BETA days in Vidin 17-18 November 2007

Since February 2007, when BETA first introduced the idea of offering teacher training seminars called BETA Days for local teachers throughout the country, we have organised three such events. Here follow some impressions from the BETA Days in Vidin.
The seminar which was hosted by the oldest and biggest school in town,  “Tsar Simeon Veliki”, was supported by the MoE regional inspectorate and the municipality of Vidin. We would like to express our special gratitude to the local organizer and coordinator Vladislava Nikolova for her hard work and warm welcome. THANK YOU, Vladi J!
During the two days of the seminar there were teachers of English from different schools in Vidin and the surrounding towns. BETA sent Dr. Ellie Boyadzhieva from South-West University in Blagoevgrad and Desi Zareva from New Bulgarian University who offered four 90-minute sessions – dealing with different aspects of English language teaching. Here are the topics plus very short descriptions:

  • “Students and Teachers – Perfect Strangers?” (giving insight into teacher-student relationships);
  • “Using “rubbish” and “leftovers” in ELT classroom – enticing speaking and creative writing” (showing creative ways of using realia and authentic materials teachers tend to collect from trips abroad;
  • ELT FAQs – some answers that will help prepare your own materials using the net (offering ways of using the Internet for ELT purposes);
  • “Global English and Englishes” (offering a new look at the question of which and whose English we should teach).

If you wonder whether the teachers worked hard during the seminar you can have a look at the pictures we took. They also show you how lovely Vidin and the Danube are!
If you would like to be the next BETA stop, write to us.

REAL Seminar 17-19 September 2007 in Sèvres, France

On 17th – 19th September CIEP (Centre international d’études pédagogique) in Sèvres, France, hosted an international meeting under the REAL project.
The meeting was attended by representatives of various mono and multi-lingual associations and professional organizations of language teachers across Europe.
The main aim of the gathering was to introduce the participants to the findings of European-wide research into professional organizations of language teachers and networking. Issues related to the possible structure, maintenance cost and future members were discussed.
The majority of the delegates expressed their support for the creation of such a huge European network of associations.
BETA’s representative was Nina Tsvetkova.
BETA wishes the REAL steering committee success with the continuation of the project and we remain waiting for the opportunity to join the future network whose main goals would be to support teachers of all languages throughout Europe as well as to influence European policies in the sphere of modern language education.

Fresh ideas for teaching the four language skills to young learners

Written by Maria Ivanova – English teacher,
“Hristo Botev” Primary school, Plovdiv
Teaching young learners is fun. If you are not sure, just come! Curious about what you are going to see? Then you are welcome to join me! Share ideas inspired by Oxford Basics series and other OUP methodology books, which make the primary classroom a fun place to be.

The aim of this talk is to outline the main features of the four language skills and to demonstrate some useful techniques. The ideas are based on the Oxford Basics series. The only materials the teacher and the class need are the board, paper and pens.
Although language often involves the use of all four skills, for the sake of their improvement, we are going to focus on each skill separately:


Listening involves various sub-skills like listening for gist, listening for specific information, listening for general comprehension, etc.
The listening activities, according to Oxford Basics, contain three main stages:

  • Warm-up – This introduces the learners to the topic and focuses their attention, either by provoking them to make suggestions, or by pre-teaching some new vocabulary.
  • Listen and respond – This is the main part of the activity. The Ss listen to a text and respond to what they hear in a variety of ways. Here are some techniques:

1) Listen and complete –The Ss listen and use the information to complete a picture, a map, a diagram.

2) Listen and correct- The Ss listen to a text, which contains a number of factual mistakes.

3) Listen and do – The Ss listen to e series of instructions or actions and do them as they hear them. /Ex. Simon says, Polite robots, Your nose is a pencil –some of these games were demonstrated.)

4) Listen and draw – The Ss listen to a description of a person, a place or an object and draw it as they listen. /Draw a tree, draw a box under the tree, draw a cat in the box, ect./

5) Listen and guess – The Ss listen to a description of a person, a place, an object and try to guess who or what it is? /Ex. I’m thing of a person. The Ss ask questions-Is it a boy or a girl? Has he got black hair? What colour are his/her eyes?

6) Listen and match – The Ss listen to a description and match it to people, pictures, objects, places.

  • Fallow –up –This stage gives the Ss the opportunity to practice what they have learned using the other language skills.

The procedure is:

1) To explain clearly what we want the Ss to do and to check that they have understood it.

2) First listening –we read the text, act out the story, play the record/ the Ss just listen.

3) The Ss do the task while they listen.

4) Get the Ss to check their answers in pairs.

5) Then we check the answers with the whole class.

6) We can check the answers on the board, or use some parts of the text to work on in detail.

The good thing about this Oxford series is that the same topics re-occur in all four books, only each time the focus is on a different skill. (During the presentation the topic of “Greetings and introduction” was used to make a demonstration to the participants – see Simple Listening Activities OUP Basics – p.3)


Reading involves various sub-skills similar to the ones in listening:

  • reading for detail (intensive reading)
  • reading for gist (skimming)
  • reading for special information (scanning)
  • predicting content
  • inferring  meaning from content and context

Some typical techniques are:

1) Read and complete – The Ss read a text and use the information to complete a list, a table, a chart or a picture.

2) Read and correct – The Ss correct mistakes in a text.

3) Read and draw – the Ss read a text and draw what is described.

4) Read and guess – the Ss read a text and guess what is described./Some riddles were read/

5) Read and match The Ss match the information in a text with other reading texts or pictures.

6) Read and reorder – The Ss read a text in muddled order and number the sentences or paragraphs in the correct order. Or they physically reorder sentences on separate stripes of paper.

7) Read and sort –Two texts mixed together. The Ss have to sort them out.


The main stage of each activity has six basic steps:

  • Put up the text.
  • Set the skimming or scanning task.
  • Set the read and respond task.
  • Give the Ss time to read the text individually
  • Let the Ss compare their answers in pairs.
  • Go to the answers with the whole class and discuss them.

Many of the follow-up activities are aimed at extending the Ss’ vocabulary. Some ideas are:

  • Wall poster- Ss own work displayed on the wall /projects/
  • Reading cards – short texts+ activities –a kind of lending library

An example was demonstrated. See Simple reading activities, OUP Basics, p.3


Speaking – The aim is to achieve oral communication that means to be able to convey messages.  Each activity has three main stages:

  • Setting up – This introduces the Ss to the topic
  • Speaking practice – This is the main part of the activity. The Ss communicate with each other in pairs or groups or compete as a team.

The speaking part is a kind of bridge for the learners between the classroom and the world outside.
Learning new language in the classroom – speaking practice – using language to communicate in real life.
In order to build the bridge, speaking activities must have three features. They must give the learners practice opportunities for purposeful communication in meaningful situations. /Suggestions-interviews, foreign guest,ect./
Some examples of  speaking techniques are:

1) Ask and answer – Learners ask and answer questions.

/Ex. With a  ball/

2) Describe and draw – In pairs. Learner A has a picture, which learner B cannot see. Learner A describes the picture to the partner and learner B draws it.

3) Discussion – Ls work in pairs or groups to find out each other’s ideas or opinions on a topic.

4) Guessing – The teacher, or some of the learners, have information which the others have to guess by asking questions.

5) Remembering – Ls close their eyes and try to remember, for example, items from a picture or the location of objects in the classroom.

6) Miming- A learner mimes, for example, a feeling or action which the others have to identify.

7) Ordering – Ls arrange themselves in a particular order (for example alphabetical) by asking questions until they find their correct position.

8) Completing a form/questionnaire – Ls ask and answer questions, or provide information, in order to complete a form or questionnaire.

9) Pole play – Ls act out an imaginary situation. They either use a dialogue, or the teacher gives them instructions about what to say.

An example was demonstrated. See Simple speaking activities, OUP, p.3. Some pronunciation points were  also  demonstrated.



Writing includes so many other elements such as handwriting, spelling, syntax, grammar, paragraphing, ideas, etc. For the Ss in primary school the most important writing skills are mastering the Roman alphabet, copying, handwriting, spelling and basic sentence formation. The three main stages of the activities are:

  • Lead-in –This introduces the Ls to the topic and focuses their attention. It helps them to start thinking about the topic and to practice some of the language they will be needed.
  • Organizing texts – This stage provides controlled writing practice in preparation for a free writing task.
  • Creating texts –This stage gives the Ls the opportunity to use the knowledge they have acquired in the previous two stages in producing their own text. The T provides a context and a reason for writing.


Some text organization techniques are:

1) Completion – The Ls fill in the blanks in a text or a crossword puzzle with an appropriate word or phrase.

2) Describing a picture – The Ls write a description of a picture.

3) Joining – The Ls join words or sentences using a linking word, such as “and” or “but”.

4) Matching – The Ls have to match the two separate halves of sentences which are written in the form of two lists.

5) Reordering – Sentences or texts are given to the Ls in muddled order and they have to rearrange them in the correct order.


Creating texts techniques:

6) Writing from a picture – The Ls use a picture as a starting-off point for creating a text.

7) Responding to a text –The Ls are given a text to read before they write, for example, a poem or a letter. The text acts as a source of inspiration.

8) Survey and report – Here a writing text is proceded by a speaking task, in which the Ls have to gather information from each other and use it to write a report.

9) Visualization – The Ls close their eyes and visualize a scene which the T. describes to them. They then write about the scene they have imagined.

An example was demonstrated. See Simple Writing Activities, OUP, p.3
Examples of using grammar and classroom English were also shown.
See OUP relevant basics.


As we outlined the main features of the four language skills, let’s practice them in a fun way by using flashcards. The ideas that I would like to share with you are based on the “Happy House” series, Oxford University Press. We may use “hand-made” flashcards or we can buy them. Whatever our flashcards are-here are some ideas of how we can use them.

  • Listen and respond – Either stick the flashcard around the room or ask some of the Ss to hold them up. Say a word and ask the children to point to the flashcard. Instead of just saying words, you can say the word in a short sentence. Ex. I like bananas. Tell the Ss to listen for the key word and point to the flashcard.
  • Stop – Use about 5 flashcards. Say a word, then show the Ss the flashcards one at a time. The children shout “Stop!” when they see the picture. You can do this slowly at first and then speed up.
  • Help the teacher –Hold up a card for the Ss to see without looking at it yourself. Guess what the picture is. Is it a banana? Tell the Ss to answer Yes or No.
  • Jump- Ask the Ss to stand up. Show them a flashcard and say a word. Tell the children to jump if the word is the same as the picture on the flashcard or to stand still if it is different.
  • Say the name – Hand some flashcards out around the class. Ask the children with the cards to hold them up for all to see. Say Who’s got the banana? And tell the other children to answer with the name of the child who has that flashcard.
  • Echo –Ask the Ss in L1 what an echo is. Ask them to be your echo. Show them a flashcard and say the word. Ask the Ss to echo it by repeating the word several times, becoming quieter and quieter. You can make it more fun by saying the word in different ways.
  • Repeat – Ask all of the Ss to stand up in their places. Show the flashcards one at a time saying a word. Tell the Ss to repeat the word if it is the same as the picture on the flashcard and to remain silent if it is different. Tell any of the children who get it wrong to sit down and to help you to spot any children who get any other words wrong.
  • Bit by bit – Cover the flashcard with a piece of white paper. Reveal the picture bit by bit and ask the children to guess what it is.
  • Flash – Flash a flashcard, at first very quickly and then more slowly, until someone says the word.
  • What’s in my right hand? – Show two or three flashcards and ask the children to say the words. Put hem behind your back, swap them around a few times and ask the Ss which card is in your right hand.
  • Guess – Choose a flashcard without the Ss seeing which one and ask them to guess which one you have chosen.
  • Who’s got it?– Hand out some flashcards around the class. The Ss with the cards hold them up for all to see. Say the name of a child. The rest of the Ss say the word on their flashcard.
  • Disappearing words –Put several flashcards on the board. Point at them one at the time and the Ss say the word. Remove a card and repeat the process until pupils are chanting all the words with no prompts.
  • Memory – Put five flashcards on the board. Give the Ss time to memorize them then take them away and ask the Ss to say the words.
  • Extra – Put five flashcards on the board and say four of the words. Tell the Ss to say the extra word.
  • What’s missing?- Put five flashcards on the board. Ask one student to go out of the room. Remove a flashcard from the board (or ask a child to do this). Tell the child who went out to come back into the room and say which word is missing?
  • What I am thinking of? – Use about four cards. Put them where everyone can see them. Think of one of them and give the SS two guesses to find out which one you are thinking of. If they guess correctly, they get a point. If they don’t, the T. gets a point.


Ideas were exchanged. A song with flashcards was sang. There was a heated discussion.

Some aspects of teaching culture and implementing combined interactive methods in the classroom

Written by: Nadezhda Georgieva Doychinova,
39 SOU “P.Dinekov”, Sofia
[toc class=”toc-right”]
(Built on a simulation game called business maze and post game activities)
With an emphasis how to combat xenophobia and racism

SUMMARY:
It is a study based on the general idea that the implementation of versatile methods in the classroom can raise students’ awareness of their own culture and thus help them acquire better intercultural communicative competence.
This paper comprises a simulation game called ”Business Maze” and post game activities conducted in the classroom resorting to the theoretical background of small culture approach; language-culture-meaning, and language-culture-thought relationships.

I. INTRODUCTION – SUBJECT AREA, AIMS AND OBJECTIVES

The idea of “Making It Big”1 has left neither the culture of today’s high school students, nor the high school education of nowadays unaffected.
Questions of teaching and learning culture in foreign language education and their relation to the issue of being successful in business and life are of crucial importance both to students and teachers.
To students, who should develop a good intercultural communicative competence in the target foreign language which, would, in turn, help them make their dreams come true; and to teachers who should be more inventive, resourceful, and above all very well qualified to practise a wide variety of methods including culture-oriented ones aiming at better motivation of their students for accomplishing their common goal:
“I’m able to make it big, because I can, and because I know how to do it.”
In this paper I adopt the position of a researcher analyzing the results of a simulation game called ”Business Maze” and post game activities conducted in the classroom resorting to the theoretical background of the small culture approach; the language-culture-meaning and the language-culture-thought relationship; applying a simulation game as a training tool and as a vehicle for achieving the aims and objectives of the overall activity.
All this coincides with the general idea of the research:  the implementation of versatile methods in the classroom can raise students’ awareness of their own culture and thus help them acquire better intercultural communicative competence. The applied interactive methods (group work; simulation game, fill-in-a-questionnaire activity, conducted after the simulation game, for developing students’ critical thinking; discourse) could contribute significantly to their becoming more tolerant, less prejudiced, less confined to stereotyping and old conventions; able to make effective decisions, able to accept “otherness” etc.
For the sake of clarity my main objective can be outlined as follows: “I want my students to become more comfortable and to be more at ease in business situations, such as negotiating and making business decisions.” The specific objectives, such as: “I want my students to know how to make their stand be understood, and accepted by the others, how to recognize xenophobic and racist attitudes and behaviours and to combat them ” are refined from the cited general objective.
In view of the above, this research is supposed to answer a very important question:
Can these aims and objectives be achieved through applying a simulation game and to what extent can these expectations be met?
The results of this activity are to be analyzed in view of the mentioned theoretical background. Some conclusions are to be drawn following the cited theoretical points of guidance aiming at showing the diversity and richness of meaning and interaction contained in the data gathered from the questionnaires filled in by the students and the charts of the business decisions compiled by them, not analyzing all the aspects of the activity such as, for instance, body language. An attempt is to be made to move from one general to more specific areas, from given to new, staying in the main track – from linguistic competence, through communicative competence, to intercultural communicative competence in view of the extent to which the pursued aims and objectives are achieved by applying the simulation game as a training tool.

II. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

A. TEACHING CULTURE

1. Small Culture Approach
“Small culture is the sum total of all the processes, happenings, or activities in which a given set of people habitually engage.”(Holliday 1999:248), and a researcher can establish it by observing people who reveal a recurrent type of behavior. It consists of the way a group operates, its adaptability being its vital characteristic. “Cultural dopes” are group members who automatically follow accepted patterns of behavior while the term “ active, often skilled users” refers to the group members who know how to observe the rules of society. Small culture is useful in enabling people to understand and adapt to the group.
In Holliday’s interpretation (1999: 249) small culture is characterized by the following four stages of formation: need for group cohesion; cultural residues and influences; social constructions; and products. Later on, in the Analysis and Appendix 1, an attempt will be made to illustrate this interpretation in view of the overall activities and thus the small culture approach is to be exemplified.
2. Language-Culture- Meaning
The relationship between language and culture in the process of making words, actions and behaviors mean is referred to as meaning attribution. Culture is a system of attributing meaning. Linguistic knowledge alone is not sufficient to make out statements like: “ I took the cab to the four seasons”. Unless one knows that “The four seasons” is a worldwide five star hotel chain, understanding the meaning of all the words won’t be helpful at all. It’s cultural knowledge that counts in similar situations. Sometimes the vehicle of meaning is non-verbal and even non-human.2
When we focus on the link between word and concept, it can easily be explained why some nuances are lost in translation. A well-known example is the translation of the English words uncle and aunt in Bulgarian. Are they to be translated respectively чичо or вуйчо; леля or вуйна ? We have the same case with the word حرم in Arabic. It can be translated both харем or грях. In Arabic there are more than one hundred words for camel, just like in other languages there are many more words meaning snow. Such variations in language does not relate only to vocabulary. They spread over grammar, phonology etc. (Whorf in Agar 1964) Let us remember that Present Perfect tense in English can be translated in Bulgarian in three different verbal tenses. So a language creates its lexicon and grammar according to the way society develops and functions.
Another interesting aspect that sheds light on the Language-Culture-Meaning relationship is the fact that: “ The meaning of linguistic expressions and behaviors is shaped by the context in which they occur.” (Tarasheva 2001:30) Just look at the way a child responds to the words: “I’ll give you a good spanking” pronounced by mom and the same words said by dad. The falling or rising intonation can attribute different meanings to tag question in English, for example. In addition to this, sociological parameters, such as class, religion, occupation, age, gender etc determine the meaning attributed to words, expressions and non-verbal behavior.
3. Language – Culture – Thought
It is not only of vital importance to know how language and culture are related but it is also how they both relate to thought that matters a lot for getting the hidden messages.
Language is viewed by some as a system of communication and as such can be isolated and studied like any other human system. It is this definition that Bennett argues and states that such an approach can result in what he calls the fluent fool: “A fluent fool is someone who speaks a foreign language well but does not understand the social or philosophical content of that language.”(Bennett 1993:16)
In order to avoid becoming a “fluent fool” one should learn that the language and culture connection can be tackled in terms of: “system of communication; cultural foci; and world view.” (Madjarova 2001 : 6)
“Language serves to facilitate classification and order. It enables those who use it to relate to their environment, to identify and classify cultural objects, and to coordinate their activities.” (Damen 1987:12) In other words  it is an indisputable fact that language is a major vehicle for communication.
Another aspect of the language and culture connection is the way languages reflect cultural emphasis. In one language at a given period of time a different emphasis can be given to certain phrases or words – let us remember the “Prohibition” in the US in the 1920s. We, the Bulgarians, have been witnessing the dramatic changes that have occurred in our language for the past 16 years, not only related to introducing new vocabulary but concerning grammar and phonology as well. We have almost forgotten a very popular phrase that popped up some 15 years ago: ”shock therapy”, known until then only to some medical men. Hicherson gives the best summary of this aspect: “Cultural emphasis may indicate environmental or economical factors which are crucial to substance; it can also comprehend aesthetic, religious, or other kinds of values.” (Hicherson 1980:108)
Thirdly, language is related to the world view of their speakers – it is not only a means of communication; it is also a powerful tool available to human beings in coping with reality. The notion of “worldview “ is revealed by Damen: “Worldview … is a cover term that refers to the particular set of realities associated with a given group. It includes attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions about the environment, human relations, social organizations, and all that constitutes human life.” (Damen 1987: 124)
Another essential aspect of avoiding being a “fluent fool” revolves around understanding the relationship between language and thought.
It is considered to be a memorable statement that Whorf made about language representing experience: “We dissect nature along lines laid down by our languages. The categories and types that we  isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is represented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has been organized in our minds – and this means largely by the linguistic system in our minds” (Whorf 1956 : 213)
The interpretation of Whorf’s words and of the so called Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has both its strong and weak forms (the strong one represented  by the above quotation). What is very well phrased is the implication that the world view of a speech community is reflected in the linguistic patterns they use and in other words it means that language determines the way in which we understand reality.
To me, however, this is an impressive, though not entirely irrefutable vision of the linguistic system in general, and in my modest opinion some 17 years ago such a theory would have had no other place in a scientific research in our country than that of a definitely  denied or even condemned one. How lucky we are to have the chance to enjoy and discuss it openly.
I would like to quote Jana Molhova’s words that appeal to me not to a lesser degree and though not so memorable, sound comprehensible and reveal the relationship between language, culture and thought from yet another angle: ”Briefly, language is the direct reality of thought which makes itself manifest in language. But language should not be identified with thought. Mental processes follow their special development and language – its own, which is not that of thought.” (Molhova 1967: 18) All this shows that this is a very complex issue. Here we are going to take the position expressed by Whorf stating that language, thought and perception are interrelated, and that there is a profound alliance of language, mind, and the total culture of the speech community, without going any further in this vast area.

B. TRAINING TOOLS

1. ASPECTS OF THE AIMS OF CULTURAL TRAINING  AFTER KIRSTEN JAEGER
The broader perspectives of Intercultural Studies and Intercultural Training require understanding of the culture training programmes. The first step in this respect is to define the aims of the culture teaching. In her article “Teaching Culture – State of Art” Kirsten Jaeger (1995: 20-21) distinguishes three courses in terms of the aims of the culture teaching:

  • training concepts concerned with the acquisition of knowledge, a cognitively oriented approach;
  • training concepts concerned with changes in the participants’ attitudes, an affectively oriented approach;
  • training concepts concerned with the participants’ concrete behaviour in intercultural encounters.

However, to pursue this train of thoughts and to put them into action seems an easier task than it actually is. This difficulty has not only been recognized but clearly stated by authors like Kramsch: “ We should not be unaware of the difficulties inherent in a true pedagogy of the intercultural speaker. It is one thing to encourage students and teachers to become aware of others’ and their own national identity; quite another to speak openly in class about their own ethnic, gender-related, race-related, or class-related particularities.” (Kramsch 1998:31)
There are a wide variety of many other points and even pitfalls awaiting to be taken into consideration by the teacher, one of them revealed in the following extract: “Yet with social psychology, it has long been recognized that the categorization is a fundamental cognitive process necessary to make sense of the world. Humans constantly impose structure on events, experiences and people, particularly when faced with little information. Thus stereotypical judgments are made by everyone as part of creating order out of everyday life, as well as providing sense of group identity… Media representations may serve to inform, reinforce or challenge such stereotypes.”(O’Sullivan 1994: 127-128)
In brief, Kirsten Jaeger’s hypothesis is to be considered fundamental for this research, part of the pillars of its foundations. At the same time the teacher is to be alert about any impediments and pitfalls that might occur and thus hinder or even jeopardize the successful fulfillment of the task – both in the classroom and in the process of analyzing and interpreting the data, paying special attention to the possible obstacles mentioned above.
2. SIMULATION GAMES
Simulation games are experiential exercises which stimulate participants’ cognitive and affective understanding and widen their horizons thus being very useful in intercultural training. Damen (1987:290) notes: ”A simulation is a model of a physical or social situation: it is a game but a game played with simplified rules and for specific purposes.”
A simulation follows a process model and allows learners to control the nature of the interactions that take place. Of course there are simulation games when students decide on the event to be simulated, choose a relevant issue within the event to explore, identify roles of participants, etc What matters here is that a simulation game is done in a friendly environment which is very important because students, and people in general, learn best when they feel secure. This and some other essential features of simulation games are excellently put in the following extract:
“Simulation games provide interactive opportunities to practise new behaviors and experiment with attitudes and points of view in a non-threatening, non-judgemental environment… Through simulation games, participants eliminate the interval between learning and applying: they tie the present, the future, and their skills, values, and knowledge together to make the ongoing situation relevant and useful.” (based on Sisk in Fowler: 82:88)
Basically each simulation game consists of three parts: “1. activity or exercises that aim at learning by doing; 2.simulation – an exercise becomes a simulation exercise when the participants are given workplace roles and they do the exercise using their new roles to refer to each other in order to get the job done; 3. game – a simulation exercise turns into a simulation game when game-like elements and rules are added to it.”(Botsmanova 2001 48:49)
One of the greatest challenges in foreign language acquisition is understanding the best way a group of learners work and the best context in which they do their learning. In this respect, being a powerful and at the same time an enjoyable training tool, simulation games provide teachers with wonderful opportunities to make the teaching-learning process more effective.
When the simulation technique is employed, it should be integrated with other language learning activities, as it is done in this research, and it should also be given the preparation and care which is required in any language learning method, and adapted to students’ needs and level. If these guidelines are followed, it can be a rewarding experience for both the students and teacher.

III. METHODOLOGY  OF  THE   RESEARCH

The following quotation evokes a strong feeling concerning the very essence of the work to be done, and inspired by it  the researcher of this paper is to take it into consideration throughout the whole research process: “Scientific research seeks to describe, identify, and control relationships among phenomena in order to study them” (Seliger and Shohomy 1989:6-12)
The conclusions to be reached in the end are based on the major methodology points summed up below.
Some key concepts in action research:
reliability, validity, population and sample
Although no account will be given here about what these fundamental issues refer to, the author of this research feels obliged to emphasize the fact that they are to be pillars to lean on in the research. Nevertheless,   some points considered to be of utmost importance to the researcher are to be mentioned below.
“The minimal definition to which I shall adhere in these pages is that research is a systematic process of inquiry consisting of three elements or components: (1) a question, problem, or hypothesis; (2) data; (3) analysis and interpretation of data. Any activity that lacks one of these elements (for example data) I shall classify as something else than research” (Nunan 1992:2-3) Nunan’s quotation was paid a special attention in this paper.
To make a distinction between reliability, validity, consistency, and generalisability is a matter not to be omitted in the overall process. For example the following statement appears to be vital for this research: “Reliability refers to the consistency and replicability of the research.” (Nunan 1992;14-15). As the data should be reliable, out of the two distinguished types of reliability the researcher has chosen to use the internal reliability which refers to the consistency of data collection, analysis and interpretation.
One way of the ways of guarding against threats to reliability is the so called triangulation. It is a procedure which guarantees more than one perspective on the topic or the phenomena being investigated. Applied to the context of this research, this would mean that the researcher will increase the reliability of her findings by collecting data in different ways (e g questionnaires, charts, field notes, classroom observation). However, it will not be done  from different sources (e g students, colleagues, parents etc  but only from students).
When one does research, in order to make one’s findings more credible, it is important to include enough background information about the context in which the research was carried out. For example, age group of the students, their level of language proficiency and motivation, kind of syllabus and approaches to teaching traditionally used etc. This point is also to be carried out and presented in a tabular form.
Some key approaches in action research
Action research includes the following approaches: qualitative-quantitative; introspective-empirical; individual-collaborative; complementary-intrusive (questionnaires, interviews, experiments and observation are potentially intrusive techniques); illuminative-conclusive.
This research will resort to the use of qualitative-quantitative, individual-collaborative approaches. Students are to fill in the questionnaires individually whilst the charts will be compiled in groups as will the simulation game be conducted. The data will be collected, analyzed and interpreted applying these approaches and some of the results are to be given in tables in the appendices.
In the analytical part, the conclusive approach is to be applied bearing in mind the following extremely important points clearly defined by Wallace: “Illuminative/heuristic research is used to discover whether the findings of conclusive research actually apply to one’s own particular context… The question for the professional here is does this finding relate to my particular case?…It is possible statistically to prove that a certain group work task has had specific positive results. But will it have the same results in another country with different cultural norms; or even in the same country, but in another context with different institutional norms? “(Wallace 1998:43-44) So many findings in social studies such as education are indicative rather than truly conclusive and this is not to be overlooked in this research.
Data collection techniques
Information can be collected by using: 1.diaries, journals, field notes; 2. questionnaires, charts, and interviews; 3. classroom observation; 4.verbal report; 5. Case studies.
In this research questionnaires, field notes, classroom observation and compiling a chart are the indispensable tools to resort to. A questionnaire has been chosen as the focal point for this research for two reasons: it is applicable for finding out the solutions to the problem under investigation, and it is the right type of data collection for getting to know students’ opinion.
The questionnaire comprises: yes/no questions; multiple choice; wh- questions; and ranked questions to elicit information about the order of preference or importance as seen by the respondents. Questionnaires could be rather intrusive so the intrusion can be mitigated by sensitive handling, for example in this activity it is to be kept short in duration, so that it can be part of a normal evaluation process.
Field notes are used to overlap or supplement the other techniques – to remind the teacher of the subtle points which should be included in the research – the important thing is to capture on the spot ideas, feelings or responses that otherwise be lost.
The research cycle will pass through four stages: planning, action, observation and reflection. An attempt will be made to reflect them in this thesis.
What is specific about this research is that it originates from the teacher’s everyday classroom activities and is aimed at improving their effectiveness.

IV. DESCRIPTION  OF  THE  PROCEDURE

The central part of this activity is a maze, similar to the sort of activity often used in business training to develop team-building and decision making skills. The aim is to measure the extent to which the students develop  the intercultural skills described in the introduction of this thesis. The students are eleventh graders and their language proficiency is supposed to be upper intermediate or B2 according to the Common European Framework of References.
Before class, teacher photocopied and cut out five sets of the situation cards. One complete set of cards was needed for each group of about four students. Although highly time-consuming (it took more than 7 hours!), it was a good idea that teacher stuck the cards onto different-coloured cardboards. That way teacher could easily hand out the card to the respective group without any threat of mixing them up, and managed to put the sets of cards back together in the different-coloured sets without any reshafflement that might have caused confusion.
In the warm-up phase teacher explained the rules and the goal of the game, divided the students into groups of four or five paying attention students of approximately equal proficiency in English to work in one and the same group. Teacher previously had written on board an example of what was expected from the students to be done, and answered their questions.
In the work phase, the introduction of the maze was read as a class. Then students were asked in their groups to read the problem on the card and discuss the options. When the students had made their decisions, teacher handed out the relevant card. Teacher monitored each group equally, and told them to discuss their options fully before asking for the next card. Teacher pointed out that the aim was not to get to the end quickly, but to carry out the twofold goal: to make successful career decisions and to compile a chart of the decisions they were to make at each step. Teacher had previously written a sample on the board how this was to be done. In the meantime teacher was taking some field notes and observing the overall activity.
The maze itself and the warm up phase took roughly 40 minutes.
Inevitably groups finished at different times. Then students (approximately at the beginning of the second lesson) ware handed out and asked to fill in the questionnaires individually and to consider their performance. This activity aimed at developing students’ critical thinking took around 15 minutes at most.
In the closing phase each group was asked to elect a spokesperson to summarize their group decisions. This time teacher set a time limit of no more than 3-4 minutes for each group. Finally students were to vote for the most successful group, something that was not done since there was only one group in each class that finished the maze by running a successful business. Nevertheless, in one of the classes students agreed that though bankrupted, one of the groups had made very interesting decisions and had it not been for one mistake at the final stage, they would have really “made it big.”
The feedback was done in a third lesson after teacher collected, analyzed, summarized and presented all the data before the students in a comprehensive way, guiding a hot discussion about the real pros and cons of the overall activities.

V. ANALYSIS OF THE RESEARCH DATA AND RESULTS

Small culture
In the Appendix  bearing the title: “Exemplifying the Small Culture Approach in view of the Overall Activity”, a detailed analysis is conducted applying the small culture approach to the Business maze simulation game following Holliday’s cited four stages of its formation. Many conclusions have been drawn in the Appendix but here I’ll mention just one which I find most telling and impressive – the culture embodied in the concepts and attitudes of the students reveal that they are a generation where the number of the cultural dopes is very insignificant – only 3 %. Partly this is due to the fact that young people of any time tend to be brave enough to demonstrate their opinion openly but the fact remains that the data show students’ determination to keep their individuality and to” have it done their way”.
All the points of the analysis in Appendix 1 are revealed by peeling just one layer or one stage of the game (It took averagely 9 stages or decisions to be made from the beginning up to the end of the maze). I dare say everything included in the Appendix is not an assumption but really existing conclusions based on carefully analyzed reliable facts. Only one stage/business decision/ was discussed and analyzed which means that all the nine stages open a broad field for further and deeper research to analyze the rest of them and penetrate and reach for the core. This is a fruitful and gratifying issue that needs to be discussed from many angles (drawing  full comparisons between  the decisions made by all groups; in view of stereotyping and prejudices; in view of Hofstede’s theory about feminine and masculine society etc) (Hofstede 1986:315)
Language – Culture – Meaning
When we come to think what conveys meaning, how words and concepts are linked in the context of the Simulation game, examples are swarming up one over the other. Let us take just one and see what messages we can get from it.

Card No 1
You were working as a chef in a large restaurant. You have been made redundant, as the restaurant is being converted into a cinema. You have received $15,000 redundancy money. You have a family to support, and cannot survive for long without an income. You want to start a restaurant in your local town, as you believe there is a need for one. It is going to require more than your $15,000, so what are you going to do?
Go to card No 8
Approach the bank for the extra funding to get your plans underway.
Go to card No 22
Go into business with a partner. A friend of yours was also made redundant and received the same amount of money. Why not do it together?

The choice of this group of students was to go to Card No 8:”Approach the bank for the extra funding to get your plans underway.” The interesting part here is that, asked to put down the words and phrases that provoked them to the decision-making at this step, students did not write in the questionnaire “extra funding”, but “approach the bank”. Firstly, it means that they are aware of the figurative meaning of this word, i.e. they demonstrate good linguistic competence because the meaning of the verb “approach” here is: ”to ask someone for something, or ask them to do something, especially when you are not sure if they will do it.” There is no doubt at all that they got the meaning conveyed by this phrase.
Secondly, their choice prompts that they made correct guesses about the meaning of this word (in case they did not know all the shades of its meaning), which makes them good communicators. Treated from another angle, the choice of these words clarifies the relationship between words and concepts, and more precisely how meaning is shifted according to concepts in a particular context. It also presupposes the idea that students are generally acquainted with banking.
Thirdly, students did not put down the whole phrase: “approach the bank for extra funding”, they wrote only: “approach the bank”. This shows that in addition to being good communicators, in this particular case students are good intercultural communicators too, since not using the second part of the phrase (“extra funding”) suggests that students foresee the fact that extra funding could be either not granted or not accepted by  them.
So the use of just one phrase reveals many messages about the way meaning is conveyed and  how it reflects students’ concepts in a particular context – they demonstrate the culture of linguistically competent, well educated young people, possessing both communicative and intercultural skills, generally familiar with banking and the opportunities it provides.
Faced with similar situations in their future students will be more self-confident as to eliciting the focal point of a situation like this, presented by the lexical unit they came across and got across so well.
Language – Culture – Thought
Pondering over the problem of the relationship between language, culture and thought in the Simulation game and the post game activities I decided to dwell on the following situation. It happened so that all the eight groups of students had to make a decision at card No 44 which looks like that:

Card No 44
You are ready to open the fast food restaurant, but no one knows about it. You need to generate some awareness in the town, but you only have a limited budget. You must spend the money wisely.
Go to Card No 37
The budget could be spent on traditional advertising in the local press. It has an excellent readership so everyone will see the ad.
Go to Card No 20
Or you could do a PR stunt! You could make some ”funny food’ costumes and dress up as a carrot! Then you could go around town handing out leaflets to everyone. Wouldn’t it be fun?

The collected data indicate that all the eight groups have chosen Card No 20, i.e. to do a PR stunt. That makes 100% of all students that took part in the activity. The analysis of this situation can be interpreted in the following manner.
As true representatives of today’s young generation, notorious for its neglect for reading, students were not impressed by the powerful phrase “excellent readership” for they simply did not believe it, as they themselves rarely happen to read the local press, so how come other people do! This is probably the way these 100% thought, for they unanimously and very quickly chose card No 20, i.e. the PR stunt.
Another explanation could be given for this high percentage and it refers to the miraculous effect phrases like ”PR” still have over our minds nowadays. The culture of today both subconsciously and ostentatiously prompts that almost anything can be done, sold etc as long as a proper public image is given to it, especially if done in a generally approved and spectacular way. Where this could lead us to, is another story, what matters here is that the allusion of the ever successful “PR” is in full swing with these students and the data prove this.
A third view of this situation can be involved with the fact that such “PR stunts” are on the whole something new and therefore seem very attractive. The culture of today teaches us that there is nothing wrong with the philosophy of: “I want it all and I want it now.” The mass media, with their pervasive influence over everybody, try to persuade us that everything is within easy reach, and all one has to do is to stretch one’s hand and grab it. In my opinion here students fall prey to stereotyping like “all you do must be fun.” And since there is no fun in having an ad published in the local press, let us do the stunt. As a matter of fact they have been taught a lesson, for though successful, the “PR stunt” choice led to the arrest of their partner for obstruction of pavement and to the risking of the whole venture.
In conclusion the phrase ”PR stunt” reflects the cultural emphasis revealing that in this specific situation students do not defy conventions, just the other way round, they stick to stereotypes that have popped up recently and that they have little or no knowledge about except from movies and commercials.
The analysis of some sides of only two steps of the overall activity in view of the language-culture–meaning and language-culture-thought relationships, prove that the simulation game and the post game activities, such as fill-in-the questionnaire, help students learn the hidden messages words and phrases convey. In addition to this, students acquire knowledge in a simulation-of-a-real situation environment which actively engaged all of them and helped them develop a number of intercultural skills such as knowledge of their own culture (their concepts and behaviours tested in a real situation). The applied interactive methods such as group work led to though modest yet positive development of team building skills, of getting to know and understand each other better.
The fact that such a high percentage of them failed to run the business successfully (87.5%) taught them to try to accept “otherness’, to be more tolerant and less prejudiced as far as popular clichés and easy decisions are concerned.  Appendix No 4 gives further details about the collected data and analysis of other aspects included in the questionnaires and charts respectively filled in and compiled by the students.

VI. CONCLUSIONS

Let us step aside, muster our courage and take a birds’ eye view of all that was said above. In order to avoid falling prey to not seeing the whole picture, let us go back to the basic features of culture because culture happened to be virtually the middle word in all the issues we’ve been dealing with : Small Culture Approach; Language-Culture-Meaning; Language-Culture-Thought. These are the basic features of culture according to Porter and Samovar:
“Culture is not innate, culture is learned. Culture is transmissible. Culture is dynamic. Culture is selective. The facets of culture are interrelated. Culture is ethnocentric, that is, centered on its own group.”(Porter and Samovar 1994; 12-14)
We can dwell for hours on the fact how many evidences in support of the above statement we can find in the Simulation game and post game activities. Many conclusions may be drawn but the one that should be stated in the first place is this: the analysis covers a very small part of all the possible research work that can be done analyzing the activities.
This leads to the second very important conclusion: in view of conclusion number one, the scope of the drawn conclusions is also limited. However, the analysis of the Simulation game and post game activities gives positive answer to the problem under investigation: the applied interactive methods (group work; simulation game, fill-in-a-questionnaire activity, conducted after the simulation game, for developing students’ critical thinking; discourse) contribute to positive developments with the students: they become more tolerant, less prejudiced, less confined to stereotyping and old conventions; able to make effective decisions, able to accept “otherness” etc.
Apart from achieving the pure cognitive objectives, a certain progress was noticed, though very modest, in the change of students’ behaviours and attitudes such as acknowledging the existence of behaviors and attitudes that entirely differ from theirs.
So the objectives of this research are also met: students develop their cognitive skills; they gained some experience how to act in similar situations, how to make effective decisions,  how to express and explain themselves more clearly  so that they are not only persuasive but are also convincing .
This paper outlines some essential aspects of Small Culture Approach; the relationship between Language-Culture-Meaning; and the linkage between Language-Culture-Thought, in view of the applied Simulation game and post game activities, and thus modestly diversifies and enriches the interpretation of these issues.

VII. SUMMARY

The topic of this paper is: “Some   aspects of    teaching   culture  and  implementing  combined   interactive methods in the classroom (built on a simulation game called business maze, and post game activities).
In the introductory part my motivation to choose the topic, the aims and objectives of the thesis, and a short description how the aims and objectives are to be pursued and eventually achieved, are given.
In the chapter called “Theoretical background” a review is made on the following theoretical issues: teaching culture with an emphasis on the small culture approach; the language-culture-meaning relationship, pointing out what conveys meaning, the concept-word link, and the relationship between language and context. The language-culture-thought connection is the axis around which revolve the other reflections on the teaching culture process chosen to be investigated. The theoretical part puts two other emphases: on the aspects of the aims of cultural training after Kirsten Jaeger, and simulation games as a training tool.
In the third chapter under the title “Methodology of the research” some key concepts in action research such as reliability, validity, population and sample are tackled, as are some key approaches in action research – qualitative-quantitative; introspective-empirical; individual-collaborative; complementary-intrusive (questionnaires, interviews, experiments and observation are potentially intrusive techniques); illuminative-conclusive. Data collection techniques are briefly described and the selected ones to be used are identified.
Chapter four gives an account of the research cycle that goes through four stages: planning, action, observation and reflection. However, its focal point consists in the description of the procedure, the warm up, the work phase, the closing phase and the feedback.
The analysis of the research data and results presented in Chapter five is done in view of the mentioned theoretical background and the methodology given in the respective chapters. The important thing here is that the analysis is based on specific parts of the activities, some of the reflections and contemplations being summarized in Appendix 1 and Appendix 4.
Chapter six sums up the conclusions drawn on the analysis of the previous chapter stressing upon the positive answer to the question under investigation in this research.
The summary provides a concise review of all chapters included in the paper without entering any further details.
The thesis comprises four appendices: the first one exemplifies the small culture approach, the second one is a sample of the questionnaire filled in by the students, the third one is a sample of the chart compiled by them, and the fourth one presents in a tabular form the collected data and their analysis.
The bibliography is complete and includes in alphabetical order all the authors and their works mentioned in the thesis.


1 making it big (here) – an idiom meaning being successful in business and life. This is also the subtitle of the simulation game.
2 Hallowell gives an example with Indians attributing communicational meaning to natural phenomenon like thunder. (Hallowell 1964:64)

VIII. Appendix

Download: Appendix in Adobe .PDF format

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Corporate versus academic students when teaching Language for Specific Purposes

Written by: Mihaela Ivan, Lecturer
Roxana Ciolăneanu, Assistant Lecturer
Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest
Abstract
One of the key elements of teaching a language for specific purposes is the tight relationship between the different elements of the teaching process: students’ needs, expectations and motivations, on the one hand, course’s aims, contents, type of progression, syllabus and curricula, on the other hand. However, this relationship is different depending on the type of students we teach and thus we build up the course accordingly. For corporate students (post-experienced learners) we have to take into account their concrete needs, which we can identify by investigating the business line they work in, the communication situations they are exposed to, and, consequently, the skills they need to develop or improve. When we deal with university students (usually pre-experienced learners), we have to obey academic constraints, we anticipate some of our students’ needs in their future professional activity and teach them at a less specialised level.
Teaching a language on specific purposes is the part of language teaching field that best illustrates the action-oriented approach conceived by the authors of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: LSP users and learners are not only “social agents”, but also members of a professional community who need/use certain communicative language competences in order to accomplish  a task “in a given set of circumstances, in a specific environment and within a particular field of action”.[1] We have thus a first perspective on our LSP student; it is on him that we have to focus the whole construction of the LSP course. The key to building up a successful topic-based course is to make a detailed analysis of the students’ needs, expectations and motivations and to establish the course’s main skills, its objectives, contents, syllabus and type of progression accordingly.
Needs, wants and motivations
Many researchers (Nunnan & Lamb, 1996; Vali et al., 1996; Shank & Terrill, 1995, Richterich, 1987) agreed that all language programs should be based on the assessment of students’ needs and wants. These two things are often different and the gap between them depends on the type of student we address our course to:

  1. Pre-experienced or low-experienced students have only a vague idea of what they will do after graduation. Therefore, their needs are difficult to define and their wants and expectations for the LSP course often go over the limits of the professional field. With this kind of students, the teacher as course designer should not only cover a wider range of language skills and go over more communicative situations, but he should also consider including less specialised topics in accordance with his students’ areas of interest.
  2. Post-experienced students are adults learning a language in order to communicate a set of professional skills and to perform job-related tasks. They know very precisely which tasks and which communicative situations they are exposed to. As Kerr[2] (1977) put it a long time ago: “We are dealing, then, with a person who is an expert in his own field and who can perform his various duties adequately in his mother tongue.” In this case, the teacher can easily make a list not only of the language skills to develop/reinforce and of the topics to include in the syllabus, but also of the speech acts for which he has to provide the student with the linguistic means of realisation.  When dealing with post-experienced students, needs and wants often cover the same areas.

In point of motivation, the balance inclines again towards post-experienced learners. They know precisely what their needs are, they know their learning style and they often have a deadline for reaching at least the threshold level, as they need to fulfil their job’s requirements as soon as possible. If we use Rogers’[3] (1996) adult learning terminology, we can say we are dealing with “participants” in the LSP teaching/learning process and the teacher can often find in them a trustable partner when building the syllabus for the course.
Pre-experienced learners are often (except the cases of those who are generally gifted for learning languages) at a low motivational level for the LSP process.  If we refer to L. Porcher[4]’s analysis, we can find some explanations:

  • they have only a narrow range of choices (or even no choice at all) concerning the courses to follow or their contents;
  • the skills and knowledge they get through those courses will be (partially) used only in a relatively distant future;
  • they are generally focused on acquiring the skills and knowledge required for passing the exams ; they don’t have a global perspective of the LSP teaching/learning process;
  • there aren’t concrete professional aims: “not knowing what kind of adults they will be, including on the professional side, students have only few means of analyzing the relevance of the learning process.”

Needs analysis
Needs analysis has been defined as the identification of difficulties and standard situations by combining different methods, such as student observation or testing, interviews and questionnaires.
With post-experienced students, things are quite simple when making a needs analysis project. They can become more complicated at a different stage, when choosing the contents preparing the materials and conceiving a progression, especially if the skills required are too specialised, putting the language teacher in a difficult situation.
There are two ways of starting the needs analysis project, with various advantages and disadvantages:

  1. by giving students a form to fill in;
  2. by asking them questions.
  3. The questionnaire approach is more structured and leads the student through all the elements of the learning/teaching process, but it doesn’t allow him to go into detail.
  4. The interview approach needs a lot of guidelines from the teacher’s part. It allows the student to give details about the professional tasks and situations where his use of the language is required, but it can be difficult to manage, especially with group classes. Even if they come form the same field of activity, they may have different tasks to fulfil and different perspectives on these tasks.

But for getting a more detailed view of what students need, teachers can combine the two methods: thus, students are first asked to fill in the questionnaire, the teacher collects the results, presents them to the class and them starts a group discussion in order to obtain more details and to negotiate priorities.
In point of questionnaire building, there are different options:

  1. By question word (what, when, which, etc) – less structured and less efficient for the teacher when summing up the results;
  2. By time – past, present and future (refers to the use students can make of the language in each of these three times). Past experiences can be misleading and some language skills can be forgotten. It doesn’t offer the students the guidelines he needs.
  3. By place (inside or outside work) – it has to be more specific for a LSP course and based mostly on situations and roles, not on places.
  4. By skills and language – it is structured on a linguistic, but action-oriented basis; under each headline, the teacher can ask details about the use students make of the specific skill.

We will analyze further this type of questionnaire, as we consider it the most efficient for LSP learners. It starts with an enumeration of the skills and language competences (Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, Grammar and Vocabulary) asking students to indicate, in order, the areas they most need to improve their communication skills in LSP. This first question also allows the teacher to assess students’ learning styles: there are analytical learners who feel safer when studying grammar and need guided activities and drills, but there are also communicative learners who learn faster when using audio and visual materials, when listening and conversing and there is also a most difficult type – the teacher centred learners who want teacher to explain and write everything on board and who reject modern teaching materials.
Under each language skill and taking into consideration the students’ field of activity, teachers can draw a list of communication situations learners can be exposed to asking them to thick and order the ones that apply to them. For our case (Business English and French teaching), we can think of a list of business related text types, asking them to order the ones they read and the ones they have to write in English or French:

  • Contracts
  • General interest articles
  • Specialist articles (specify the area)
  • Formal business/ E-mails
  • More informal e-mails
  • Reports
  • Memos
  • Business letters (name the type)
  • Faxes
  • Official notices
  • Agendas
  • Minutes
  • Websites (give example)

For the oral skills, they may be asked only to listen to conferences or presentations, or they may have to participate actively in such a situation, to make phone calls (to whom) or attend meeting (having a certain role to play and a certain goal to meet). Another issue related to the use of oral skills would be the speaking partners. And here we have two sides of the problem: their status (customers, potential customers, direct boss, subordinates, colleagues, etc.) and their nationality (native or non-native speakers).
While post-experienced learners can participate in the process of establishing the course’s objectives and contents, pre-experienced learners have very seldom this opportunity. Their learning process is constrained within the formal education system and they are not allowed to express their needs personally. The syllabus is also based on needs analysis , but we have an one-sided process this time: it is the teacher who tries to assume which will be the students’ professional needs after graduation. This assumption is also based on questionnaires and interviews (with students, with persons who already graduated and work in the field the course is designed for, but also with employers who may state what they need from their future employees), but we don’t have a negotiation of the course’s goals and of the syllabus.
M. Martin-Baltar’s analysis, quoted by L. Porcher (1985)[5] established three needs levels:

  1. Which is the aim for learning a language? What can/want the students do using the language after graduating?
  2. For reaching these goals, which are the language skills they have to acquire? What communication skills do they need?
  3. For acquiring these skills, what kind of linguistic means do they need (vocabulary, morphology, syntax, etc)?

Taking as starting point the scheme offered by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and the results we get form questionnaires, we can conceive a different syllabus for each business field our students are trained for, but they will remain at a more general level than in post-experienced learners’ case.
Thus, for an International Economic Relations graduate, we can state as objectives, the following skills and competences:

  • communicate within the international business environment;
  • identify and synthesize the information concerning the international economic processes;
  • participate in negotiations;
  • manage business and discuss contracts;
  • identify the opportunities, but also the risks of international business;
  • get informed, interpret and apply the rules, laws, stipulations and common practices of the international business environment;
  • get integrated and adapt to professional requirements of multinational companies;
  • get integrated, adapt to, but also manage international teams;
  • write reports and other types of documents specific to international business;

We can see that, although field-oriented, these course objectives do not specify particular communication situations or types of documents. Although oral skills seem to prevail, reading and writing cannot be left aside.
On the contrary for the Accounting section, we have to focus more on reading comprehension, on writing and understanding accounting documents and we deal this time with a more specialised field where precise knowledge and terms are required. However, we have to include oral skills in the syllabus, as discussions, attending and participating in meetings can also occur.
Bibliography

  1. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, Cambridge University Press, 2001
  2. Kerr, L. (1977) ‘English for specific purposes’, in holden, S. (Ed.), English for Specific Purposes, MEP/Macmillan.
  3. Rogers, Alan. (1966).  Teaching Adults (2nd ed.).  Buckingham: Open University Press.
  4. Porcher, Louis (1985): L’intéressant et le demonstrative: à propos de la didactique des langues et des cultures, in ELA, no.60
  5. Richterich, R. (1987): Besoins langagiers et objectifs d’apprentissage, Hachette
  6. Galisson, R, Coste, D. (1976): Dictionnaire de didactique des langues, Hachette
  7. Salloum, Jihad: Définir les besoins langagiers en contexte scolaire, in Le Français dans le Monde, no. 324

[1] Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, Cambridge University Press, p.15
[2] Kerr, L. (1977) ‘English for specific purposes’, in holden, S. (Ed.), English for Specific Purposes, MEP/Macmillan.
[3] Rogers, Alan. (1966).  Teaching Adults (2nd ed.).  Buckingham: Open University Press.
[4] Porcher, Louis (1985): L’intéressant et le demonstrative: à propos de la didactique des langues et des cultures, in ELA, no.60
[5] Idem

Words don’t come easy … but should we really enjoy the silence?

Written by: Desislava Zareva and Simona Bali,
New Bulgarian University, Sofia
The article is based on a workshop we delivered at the 16th BETA conference in Blagoevgrad, 2007.  It offers some practical activities based on song, film and book titles which can be used to practice English in an enjoyable and motivating way.
The major goal of this workshop has been to offer some activities based on song, film and book titles which can be used to recycle vocabulary as well as to practice sentence structure in an enjoyable and motivating way. The underlying idea of introducing such kind of activities is based on our teacher practice in which we have observed that language acquisition takes place more easily when there is no tension and when the topic and the character of the task is relevant to the interests and the expectations of the learners. Revealing the “secret life of words” can create a stimulating atmosphere in the classroom and provoke the students into using their imagination to practice the target language in a non-traditional way.
The first task “Hot Stuff” that we have suggested is based on the use of famous song titles with the aim of writing a message to the rest of the group. The learners are divided into groups of four or five and are given sets of song  titles. They have to choose as many song titles as they want and connect them so as to produce a sensible message. Any kind of transformations are allowed as long as the sentence produced is grammatically and logically correct. This task really challenges the learners’ creativity while strengthening their sense of sentence structure  and improving their ability to produce grammatically correct utterances. Example: It’s a hard life but we are sex bombs and a little bit insane in the brain, so we will survive. For further details, instructions and examples of song titles see the Appendix.
The second task “Just The Way You Are” can be used as a warming up activity to introduce the students to a certain topic. It develops the skills of describing objects, settings, people, emotions, situations in a metaphorical way by means of song or film titles. The learners are asked to think up of three to five song or film titles to describe whatever the topic of the lesson presupposes. This may be their personality, state of mind, favourite place, favourite people, their attitude to a certain issue etc. The songs  or films the learners choose may be ones that they do not like in particular but whose titles reflect the ideas they want to express. They may also be in a different language, which will require from the students to translate them into the target language. The process of choosing a title, referring it to the specific topic and sometimes translating it, leads to a personalization of the topic and greater involvement into the ensuing lesson activities. For further details and instructions see the Appendix.
The next task A: “Guess who’s coming to dinner? B: “E.T.” is a communicative matching activity which involves a lot of creativity good humour and originality. The class is divided into two teams each of which is given a set of film titles to choose from. In a more advanced group the learners may be given the chance to produce their own list of film titles. One of the teams challenges the other team by saying one of their titles and the other team should  find the most suitable ending to the line they hear so that they come up with a witty exchange. The students are allowed to use additional words to the titles they have if they want their reply to make sense. Any logic is welcome as long as the exchanges are grammatically accurate and funny enough. Example: A: “Guess who’s coming to dinner? B: “E.T.” For further details, instructions and examples of song titles see the Appendix.
The last task we offer is an associative chain activity based on the use of titles of any kind – song, book, film, computer game etc. The learners are supposed to listen to their partners carefully and continue the chain with a title which has at least ONE of the words from the previous title. Example:Dances with Wolves è Dirty Dancing è Dirty Harry èWhen Harry Met Sally…If guided by the teacher this activity may be used to practice some topical vocabulary or recycle new words.  For further instructions see the Appendix.
In the course of years our experience as teachers of English has proved that motivation is one of the basic prerequisites for the successful acquisition of a foreign language. As Krashen claims in his theory of second language acquisition, learners with high motivation, self-confidence, a good self-image, and a low level of anxiety are better equipped for success in second language acquisition. Creating strong motivation and a relaxed atmosphere, however, is often time-consuming and requires great efforts on the part of the instructor. Introducing some more creative and stimulating activities like the ones described above may not only serve some language learning purposes but can also increase the learners’ interest into exploring the infinite resources of the target language. We should keep in mind that having fun releases the tension and opens the affective filter wider, which increases the chances of students to acquire the language more easily and enjoyably.
Bibliography:
Krashen, Stephen D. Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning.  Prentice-Hall International, 1988.


Appendix
“Hot Stuff”
Task: Group Work/ pair work activity
Materials needed: For this task you need several sets of song titles, printed on coloured paper and then cut out, so that it is easy to combine them into sentences.  In addition you will need A-3 sheets of paper, glue or blue tack and pens for each group/pair.
Instructions to the teacher: Divide your class into groups of 3-4 students (or pairs).  Each group should receive the instructions and  a set of the materials listed above.  The activity should take about 10-15 minutes.
Instructions for students: Using the materials you find on your table write your message to the rest of the people/groups in the room. Each group is allowed to add up to 5 titles of their own, as well as linking words. Read out/ stick your message to the poster”
Song titles set:
Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman – Time To Say Goodbye
Berlin – Take My Breath Away
Brian May – Too Much Love Will Kill You
No Doubt – Don’t Speak
Sinead O’Connor – Nothing compares to you
Toni Braxton – Un-break My Heart
Black Sabbath – Paranoid
Baha Men – Who Let The Dogs Out
Britney Spears – You drive me crazy
Aerosmith – I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing
Madonna – The power of goodbye
Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out Of My Head
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
Paul Anka – You Are My Destiny
Britney Spears-Oops I Did It Again
Black Sabbath – Paranoid
Supermax – It Ain’t Easy
Santa Esmeralda – Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
Baha Men – Who Let The Dogs Out
Styx – Boat On The River
Baha Men – Who Let The Dogs Out
Queen – Who Wants To Live Forever
Guns ‘n Roses – Welcome To The Jungle
Sam Brown – You’d better stop
Bob Marley – The Sun Is Shining
Bil Haley & The Commets – See You Later Alligator
Troggs – I can’t control myself
Black Sabbath – Paranoid
Abba – Knowing Me Knowing You
Judas Priest – Before The Dawn
NB You can choose your own titles.
“Just The Way You Are”
Task:
Individual work activity
Materials needed: For this task you do not need special preparation – just a few song/film/book titles to describe your own state of mind, mood, etc.
Instructions to the teacher: Point out that this is an individual task and encourage students’ creativity. Set a time limit of 10-15 minutes. Be ready to help with translation.
Instructions for students: Free your imagination and answer the following questions: Which 3 songs best describe your personality in general? Your mood at the moment? Your state of mind? These DO NOT have to be your favourite songs. If you choose songs which are not in English please translate the titles. Justify your choice.
A: “Guess who’s coming to dinner? B: “E.T.”
Task:
Group Work activity
Materials needed: For this task you need two sets of film titles, printed on coloured paper and then cut out, so that they are easy to grab and match.  It is up to you whether you give similar or different lists to both groups.
Instructions to the teacher: Divide your class into two smaller groups .  Each group should receive the instructions and a set of the materials listed above.  The activity should take about 10-15 minutes.  Encourage and praise originality throughout the activity.
Instructions for students: Look at the list of film titles your group has received and listen carefully to the lines you hear from the other group. From your set find the most suitable ending to the line you hear. You are allowed to use additional words to the titles you have if you want your reply to make sense. Any logic is welcome J. When it is your turn, pick out a line from your list and wait for the other group’s response.  Creativity, good humour and originality are encouraged!
Film titles set:
Apocalypse Now
Around the World in 80 Days
The Big Sleep
Blade Runner
Braveheart
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Crying Game
Dangerous Liaisons
Driving Miss Daisy
Face Off
Basic Instinct
Gone in 60 seconds
The Godfather
Good Fellas
Modern Times
My Life as a Dog
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Heat
When A Man Loves a Woman
Raging Bull
Secrets & Lies
The Silence of the Lambs
Singin’ In the Rain
Some Like It Hot
Star Wars
Taxi Driver
Women on the Verge of a Nervous
Breakdown
As Good As It Gets
The Usual Suspects
American Beauty
Sin City
The Fast And The Furious
Independence day
The English Patient
Scent of a Woman
Out of Africa
Dances with Wolves → Dirty Dancing → Dirty Harry → When Harry Met Sally…
Task: Group or a whole class activity.
Instructions for students: This is a chain activity. Listen to your partner carefully . You should continue the chain with a title (song, book, film, computer game, etc) which has at least ONE of the words from the title you hear.

Approaching Marketing Concepts from a CLT perspective

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.

Introduction

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.
Characters:

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;
b.to be in charge;
c.to accept someone’s idea or plan;
d.to 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;
h.an 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;
l.to have arguments against one’s opinion;
m.on their way to success;
n. express or state clearly;
o.get more work and sales;
p.to 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.

Conclusions

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.

References:

  • Berardo, S.A., 2006, “The Use of Authentic Materials in the Teaching of Reading”, in The Reading Matrix, vol. 6, no. 2, www.readingmatrix.com
  • 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, www.oup.com/elt
  • www.tv.com/the_apprentice/drive_thru_duel/
  • http://tv.yahoo.com/the_apprentice/show/35539
  • http://www.nbc.com/The_Apprentice_6/

Change the record? (Just off the record)

Written by: Svetlana Tashevska (NBU),
Svetlana Dimitrova, PhD (NBU)
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This article, like the interactive talk on which it is based, focuses on some practicalities and benefits of keeping a teacher’s portfolio. We invite you, the reader, to adopt an active stance and through reflection, discussion, and hands-on experience of ‘designing’ a development log and an action plan, you may feel more confident to take charge of steering your career and to be an active agent in educational change in our country.

Introduction

The on-going developments in the area of foreign language teaching over the last decade and especially in the methodology of teaching English as a foreign language (e.g. the use of modern information and communication technologies /ICT/ in the process of teaching and learning foreign languages, the introduction of content-language integrated learning /CLIL/ in the syllabus, improving communicative and social skills, as well as fostering learner autonomy through project work, etc.), have made us all aware of the need to consciously invest time and effort in the acquisition of new professional knowledge and skills and the refinement of our professional competence. Additionally, Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union has given new emphasis to the importance of life-long learning and continuous professional development (references 2 and 3)[1]. In the context of reform, the Bulgarian ministry of education has also advanced the need for differential remuneration of teachers’ professional performance and proposed a framework of relevant assessment criteria for general discussion (cf. http://www.minedu.government.bg/opencms/export/sites/mon/ documents/07-03-26_kriterii_ocenka.pdf).
In the present article we will revisit some aspects of professional development from the point of view of keeping record of growth and planning for future action. Portfolio samples and authors’ experience will be used as an illustration and a starting point for discussion, but you will be invited to share your own ideas and experience by answering some thought-provoking questions and doing a couple of activities leading to reflection and awareness of own potential.

Aims for documenting our professional achievements and experience

Before you go on reading, please think about the following questions:
Q 1: Have you ever had to compile/ maintain a record of your professional achievements?
Q 2: What was the need for doing it?
Q 3: What happened to the file of documents after it served its immediate purpose?

  • Certification of professional competence
    More often than not we compile documents of our professional experience and growth in order to certify our professional competence when graduating or accrediting our professional status; when applying for a job, a higher post or a pay-rise; when competing for project funds, grants, etc.
  • Accountancy
    Sometimes we need to provide well-organized over-time evidence on the basis of which to receive acknowledgement of our professional competence and performance by internal or external quality assessment bodies such as directors of studies, head teachers, methodologists, teacher-trainers, ministry of education experts, OPTIMA[2] inspectors, boards for assigning project funds or placing candidates on exchange programmes and others. We are also required to do it when our educational institution is in the process of accreditation.
    But is it all just for the record? To boast how good we are at what we do and how we do it in front of other members of the broad professional community. Is it just a shop window that we want to dress for others to admire and comment on the quality of the items displayed?
  • Professional development
    Probably the most important function of keeping a record of our professional experience is to empower us to continue our professional development. It offers immense potential for critically reflecting on our diverse experience gained over time, leading on not only to confidence-boosting tangibility of growth, but also to the ability to identify areas which need attention and set priorities for self-development. Gradually we find ourselves more capable of planning for and managing change in our professional life.

Portfolio components

Before you go on reading, please think about the following questions:
Q 4: If you have ever had a professional portfolio, what did you include in it? What would you put in it, if you started one now?
Q 5: What were/ would be your considerations for ordering the materials in your record?
Q 6: Did you ever feel the need to change anything in your portfolio (in its content or structure)?
Here follows an example of what may be included in a professional portfolio. The list is an open-ended one: we can include whatever documents we feel best reveal our professional competence (given the specific purpose and relevant audience) or help us improve our performance by critically reviewing them:

  • college/ university diplomas of professional qualification;
  • lesson plans and self-evaluations;
  • self-designed teaching materials (incl. tests);
  • samples of students’ work (incl. ones with our feedback on);
  • photos from lessons (e.g. group work or our use of the board), videotaped classroom activities, etc.;
  • certificates of [further] training / seminars;
  • certificates from professional forums (e.g. conferences)
  • book reviews, articles and other printed or web publications that we have;
  • evidence of participation in (inter-)national projects;
  • references (by trainers, directors/ head-teachers, parents, etc.);
  • peer feedback on professional performance;
  • etc.

The way we arrange the documents in our portfolio will depend on the purpose we compile it for (e.g. to receive acknowledgement, gain a position, secure a pay-rise, initiate self-development, etc.). If we will share it with others (present it to potential employers, display it to inspectors for assessment, or simply use it as a springboard to exchange ideas with colleagues, etc.), among other factors, it is probably worth considering its volume – specialists recommend reducing its size to the reader-friendly amount of about a dozen documents which holistically present our professional competence (cp. Seldin 1997). It is also good to remember that records can be broken and we can outdo our last performance. In other words, the content of a portfolio is not permanent and replacing older samples with more recent ones to reflect our professional growth is an important part of keeping an updated version of our record.

Looking back [3]

Before you go on reading, please think about the following question:
Q 7: Did / Would you use any headings, labels, tags, etc. to assist orientation in your portfolio?
When compiling the evidence of our professional experience and growth, most of us usually stop after listing what we did and when it happened, and placing the relevant document in the professional dossier. But is it just the record that matters? To the external assessor of our archive it would be much more interesting and important to find out our rationale for doing it, the benefit that we have gained from it as well as how we have applied it in our work. So it is high time we “changed the record” and started keeping a truly professional portfolio. Some useful headings are exemplified in the following diagram:
Development Log
[fivecol_one]What I did[/fivecol_one] [fivecol_one]When I did it[/fivecol_one] [fivecol_one]Why I did it[/fivecol_one] [fivecol_one]What I learnt[/fivecol_one] [fivecol_one_last]How I used it[/fivecol_one_last]
This way of organizing our record of professional experience could be especially useful when we look back at it at a later stage and reflect on the path covered. We may find that chronological order is no longer the most appropriate one for presenting the complete picture of our professional competence. The new logic of arranging the evidence may be on the basis of priorities at different stages of our development. For instance, if we need to emphasize an aspect such as a recent increased awareness of the principles of designing classroom tests, we can use a corresponding label/ heading and include the relevant proof.
Finally, it is recommended that we allot time on a regular basis to look back, reflect on and document our development through keeping a development log.
What follows are two examples of entries in a development log from the authors’ own experience – one from the point of view of a teacher, and the other – from that of a teacher trainer:

Teacher: Teacher-trainer:
What I did
Attended a BETA conference workshop on creating poetry in the ELT classroom Read a book [Tsui, A. (1995) “Introducing Classroom Interaction”, London: Penguin English]
When I did it
May 2006, 15th BETA Conference in Plovdiv Dec. 2006 – Jan. 2007
Why I did it
Wanted to
find new ways of motivating my students;
learn how to incorporate creative writing (poetry) in my classes;
improve my language competence.
was approached for a teacher-training seminar on aspects of classroom management;
from teaching practice observation I feel that classroom interaction needs addressing.
What I learnt
some new EFL teaching techniques (and how to make learning fun)
some new classroom management techniques;
got some ready to use ELT materials.
confirmed intuitively felt conclusions;
learnt more about the nature of classroom interaction;
collected ideas for possible research.
How I used it
Applied it my EFL intermediate class the following week. It worked well: all students got very involved, even the weaker ones contributed (see attached samples of students’ poems) incorporated some of the ideas / findings in my seminar;
updated/ enriched FLT lectures for student teachers;
increased potential for possible diploma theses supervision.

Before you go on reading, please do the following task:
Q 8: Think of your own example of a teacher development event/ activity and, using the headings above, start your own development log.

Looking forward

When keeping a record of our development, it is logical to look back and analyze what we have done and how it has helped us grow. Equally important, though, is to look forward and base further action on the analysis and increased awareness after the experience. Planning for future action then will show the direction and ways for further development. It will help us build up not only useful work-related skills and abilities, but others, related to personal development, as well. Teachers who are both personally and professionally aware are more likely to be confident in their potential, abilities and power for managing change. It is most satisfying to be an active agent in one’s own professional growth and in developments in education as a whole.
Just like with the development log, to list events and dates in a plan is insufficient. A good starting point for a development plan is identifying short term and longer term objectives. If it is to be a real development plan, we also need to consider what our exact needs are, specific appropriate ways of proceeding, resources needed, and ways of measuring attainment of objectives.
Development Log
[fivecol_one]What I need/want to learn[/fivecol_one] [fivecol_one](By) When[/fivecol_one] [fivecol_one]How I will do it[/fivecol_one] [fivecol_one]What support/resources I will need[/fivecol_one] [fivecol_one_last]How I will measure success[/fivecol_one_last]
Here, we have included an example of an entry in a development plan from our own experience.

  • What I need/ want to learn
Want to learn how to make effective basic PowerPoint presentations
Need this practical skill for a conference
  • (By) When [dates]
    • in the short term – presentation in 6 weeks’ time (20-23 Feb.)
    • in the longer term – more professional style of presentations, lectures, etc. on other occasions in the future
  • How I will do it
Attend a PowerPoint training seminar, organized for lecturers at NBU
  • What support/ resources I will need
    • PowerPoint software;
    • Possibly consultations with seminar facilitator after training;
    • assistance for more complicated PowerPoint tasks from colleagues (involved in the project to be presented)
  • How I will measure success
Being able to design:

  • the forthcoming conference presentation;
  • subsequent ones.

It is important to be realistic in our goals and prioritize – consider what is reasonably possible and achievable within the target time frame. Otherwise, the result may be a demotivating rather than satisfying experience.
It should also be noted that both formal and informal learning experiences deserve being included in the plan. Not only work-related activities (such as teacher training seminars) help our growth. A course in mountain guiding attended, for instance, has as much potential for development as a professional course. However, a course in itself is not professional development – it is what we can do as a result that makes us better professionals.
Before you go on reading, please do the following task:
Q 9: Think of an activity and, using the headings above, start planning it.

Conclusion

We shall feel rewarded if through the interactive approach of our article we have managed to encourage reflection on professional experience and future development, to raise awareness of the potential of the portfolio log and plan to boost confidence and empower for change.
Among the added value of keeping such a record of professional achievements is the ability to determine meaningful objectives for professional growth and to identify relevant aspects for (self-)assessment of development. Changing in the light of what has been learnt and achieved is not only easier but also important for effective reform – i.e. one which is not imposed from without but the need for which is felt from within. To our mind, the best way to change the record is through incorporating initiatives from the grass-root level: thus by successfully steering their own career individuals also influence change in the wider educational context.

References:

  1. Seldin, P. (1997) The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improved Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions. (2nd edition) Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing
  2. Teaching and Learning: Towards the Learning Society (The White Paper) (1995) Brussels: Commission of the European Communities
  3. The Bologna Declaration of 19th June 1999. Joint declaration of the European Ministers of Education

[1] There are special systems in place for management of continuous professional development (CPD) in many European countries.
[2] Българската асоциация за качествени езикови услуги
[3] The reflection activities in the following two sections are based on some unpublished distance DELTA (Diploma of English Language Teaching to Adults) materials used for training Cambridge ESOL DELTA teachers in Sofia. However, the examples and the reasoning behind them are our own.

Science Across the World in Teacher Training

Written by: Lida Schoen, educational consultant,
former teacher trainer, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Science Across the World is an exchange programme between schools world wide, based on two pillars: existing resources for students (age 10-16) and a database with participating schools.
Amsterdam Teacher Training College offers Science Across the World as an elective course to Dutch and European Erasmus students. They work in international interdisciplinary groups. They study the Science Across the World website  and write an implementation plan for their teaching practice school.
Science Across the World in Teacher Training

‘Says Bas, teacher student in Amsterdam, the Netherlands:
‘Exchanging facts and opinions about renewable energy with teacher students from the University of Teheran in Iran is quite exciting. We learned that Iran constructed 77 big dams in different rivers to be used for building hydropower plants. Most of the references we received were in Arabic. A real challenge to get translations, so we could check! It wasn’t easy for the Iranian students to exchange, their English was insufficient, so their professor had to help with translations, wonderful he invested so much time to help his students. We also exchanged with teacher students in Ireland, with them we discussed how to introduce the Science Across the World programme in our schools.’

This paper deals with introducing Science Across the World in teacher training. With increasing globalisation in the next decades the largest, easy to use, global exchange programme Science Across the World can help to achieve aims of modern education in all countries. Teacher Training can help with training student teachers in international collaboration on school level.
Science Across the World: exploring science locally – sharing insights globally
Science Across the World is a global internet based exchange programme for students (age 10-16): www.scienceacross.org. It provides a forum for students to exchange facts and opinions with young people in other countries through a unique series of compact resource topics on science, environmental issues and social science in up to eighteen languages.
Each topic has clearly defined aims and includes clearly laid out student and teacher pages. The students work by collecting information, data and forming opinions about the different topics and exchange their findings with other schools worldwide, through a common Exchange Form available on the website.
Most topics offer extensive help for language teachers and for science teachers to use English as a working language.
Students are asked to bring into class information, data and opinions about the topic under study, based on their own personal experience and research in their own town, neighbourhood and families. Information is collated and summarised on the Exchange Form. This form is then sent to the schools, which have been selected from the database of registered schools. This communication may be performed in the mother tongue or a foreign language.
Follow up sessions take place after Exchange Forms from other countries have arrived. Discussions usually reveal many cultural differences.
The Science Across the World programme started in 1990. On 31 October 2007 the website counts 5800 registered teachers in 132 countries.

Topics
Of the 13 subjects available at present, 10 are meant for secondary education, 2 for primary.

  • Acid Rain
  • Biodiversity around us
  • Chemistry in our Lives
  • Climate Change
  • Domestic waste
  • Drinking Water
  • Eating and Drinking (for primary students)
  • Global Warming
  • Keeping Healthy (picture from topic)
  • Plants and me (for primary students)
  • Renewable Energy
  • Talking about Genetics
  • What do you eat?

All Science Across the World topics can be used in cross curricular education. This has obvious applications for language learning. The language teacher can use authentic texts, authentic messages between students in a foreign language and this can be helpful with translating data on the Exchange Form.
Science Across the World in the Netherlands
Amsterdam Teacher Training College offers Science Across the World as an elective course to Dutch and European Erasmus students. These students work in international interdisciplinary groups with the support of an electronic learning environment. They undertake an introductory study of the Science Across the World programme using the website and then choose a particular topic which they study in more detail. The entire course and the work of the students are presented in English. In the second part of the project,  the students write an implementation plan for their teaching practice school.
Apart from the weekly meetings with the whole group, an electronic learning environment is used and this provides opportunities for a mutual agenda, chatting, emailing, organising a group archive and collaborating on a document.
Topic groups
A group of students chooses a topic, carry out all activities (from either the student pages in English or from the translation in Spanish or Dutch) and fill in the Exchange Form.
Ellen (Gent, Belgium): I collaborated with Jaskara from Curaçao. We compared our diets and we concluded there are many differences.
Because of Estel (Barcelona, Spain) all teaching, presenting and communication was in English.
Estel: This was a real challenge for me. Sometimes I didn’t understand a concept, but it was a chance to polish my English.
After completing, the students look at the topic with (future) teachers’ eyes. They search the web for useful additional links for the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.
This phase of the course ends with a (PowerPoint or web) presentation about products and the process with the students of other groups as a critical audience. The picture shows Ellen and Jaskara preparing their joint presentation.
During the second part of the course the students write a realistic implementation plan for a real school with e.g.:

  • how to convince the school management to take part in the programme (subjects, costs, history);
  • collaboration with (a) colleague(s);
  • benefits for the school, teachers, students;
  • what to do with the results, apart from discussing the Exchange Forms from other countries (exhibition, open/parents days, regional media coverage);

and after approval from the management a concrete scenario for the lessons with e.g.:

  • substitute or enrich part(s) of the curriculum;
  • class management;
  • evaluation (related to aims).

Julie’s reflections on the course (Brugge, Belgium: primary education)

At the start we got a lot of information. I had to get used to this way of teaching. The teacher students in the Netherlands get more independent tasks and less class room teaching than Belgian students. In Belgium the teacher explains everything in 30 teaching periods a week. I felt very insecure and ‘stupid’. This was a real concern, but in the end I got answers on all my questions!
I learned to produce a PowerPoint presentation and other computer skills: e.g to collaborate on one Word document. I could even introduce illustrations and links to Internet sites, related to ‘Eating and Drinking’ for Belgian primary schools, in our final presentation. I was so proud…. During the presentations we learned about the other student’s subjects. Afterwards we had to ask questions about the content and had to offer improvements, also about the (computer) technique used in the presentation and about the presenting. That was not easy.
The good thing about Science Across the World is the ready made materials, as well as for the students and for the teacher. The students carry out their own investigations and exchange information with other students in countries all over the world. A wonderful idea!

In the 2005 course students from the math and history departments joined, so we worked in a cross curricular group. The history students wrote additional exchange materials for the ‘What did you eat?’ topic: the history of food since the Middle Ages till now. teachers and students exchanging on this topic can decide together to use this extra subject, eg to learn how to consult historical sources. For math we explored possibilities to handle data received from exchange forms from other schools statistically, so the math teacher can join the cross curricular Science Across the World team in the end phase of a project. The pictures shows the ‘Food’ group with a lot of Belgian input. We also explored possibilities to use the Science Across the World programme for subjects related to citizenship, which is an issue in many countries. Too many subjects to study them in depth, we just made a start and will go on!