Written by: Roxana Ciolăneanu, Assistant Lecturer
Mihaela Ivan, Lecturer
Academy of Economic Studies Bucharest
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Starting from the idea that the main difference between teaching General English and teaching ESP lies in the learners and their purpose for learning, we intend to develop an approach of exploiting Marketing Concepts for ESP teaching by using authentic video materials. ESP focuses more on language in the context than on grammar and language structures. This is why we have to provide our students with the appropriate context, thus combining subject matter and English language teaching. Our students find this highly motivating because they can apply in real-life situations what they learn during in-class activities.


English for Specific Purposes (ESP) represents a special branch of English due to its application to various specialized domains. It is a well-established fact that language is a conveyer of our thoughts, intentions, knowledge, purposes etc. It is the main code through which people can express themselves and communicate with others. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that communicative competence in language teaching means more than a simple linguistic interaction in the target language.
In this particular case of English for Marketing, we have chosen to illustrate the way in which some marketing concepts can be taught from a Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) perspective, starting from the idea that our students are highly motivated when they discover the relevance of in-class activities for real-life situations.

Theoretical Considerations

CLT is, in our opinion, one of the most appropriate approaches in teaching marketing concepts since it is based on two essential ideas: one the one hand, it focuses on the concept of communicative competence (Hymes 1971), and on the other hand, it emphasises the use of authentic materials in language teaching.
The concept of communicative competence has made career in language studies. It goes back as early as 1965 when Chomsky, for the first time, distinguished between competence (knowledge of language) and performance (language used in specific situations). Hymes renames Chomsky’s performance as communicative competence and defines it as the type of competence that includes both grammatical rules and rules of language use, thus emphasising the social, interactive and negotiating process that language involves. Canale and Swain (1980) and Canale (1983), following Hymes, go into more detail and design a four-dimension model of communicative competence: grammatical competence (words and rules, “knowledge of lexical items and of rules of morphology, syntax, sentence-grammar semantics, and phonology” (Canale and Swain 29)), discourse competence (cohesion and coherence: the ability to connect sentences in order to come up with a meaningful whole composed of a series of utterances), sociolinguistic competence ( judged in terms of appropriateness of the discourse, it involves knowledge of the socio-cultural rules of language and of discourse) and strategic competence (strategies to compensate for breakdowns in communication: “the verbal and nonverbal communication strategies that may be called into action to compensate for breakdowns in communication due to performance variables or due to insufficient competence” (Canale and Swain 30)). Later on, in 1990, Bachman reorganizes all these subdivisions into two large categories: organisational competence (grammatical and discourse competence) and pragmatic competence (sociolinguistic and illocutionary competence). Irrespective of the way various authors classify the types of communicative competence, what is really important is the fact that this type of competence is a key concept in teaching foreign languages for specific purposes and it is the main purpose of this type of classes. Ellis’ definition wonderfully summarises the essence of communicative competence in the following definition: “the knowledge that users of a language have internalised to enable them to understand and produce messages in the language” (Ellis 696).
The second as important aspect that CLT approach is based on and that allows the internalisation which Ellis was speaking about, is the use of authentic materials, that is “materials that have been produced to fulfil some social purpose in the language community” (Peacock 1997). The use of authentic materials in the classroom is discussed with a view to facilitating the students’ exposure and access to the real language, used in a real context. They are designed for native speakers and contain “real” language, as opposed to non-authentic materials, which are based on pedagogical principles and contain artificial language; they are designed for language learning purposes in the context of school only. Some other authors (Jacobson, Degener, Purcell-Gates vi-vii) define authentic materials as “learner-contextualised” materials in contrast with “decontextualized” materials that are created only for teaching and learning purposes. Another difference between authentic and non-authentic materials consists of the focus each of these two types of material places: understanding the meaning vs. understanding the form. Authentic materials give students the possibility to come in contact with real language and content rather than form and they feel that they are learning the target language as it is used outside the classroom.
Having mentioned all these preliminary general principles and, at the same time, having motivated our choice, in the following sections of this paper, we will develop a model for using authentic video material in Business English classes.

Important factors in choosing authentic video material

It is precisely because students feel that they come in contact with the language used outside the classroom that we have to be careful when we choose the source of authentic materials.
In establishing the criteria for selecting the appropriate authentic video material we follow the criteria that Berardo (Berado 63) developed for choosing authentic reading material, adapted to the purpose of this paper:
Suitability of Content: Does the video material interest the student?
Is it relevant to the students’ needs?
Does it represent the type of situation that the student will be involved in outside the classroom?

Exploitability: Can the video material be exploited for teaching purposes?
For what purpose should the video be exploited?
What skills/strategies can be developed by exploiting the video material?

Understandability: Is the material easy/difficult for the student?
Is it structurally too demanding/complex?
How much new vocabulary does it contain? Is it relevant?

Presentation: Does it “look” authentic?
Is it “attractive”?
Does it grab the students’ attention?
Does it make them want to watch more?

Using authentic video material in the classroom – advantages and disadvantages

Using authentic video materials in the classroom is a complex thing to do. Besides the many obvious advantages, there are also some disadvantages of this approach.
The most important advantage is that students are exposed to real discourse, and this leads to multiple results: informational, i.e. the students and the teacher are informed about what is happening in the world; their language knowledge is updated, in the sense that they become aware of language changes; they come across unconventional, incidental, English. Exposing our students to real discourse, we give them the possibility to get a sense of achievement by encouraging them to take part in the activity for pleasure and by giving them the chance to have their say about the topics introduced through the selected authentic materials.
The disadvantages that may appear are related, on the one hand, by the available logistics (if the lab is appropriately equipped or not) and, on the other hand, by the content itself, which can be culturally biased, thus difficult to understand outside the language community or which can become easily outdated. Natural flow of language and the accent might also create problems to students. Unnecessary vocabulary or mixed structures might appear, leading to the risk of putting students off. As for the teacher, using authentic materials in class is time consuming, because it requires a lot of preparation beforehand, but it is also rewarding afterwards.

Using authentic materials in teaching marketing concepts

The activity chosen to accomplish the purpose of this paper is based on Donald Trump’s show on NBC, “The Apprentice”, season 6, episode 4 (aired on 28 January), “Drive-Thru Duel”. We had three goals in mind that led to making this choice. First of all, it facilitates task-based and project-based teaching. Secondly, it presents the act of designing a marketing plan and the stages it consists of. Last but not least, it contributes to the internalisation and confidently use of the key concepts related to this topic, among which we mention: marketing plan, marketing strategy, brand name, target market, marketing mix (product, price, place and promotion), advertising appeal.
From a methodological point of view, the activity must be divided into relevant stages so that the students can respond effectively to the tasks they are given to accomplish. Thus, we have followed the traditional approach to video activities and we established three stages: “before you watch”, “video on” and “follow up” activities.
Before moving on to the actual description of the activity, it has to be mentioned that this lesson is intended for B2/C1 students, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

“Before you watch” activities

This first stage consists of two activities: introducing the situation and the main characters and solving a vocabulary exercise, both intended to familiarise students with the “case study” and the related vocabulary. This is essential since the students need to know the situation very well, the characters’ names, their previous achievements and, most importantly, their motivation for taking part in this contest-show. In order to keep the description short, we will mention here only the contestants’ motivations for their decisions.

Situation: Kinetic and Arrow (the two teams) compete to cook up custom chicken dishes and design creative marketing plans for El Pollo Loco restaurant chain.

Aaron, 25 – He thinks he should be the next apprentice because of his “passion for real estate along with his personal integrity, resilience and humility.”

Aimee, 32 – “I should be the next Apprentice because I am wicked smart, tenacious and have insightful interpersonal skills as well as a high level of integrity.”

Derek, 34 – He thinks he should be the next Apprentice because he’s “not afraid to take risks and make my voice heard. While I generally respect boundaries, I’m never afraid to overstep them for the sake of advancement of a good idea.”

Heidi, 26 – “Because the Trump Organization has many dealings that cross geographic and cultural lines, my impressive record of winning new business relationships on a worldwide level makes me the ideal Apprentice.”

Marisa, 28 – “I should be the next Apprentice because my legal and political background have enabled me to take on many changes and achieve success, and these experiences will allow me to showcase my leadership ability in addition to my strong work ethic.”

Surya, 24 – Surya believes that he should be the next Apprentice because he “can operate with the same passion and energy of an entrepreneur and bring along the discipline and the savvy of a corporate executive.”

This stage allows the teacher to have their students make future predictions about which team they think will win this contest and give reasons for their predictions. The teacher is also supposed to teach students the basic vocabulary related to this activity. Here it is a possible model of such a vocabulary exercise:
Match the words or phrases in bold to the definitions next to them:

  1. “We want to bounce that off with you, guys”.
  2. “I think Marisa has no idea how abrasive she can come up.”
  3. “I can’t just sit back and go with this status quo.”
  4. “I will descend when I think something is wrong.”
  5. “I think we need to go with Bravado.”
  6. “We’re going from outhouse to penthouse.”
  7. “Would you like to take one to go?
  8. “Frank and Tim were responsible to get bulk sales; two of my best men, out in the field, to drum up the business, that’s not guaranteed.”
  9. “We need to run in efficiency in order to actually sell this.”
  10. This is a done deal, right?
  11. “What did you think of your ultimate concoction?
  12. “Marisa said she was going to head up our advertising efforts.”
  13. “I had a great idea, thinking outside the box, a big idea that ultimately was shut down very early on.”
  14. “I’m going to vocalise my opposition when I think that it’s important.”
  15. “I think Marisa had a leg to stand on you, guys.”
a.the state of a situation as it is; be in charge; accept someone’s idea or plan; talk about your ideas with someone in order to get their opinion;
e.a catchphrase used to refer to looking at a problem from a new perspective without preconceptions, sometimes called a process of lateral thought;
f.rude or unkind;
g. to become efficient; agreement that has been made and cannot be changed;
i.condescend: do something that one considers to be below one’s dignity;
j.something, especially a drink or food, made by mixing different things, especially things that are not usually combined;
k.the sale at a set discount of many products of the same kind; have arguments against one’s opinion;
m.on their way to success;
n. express or state clearly;
o.get more work and sales; prevent an opposing team or player from playing well or getting points;
q.(of food or drink from a restaurant or cafe) to be eaten or drunk off the premises.

“Video on” activities
Since the whole video is too long for the temporal limits of one single class, we have selected only the parts relevant for the purpose of this lesson. This is the reason why we should use the term semi-authentic materials instead of authentic materials, because the students are not exposed to the full length of the chosen episode. In this stage, the students, organised in teams, are supposed to develop the tasks that the real teams are developing:

The task (8.15-9.16)
Mr. Trump summoned the teams to a scenic overlook in the Hollywood Hills. Flanked by last year’s Apprentice winner, Sean, and the two executives of El Pollo Loco restaurant chain, Mr. Trump establishes the task: create, market and sell a new “pollo bowl” for the drive-thru chain.

Students’ task (team work): to design their own “pollo bowl” and establish their marketing strategy.

Marketing strategies (9.16-18.25)
Arrow, the first team, has a fast start; they concocted a tasty “Chicken Tortilla Bowl” and designed a robust strategy, based on a special offer, for marketing and sales. Aaron, who is the project manager, risks and sends out two of his best men to drum up bulk orders and the strategy pays off since they returned with a 22-bowl order.
Kinetic, the second team, cooked something unusual, combining mango, pineapple and classic chicken into a dish called “Paradise Pollo Bowl.” However, the problems appeared when Marisa, who was in charge of marketing suggests a strategy that meets with group disapproval. They had a slow start, and their strategy focused on free samples and the power of persuasion of the cashiers.

Students’ task: 1. compare their suggestions regarding the appropriate marketing strategy to the competitors’
2. judge the performance of the two teams and establish the winners.

Results and reward (18.25-21.28)
In the boardroom Sean says that Kinetic had a limited marketing strategy, earning only $313, whereas Arrow, through an inspired marketing strategy, earned $418. They are rewarded by being sent to a private beach in Malibu where Andrea Bocelli will give a concert, followed by a fireworks display, created especially for them.

Students’ task: 1. they confront their comments with those made in the boardroom and express their agreement or disagreement.
2. they made their final decision: who is going to be fired and why?

Trump’s final decision
In the boardroom, Sean once again criticised Kinetic’s marketing strategy. Marisa defended herself by accusing her team of shutting down all her big ideas. When asked by Trump who should be fires, everyone said Marisa, so he utters the well known sentence: “Marisa, you are fired!”

This stage gives the students the possibility to develop and accomplish task-based activities, following the tasks established by Donald Trump. What is all the more important is the fact that the students have the chance to make their own decisions, their own plans, and then to compare them to what happened in the real situation. Hence, they can decide which decisions are better and why, what are the reasons behind these decisions and how they are different from theirs (if they are).

“Follow up” activity

In our opinion, the best follow up activity is a project that the students have to work on in teams: all the teams will receive the same task, similar to the one discussed, and they will be asked to design an appropriate marketing strategy for it. Next class they will report back to class and they will decide together which team came up with the best idea.


Communicative competence is one of the main desiderata in the foreign language classes since one of the buzzwords in the contemporary society is communication. Thus, we have to provide our students with every instrument that helps them be successful and effective. The approach discussed here, Communicative Language Teaching, seems to be of great help in this respect. The very fact that it is based on authentic materials opens great opportunities to develop students’ communicative competence in the target language, thus fulfilling their needs, expectations and interests. Moreover, it makes its contribution to the development of their ability to give authentic responses to authentic situations. At a higher and more general level, CLT motivates students and creates self-confidence and desire to learn for life.


  • Berardo, S.A., 2006, “The Use of Authentic Materials in the Teaching of Reading”, in The Reading Matrix, vol. 6, no. 2,
  • Canale, M. and M. Swain, 1980, “Theoretical Bases of Communicative Approaches to second language teaching and testing”, in Applied Linguistics, vol. I, no. 1, Oxford: OUP.
  • Ellis, R., 1994, The Study of Second Language Acquistion, Oxford: OUP.
  • Hymes, D., 1973, “On Communicative Competence”, in Sociolinguistics, Pride and Holmes (Eds.), Harmondsworth: Penguin.
  • Jacobson, E., S. Degener, V., Purcell-Gates, 2003, Creating Authentic Materials amd Activities for the Adult Literacy Classroom, NCSALL (National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy).
  • A Framework for Teaching and Learning, in Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom, OUP,