, risotto, pizza, cacciatora, scaloppine, and zabaione.

The same adaptation of courses to specific needs has been applied in the study of German in many technical schools, and the gain for the student in this direct preparation for a career has been invaluable. In commercial schools, particularly those which emphasize foreign banking or foreign trade and which require contacts with foreign countries, such as those of South and Central America, the vocabulary in Spanish and Portuguese and the work in composition should be modified to prepare the students for communication with these lands. Reading material that is chosen from magazines, newspapers, trade journals, and even novels and short stories should help prepare them more directly for their future work in a foreign country. The conversation work in these classes might well include training in long-distance telephone calls, and the simulation of situations likely to occur in doing business abroad, for the pupils should acquire a knowledge of the special vocabulary needed for such communications. The social life and any peculiarities in doing business in a foreign country should be a subject of study so that a student may develop a sympathetic understanding of the people with whom he will have to deal, before actual contact takes place. The most practical preparation here is to dictate typical dialogues or conversations and have the students act them out. The instructor may also pretend to be a foreigner and improvise questions which will require spontaneous use of the specialized vocabulary by the students. A variation of this technique is to have the students act out a scene in which they use the dialogues they have learned or similar dialogues they invent to suit the situation. Dialogues may be suggested by a comic strip shown to the class.

In military and naval academies and schools that offer training in international relations and diplomacy, the course of study is now particularly adapted to the needs of the students. This direct approach to a specific language problem eliminates waste of time in this preparatory period of their careers. The adaptation of courses and even of methodology to the specific needs of schools and students can be greatly developed. To date, little of a really constructive nature has been done in this field. If enough students with special interests could be grouped in one class or school and material suited to their needs could be prepared for them, they would benefit greatly thereby, and the practical value of language study would be proved once more.

On the level of higher education, technological schools, particularly the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have tried to meet these needs. The Latin-American Institute, the Department of State Language Institute, the Army and Navy Intelligence Schools, and the Institute of Languages and Linguistics of Georgetown University, directed by Professor L. E. Dostert, have made this their particular concern. On the high-school level, where students have to meet state or municipal academic requirements to obtain a diploma, it has been harder to change the language syllabus completely. Textile high schools, however, have drawn up special vocabularies like those suggested above for majors in dressmaking and costume designing. For students planning to become buyers for importing houses or department stores, conversational and composition topics can easily be adapted in line with these interests. It must not be forgotten that the United States will need more and more translators, interpreters, and secretaries for diplomats and international bankers and businessmen; and that publishing houses, radio and television companies, and the foreign service – to say nothing of the F.B.I., social service, and libraries – also need linguists.

An example of what has been done is the fact that after 2 years of high-school German some engineering schools require their students to take specialized language courses in which all the reading material is taken from articles on engineering. The translation of articles from technical journals, German patents, trade catalogues, and engineering equipment advertisements is emphasized. In some schools of business the reading material for required courses in Spanish and French is taken from Spanish and French business and economic periodicals; these courses also stress commercial correspondence in the foreign language in place of the usual composition assignments. Although a few scientific, chemistry, and economics textbooks have been published for special students in Spanish, German, and French, the very rapid scientific advances and the changes in economic theory and business management have made current periodicals in these fields more practical for class and library use. When students have been unable to subscribe to these periodicals because of financial reasons, excerpts from them have been mimeographed and distributed to the class daily or weekly.

Since so little material for such courses long remains up to date, the teacher may find it necessary to mimeograph his own lessons, prepare his own audio-visual materials such as posters and other illustrative materials, and watch his students’ progress that results from his own initiative and enthusiasm. If his efforts are successful, he will inspire others and see his ideas spreading in a relatively new field of language teaching. However, to avoid the possibility of errors, a young teacher should have the material he prepares checked carefully by an experienced teacher or an educated native.

Edmond A Méras (1954) A language teachers’ guide. New York: Harper & Brothers

Turnitin Similarity Report

I have been supervising dissertation students recently at several institutions.

One thing that has been mentioned several times is the interpretation of the Turnitin Similarity Report. One student showed me her Turnitin report in which she had received a similarity score of 32%. She was worried as she had been told that anything above 20% was problematic. I looked at her work and found that most of the 32% similarity was made up of typical EAP phrases. Examples are “questions have been raised over the ,,,”, “… have received very little consideration” and “this evidence leads us to reject the hypothesis that…” These are kinds of phrases that EAP students are expected to learn and use and are covered in books such as Jeanne Godfrey’s The student phrase book (Godfrey, 2013) and John Morley’s online Academic Phrasebank.

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Reporting Findings from Interviews

I have been supervising students doing research at both undergraduate and graduate levels recently and many of the students have been doing qualitative studies, involving interviews. In doing so, I have found that many of them find it difficult to report their findings and provide evidence. I am not surprised as there does not seem to be much information available. As Robert Yin (2011, p. 234) has made clear:

At a minimum, a common kind of narrative data would take the form of quotations and paraphrased passages, representing your study participants’ descriptions their own lives, actions, and views. In qualitative research, even these briefer descriptions serve as an important form of data. Not surprisingly, the choices about how to present these narrative data are more than a matter of literary style. Methodological issues also are relevant. Yet, this type of narrative — whether brief or lengthy — has not received much attention in existing guides for doing qualitative research.

I have looked through the publications in the references list below. Most of them are excellent, but none of them provide the useful information that my students need.

There are some useful suggestions, but none of them – apart from Yin – are detailed enough:

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Failure to write

A group of students wrote something for me at the beginning of the semester. They were scientists and their lecturer wanted to see how well they could write so if they needed to develop their writing, we could start early in the year and not wait until they had submitted their first assessed assignments. Much of the writing was not very good and the lecturer was determined to arrange writing classes as soon as possible. I decided I’d try to talk to the students before we made decisions to see what I could find out about their experiences of writing.

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What is a blog?

I was recently asked to work with a group of students on blogging. The students had been asked to write a weekly assessed blog of between 500 and 700 words and were having difficulty.

As I thought about it, I realised that I did not have enough information about what the students were expected to do, and neither – I think – did the students.Continue reading


I recently took part in a TESOL – IATEFL online discussion about how ESP projects can create positive social change.
Kevin Knight – the organiser – gave us the following task:

You are all members of a task force team to provide language training for employees of multinational corporation. The HR department of the company is interested in your ideas about providing not only in-house training but also involving local universities in the training of its employees. In addition, the HR department is wondering how such training could be connected to its annual report on Corporate Social Responsibility. Share your ideas in connection with the big picture: How ESP projects can create positive social change.

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Where Next for EAP?

There has been much discussion recently about what exactly students have to do in order to succeed in HE. Gillett & Hammond (2009), for example, identified a range of tasks that need to be managed in order to succeed and Nesi & Gardner (2012) looked in great detail  at the genres which students need to work with. This has been a very useful contribution to the development of EAP.  However, Feak (2011) identifies the difficulties that some students might have with these genres in multidisciplinary degrees and courses.  Furthermore, my  recent experience working with students from one discipline, business students, has shown that many of the assignments that the students have to produce are much more complicated and not so easily classified.  I’d like to show some examples of these and ask how we can best help our insessional students to deal with them.

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Feedback – Who is it for?

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

IATEFL ESP SIG PCE – My Presentation

The theme of the Pre-Conference Event  was employability and transferability in EAP and ESP. It was a joint event with BALEAP – the global forum for EAP practitioners. Thinking about this topic from a needs analysis point of view, I tried to investigate from different angles how institutions of higher education are dealing with this issue. My conclusion was that they they are trying to deal with it, but there is a large amount of confusion, especially with regard to professional and academic genres. One example I mentioned – and so did others – was when students are asked to write a report for their manager – a professional genre – but are required to give references – typical of academic genres.

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IATEFL ESP SIG PCE 2015 – Overview

I’ve just returned from the IATEFL English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Special Interest Group (SIG) Pre-Conference Event (PCE) in Manchester, UK.

This was a joint pre-conference event between the IATEFL English for Specific Purposes Special Interest Group (ESPSIG) & BALEAP, the global forum for EAP professionals.

The theme of the PCE was employability and transferability in EAP and ESP.

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.
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