Методика преподавания языка | Филологический аспект: Методика преподавания языка и литературы Методика преподавания языка и литературы Апрель-Май 2021, №6 (9)

УДК 378

Дата публикации 31.05.2021

Вопросы разработки курса иностранного языка для специальных целей в нелингвистическом вузе

Кузнецова Татьяна Николаевна
Старший преподаватель, Департамент английского языка и профессиональной коммуникации, Финансовый Университет при Правительстве РФ, РФ, г. Москва, TaNKuznetsova@fa.ru

Аннотация: В статье рассматриваются основные вопросы разработки курса обучения иностранному языку для специальных целей. Автор анализирует понятие английского языка для специальных целей, методику и этапы разработки соответствующих курсов. Особое внимание уделяется анализу потребностей обучающихся как основополагающего принципа данного подхода, отбору и составлению учебных материалов, отображающих профессиональный контент.
Ключевые слова: английский для специальных целей, потребности обучающихся, содержание обучения, учебные материалы, специальность, профессиональное общение.

Considerations in Designing a Language Course for Specific Purposes in a Non-linguistic University

Kuznetsova Tatiana Nikolayevna
Senior Lecturer Department of the English Language and Professional Communication, Financial University under the Government of the RF, RF, Moscow

Abstract: The article looks at the main issues of developing a foreign language course within the framework of teaching English for specific purposes (ESP). Topics analyzed include the definition of ESP, approaches to course design, stages of developing a course. Much attention is given to needs analysis as an underlying concept of ESP. The article also considers the principles of selecting and developing teaching materials for an ESP course.
Keywords: English for specific purposes (ESP), learner needs, teaching content, teaching materials, field of specialism, specialist discourse.

Правильная ссылка на статью
Кузнецова Т.Н. Considerations in Designing a Language Course for Specific Purposes in a Non-linguistic University // Филологический аспект: международный научно-практический журнал. Сер.: Методика преподавания языка и литературы. 2021. № 06 (09). Режим доступа: https://scipress.ru/fam/articles/voprosy-razrabotki-kursa-inostrannogo-yazyka-dlya-spetsialnykh-tselej-v-nelingvisticheskom-vuze.html (Дата обращения: 31.05.2021)

The issue of teaching content has always been one of the most important and сontroversial in language pedagogy, depending largely on changing learning objectives and social demand. Consequently, teaching content has been influenced by developments in pedagogical theory and related sciences such as linguistics, psychology, etc., by available teaching tools  such as curricula, course books, teaching aids, etc. and the level  of teaching.

The existing federal state educational standards of higher education in non-linguistic fields of specialism envisage that university graduates should possess professional foreign language communicative competence, enabling them to use the foreign language in their specialist discourse. Formation of this competence is considered as an integral part of professional training in non-linguistic higher education institutions. Therefore, higher education is deemed to meet the existing scientific and technological challenges, should be motivating and innovative; it should integrate the basic notions of the underlying disciplines and help develop professional communication skills [1].

Nowadays the majority of higher education institutions in this country teach   a foreign language for specific purposes. So let us have a closer look at the development of a foreign language course based on this approach using English for Specific Purposes (ESP) as an example.

This approach to foreign language teaching for specific purposes was suggested by English researchers T. Hutchinson and A. Waters [9]. The emergence of a foreign language for specific purposes as a separate field in foreign language teaching for non-linguistic learners was prompted by the needs of professionals who interact with their partners internationally and, therefore, have to discuss professional matters in the English language.

This teaching approach is based on four main provisions.

Firstly, the content of a language course for specific purposes should be based on the needs and wants of a particular group of learners. Secondly, the course content should be based on the field of learners' specialism. Thirdly, the main teaching goal is to form linguistic and discursive types of competences of students (professional vocabulary and discourse analysis). Fourthly, the course content of foreign language teaching for special and general purposes should be different.

The ESP approach to foreign language teaching as put forward in the early 1980s by Hutchinson and Waters, has been further developed due to the changing context of foreign language teaching in the world. In the early 1980s, foreign travel and student exchange programmes were not  as widespread as nowadays, so teaching was based on a reproductive approach. Students learnt a language by reading professional texts, translating and retelling them. Communicating in a foreign language was not the goal of learning. Subsequently, with the increase in the number of people from different professional fields involved in specialist discourse, teaching professional communication skills became the main goal of teaching a foreign language for specific purposes. Some of the original provisions of Hutchinson and Waters' [9] approach have been subject to changes, and the evolution of the approach has followed two paths. Some researchers, working within the framework of this approach, expanded its content, adding the communicative component [4, p.27]. ESP is a dynamic research discipline, mainly concerned with analyzing the needs of learners and responsive to the new challenges. According to Kırkgöz and Dikilitaş [10, p.12], the recent changes in ESP have been prompted by changes in approaches to language teaching and developments in second language research as well as the new perspective such as computer-assisted language learning. 

Experts define ESP as a learner-driven approach to language teaching. At the core of all ESP is a simple question: why does the learner need to learn a foreign language? Therefore, ESP course developers should conduct a thorough needs analysis enabling them to identify learners’ expectations of the programme and their preferred language activities [11, p.174].

In ESP, the main decisions regarding content and method of instruction are based on the learner's motivations. Dudley Evans and St. John define ESP in terms of "absolute" and "variable" characteristics [5, p.5].
The absolute characteristics are as follows:
1. ESP is designed to meet the specific learner needs;
2. ESP draws on the underlying methodology and activities of the specialism area it serves;
3. ESP focuses on a language appropriate to those activities in terms of grammar, vocabulary, discourse, and genre.

Variable characteristics include the following:
1. An ESP course may be related to or designed for specific disciplines;
2. ESP requires a different methodology from general English instruction in specific learning situations;
3. ESP courses are usually designed for intermediate or advanced students;

4. Most ESP courses presuppose a certain level of the learner proficiency.

ESP approach allows to design a course that teaches learners to communicate effectively in situations that occur or will occur in their lives, professional work, or academic activities.

The main difference between ESP and general English is selecting the right course book or developing your own materials. Decisions must be based on the assessment of the learner needs and learning objectives. ESP learners normally have some knowledge of major disciplines that ESP teachers may not be familiar with. Learners need language skills in order to develop professional communication skills and use language in the specialist field. ESP focuses on the language used in real professional contexts rather than teaching grammatical structures and vocabulary unrelated to learners’ majors. ESP content should be integrated into the students' majors and future professional activities.

According to Dudley-Evans and St. John [5, p.15], ESP courses should reflect the methodology of the disciplines and professions for which they are intended. Design of each ESP course should be preceded by an analysis of students' needs regarding their future or present professions, their plans for the future, and an analysis of the language used in their target situations. Techniques for analyzing the needs of learners include:
1. Questionnaires designed for students, university teachers and employers to be  completed before the course, during the course and after the course;
2. Consultations with lecturers of the major disciplines on the selection of teaching materials and on the expectations of these lecturers and future employers;
3. Studies by language teachers of the linguistic, cultural and pragmatic aspects of the present or future jobs of their learners [ibid, p.25]. Having carried out the above studies, the teacher must decide on the teaching content, texts and language items to be studied during the course. In addition, it is necessary to decide on effective teaching methods; teaching materials; the target level of proficiency to be reached.

Research in the field of ESP has shown that its methodology is directly related to three factors: namely, the needs of the learners; their target situation; and the language used in specialist discourse. An analysis of these factors enables the teacher to set learning objectives, design the appropriate course, decide on its content, effective teaching methods,  and select course materials. Teaching ESP should be based on a functional syllabus that aims to develop communicative competence in the specialist discourse. To achieve this, it is necessary to ensure the cooperation and coordination between subject teachers and English language teachers.

Teaching ESP is a challenge for the teacher, who must be not only a language teaching professional but also possess certain knowledge in the field of the learners’ specialism [4, p.280]. Using specialism texts when teaching different groups - financial texts for financial analysts, economic texts for economists, etc. is a standard and, of course, quite simple way to achieve this. This approach proceeds from the assumption that studying specialism texts, with their terminology, increases the learner's motivation, thereby making the process more effective. The ESP teacher, therefore, is expected to be flexible in decision-making and be open to learners' suggestions and opinions. Anthony points out that ESP learners are motivated not only by reaching a certain level of foreign language proficiency in their specialism but also by better career perspectives in the increasingly globalized world. This factor has led to “increased pressure on English teachers to deliver effective instruction in their classes” [3, p.7].  

The evolution of the ESP teaching concept has been driven by three important factors: increasing demand for English for use in certain fields; new trends in linguistics and in teaching methodology, and a shift in focus towards the interests of the learner. All those factors have called for further specialization in language learning. Thus, the ESP concept reflects the changing world. The role of English as a means of international communication is increasing due to the ongoing process of globalization; the introduction of new technologies in foreign languages teaching is also of great importance: there are more opportunities to learn English for its use in any field. The applied component in the teaching of English is becoming more important, hence the need for early professional training of the learner. On the other hand, the increasing role of the social and cultural component and the importance of intercultural communication make English for General Purposes (EGP), the one that is applicable for everyday communication, more important too.

Hutchinson and Waters describe course design as the process which translates the findings of needs analysis into “an integrated series of teaching-learning experiences, whose ultimate aim is to lead the learners to a particular state of knowledge” [9, p.65]. Interpretation of the data of needs analysis allows course developers to make informed decisions on the course content, select materials, decide on teaching methods and assessment procedures.

There are several approaches to course design in foreign language teaching, including teaching for specific purposes.  
Hutchinson and Waters identify three main approaches [ibid, p. 66]:

1. Language-centred course design is most common in ESP. Decisions on the course content are based on the analysis of the target situation. The selected language material is arranged in a logical sequence depending on the frequency of use of certain items and the level of their complexity. The goal of such a course is to match as closely as possible the needs of the target audience to the content of the course.

However, in spite of its logical and systematic nature, this approach does not take into account that learners are humans and that «learning is not always linear and logical»;

2. Skills-centred course design is focused on the target situation and views the learner as "language user rather than a language learner" . The learning objectives of such a course are stated in terms of both performance and competence. Based on the assumption that a specialized course is usually short-term and limited in resources,

researchers believe that it is necessary to develop skills and strategies that motivate learners to continue learning independently. It is necessary to raise learners’ awareness of their abilities and "make them into better processors of information", rather than being limited to the study of individual topics and aspects;

3. A learning-centred approach is mainly concerned with "maximizing learning". Firstly, it is a comprehensive process which involves stating the goals of learning, selecting teaching  materials, deciding on assessment methods and procedures. Secondly, it is a dynamic rather than a linear process with constant teacher-learner feedback. As a result, the course content can be modified later on to better address the needs of a particular learner group that were either not taken into account or misinterpreted at the stage of course development.

Hutchinson and Waters point out that learning-centred ESP courses contribute to a more effective professional communicative competence of the learners. They acknowledge, however, that the process of their development is complex, requiring a lot of time and professional effort [ibid, 69]. 

There are several methodology studies describing stages of course design in ESP.

One of the first systematic studies concerned with the development of foreign language courses for specific purposes was conducted by Graves [6, p.16]. The researcher   proposed a system of course development, including such stages as: a) analysis of the learner needs; b) statement of the course goals and objectives; c) selection of the course content; d) selection of teaching materials; e) organization of content and tasks; f) course assessment.

The names of the stages are self-explanatory. Graves, reflecting on her own experience,  points out that she had “to make decisions about what should be taught in each level, in what order, and how” [ibid, p.14].

According to Hutchinson and Waters, ESP is an approach which is based on general principles of foreign language learning with special emphasis on meeting the specific needs of the learners. The needs of the target audience consist of: a) needs proper, when the learners knows what they need to learn in order to function in a particular target situation; b) awareness of gaps in language systems and skills; c) wishes  as intrinsic motivation to learn a foreign language [9, p.19].

The needs analysis in ESP helps identify the skills most often required in the target situation, as well as the types of texts that learners need to understand and produce in their specialist discourse.

The goals of education are, in fact, the goals of a particular individual who is aware of the need for his or her personal and professional  development. Therefore, an ESP course design should begin with the clear statement of the skills that a future professional will need to perform in his/her job referred to as needs analysis. In the context of higher education, such analysis is based on the study of educational and professional training programmes. Personal contacts with specialists in the field and university graduates are also of great help. In their senior years, students can take part in the process of goal-setting as most of them are already aware of their professional interests, preferences, and ambitions.

Motivation is considered to be key for a successful learning process. It seems very appropriate to take into account the needs of the students when designing a course, and define goals and objectives of the course on the basis of their needs. Therefore, much attention is paid to the learner personality,  their needs and wants, preferred learning styles. According to many researchers, teaching content is the key element of course design. They agree that the teacher should select specialism texts based on the subject content and related to the learners’ professional needs.

Course materials should be developed simultaneously with the development of the course. At the same time, teachers should have a clear idea of what topics will be covered in the course and what will the main focus of the learning process be.

Course design is a dynamic process. Teaching ESP presupposes conducting learner surveys during and at the end of the course; their evaluation allows teachers and course developers to improve the course and increase its relevance to learners.

According to many researches in the field of ESP, teaching content is the key element of this approach to foreign language teaching. The curriculum of a particular university depends on its field of study and is specified in its syllabus. However, despite the similarity in the fields of study of many universities, despite the fact that they are guided by common educational standards and the general principles of education, their curricula are not the same.

The peculiarity of a foreign language as a subject lies in its active nature, i.e. a foreign language always refers to specific fields of activity.

The following elements of teaching content can be identified:

1) communicative skills on the basis of general and professional vocabulary;

2) language systems and skills;

3) social and cultural knowledge;

4) study skills.

New teaching methods are aimed at balancing all communication skills.

The methodology of developing educational courses in English has been addressed by N. Harwood who analyzed major problems underlying the contemporary theory and practice of developing teaching materials. He has identified the following problems [8, pp. 9-11].

1) the problem of developing course materials that fully meet the needs of the target audience;

2) the problem of determining the place of the developed materials in the curriculum, deciding on the methodology of teaching/learning, designing a course (detailed content, the roles of the teacher and the students, teaching materials) and course procedure (balance of topics, skills and language systems);

3) the problem of using/not using authentic materials;

4) the problem of evaluating the effectiveness of the developed materials, emphasizing the need for both "predictive and retrospective evaluation in various forms".

B. Tomlinson, president of the International Association of Developers of Educational Materials, outlines the basic principles of developing teaching materials based on language acquisition theories [12, pp. 33-35].

Principle 1. The teaching materials should engage the learners, excite their interest and curiosity, attract attention, which is achieved by the novelty and variety of content, attractive layout, the required level of complexity of the course materials.

Principle 2. The materials should respond to the learners’ needs, build self-confidence in the learning process, give a sense of achievement.

Principle 3: The materials should encourage the learners to make learning efforts and independent discoveries.

Principle 4. Complexity of the material should be within the zone of proximal development.

Principle 5. Materials must be authentic.

Principle 6. Materials should stimulate students to pay attention to special linguistic features of the target language.

Principle 7. Materials should provide the opportunity to use language for communicative purposes.

Principle 8. Materials should be suitable for learners with different learning styles.

Principle 9. Materials should engage students intellectually and emotionally in learning activities through tasks that activate the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

To implement the first and second principles, the developer of teaching materials needs to have as much information as possible about the potential audience, their interests and needs.

In mainstream education, a published text book is at the core of the teaching/learning context and decisions on an ESP course are often influenced by the existing constitutional constraints [7, p.266]. Teachers, however, have a certain degree of autonomy to supplement a published text book with authentic materials.

The author of the present article has endeavored to implement the above mentioned approaches and principles by developing additional authentic materials for the learners majoring in economics [2]. This collection of assignments is aimed at  complimenting the published textbooks with authentic texts taken from such leading sources as The Economist, Harward Business Review, The Financial Times, investopedia.com, etc. in order to expand the range of specialism vocabulary and encourage learners’ independent studies. The collection of assignments covers such topics as economic security, international financial crimes, problems connected with tax evasion, issues of so-called "creative accounting" as a method of manipulating financial indicators, and causes of economic turmoil; in other words authentic learning material directly related to  learners’ specialism and future professional needs.

To conclude, the effectiveness of ESP teaching can be increased by using a more learner-centered approach. When decisions on an ESP course are supported with the findings of the needs analysis and directly influence the course design in terms of its content and the teaching materials, a better environment is created for active student engagement in learning. Using authentic materials, involving learners into simulations, role plays and problem-solving situations, thus creating an environment close to “ESP in real-world setting” [3, p.148] contribute to the learners’ motivation and encourage their further independent studies.

Список литературы

1. «Иностранный язык для неязыковых вузов и факультетов» [Электронный ресурс]: примерная программа / под общ. ред. С. Г. Тер-Минасовой. 2009. М.: Режим доступа: http: //www.fgosvpo.ru/uploadfiles/ppd/20110329000911. pdf
2. Сборник текстов для дополнительного чтения, бакалавриат, 38.03.01 «Экономика», профиль «Экономическая безопасность хозяйствующих субъектов». [Электронный ресурс]. М.: Финансовый университет. 2020. Режим доступа: https://portal.fa.ru/Files/Data/6DAF2903-925B-4B27-8B49-EF2E0C02D9F3/iy_texts_dop.pdf
3. Anthony, L. (2018) Introducing English for Specific Purposes. New York: Routledge
4. Coyle, D., Imhof, M., et al (2018) Beyond CLIL: Fostering student and teacher engagement for personal growth and deeper learning, (pp. 277-297) In: Emotions in second language teachingSpringer International Publishing
5. Dudley-Evans T., St John M. J. (1998) Developments in English for Specific Purposes. A multi-disciplinary approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
6. Graves K. (1996) A framework of course development process. Teachers as Course Developers. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 12-38
7. Harwood, N. (2010). Issues in materials development and design In book: English Language Teaching Materials: Theory & Practice (pp.3-30) Publisher: Cambridge University Press
8. Harwood, N. (2017) What can we learn from mainstream education textbook research? pp. 264-277 In: RELC Journal, 48 (2)
9. Hutchinson T., Waters A. (1987) English for specific purposes: a learning-centred approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
10. Kirkgöz Y. & Dikilitaş K. (Eds.). (2018) Key Issues in English for Specific Purposes in Higher Education. Vol. 11. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
11. Norris, J. (2016) Language Program Evaluation, (pp. 169-189) In: The Modern Language Journal, 01 Vol. 100; Iss. S1
12. Tomlinson B. (2011) Introduction // Materials Development in Language Teaching / Ed. by B. Tomlinson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

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