ESP News

ESP News, Volume 14:2 (December 2009)

by User Not Found | 11/08/2011

ESP News

In This Issue...

  • Articles and Announcements
    • 2009 Open Meeting Report
    • Effective Technical Communication in Cross-Cultural Contexts
    • ESP Notes From the Field: Technology and the Corporate Training Room

Articles and Announcements

2009 Open Meeting Report

2009 Meeting Report

ESPIS Open Meeting

43rd Annual TESOL Convention and Exhibit

Room 709, Colorado Convention Center, Denver, CO, USA

In Chair: Shahid Abrar ul Hassan (ESPIS Chair for 2009-10)

Minutes: David Kertzner (ESPIS Chair-Elect for 2009-10)

Shahid inaugurated the open meeting by welcoming everyone. The meeting began with a brainstorming session. A number of ideas were offered by the participants, both veteran and new ESPers, and it was unanimously agreed to pursue the following issues during the 2009-10 term:

  • A panel discussion will be arranged at the 2010 TESOL Convention for emerging and new ESP practitioners. A virtual discussion list will be established to link grad students and new ESPers. Alisa (a Taiwanese ESP student) was tasked on her own initiative to organize an ESP grad student forum—a group to help students get started. Though TESOL has a grad student forum, it is not specific to ESP. It was suggested that we start a discussion group for ESP grad students.
  • More representation of nonnative-English-speaking (NNS) voices will be encouraged because most ESPers are nonnative speakers. In fact, ESP definitions and practice tend to be expressed from the ESP practitioners’ point of view in traditional anglophone countries. NNS voices are underrepresented and need to be heard.
  • Setting up InterSection presentations for 2010 TESOL: We should approach NNEST, CALL, and EFLIS, among others, to have an InterSection on ESP teacher education. It was also realized that ESP teacher education is not adequately focused in the interest section. Regarding ESP teacher training, we need to foster relationships or help develop regional training centers around the world. There is a great center in Alexandria, Egypt, and in Hong Kong.
  • The e-list needs to be active.Marvin and Carolyn Dempsey could address this issue.
  • An ESP document/booklet delineating what ESP is planning. Shahid suggested disseminating such a document electronically, including a section on best practices that would help fulfill the interest section’s objectives.
  • A theoretical perspective on language learning in ESP is relatively less emphasized. We need a sound theoretical perspective on how people learn in ESP situations.
  • Research in ESP needs to be promoted and those ESPers who are active reached will be encouraged to present/share their research at the interest section.
  • It was also agreed to make contact with other major international teacher organizations, such as Asia TEFL, IATEFL, and those in Latin America.
  • Presentation proposal in the following areas will be recruited:
    • needs analysis
    • ESP stakeholders
    • course objectives
    • evaluations
    • cost/benefit analysis
    • needs assessment
    • marketing ESP products
  • In order to add teacher voices to an electronic link, David K. offered his server for ESPIS members to post documents, video, and audio on. He will put up a demo page in the coming months.

ESPIS Leaders 2009

Effective Technical Communication in Cross-Cultural Contexts

Charles Elerick, Professor of Languages and Linguistics, The University of Texas, El Paso

Involvement in English for specific purposes (ESP) instruction and materials development can lead to larger projects. My earlier work in developing online ESP materials to promote skills in technical communication motivated my University of Texas at El Paso engineering colleagues to secure my participation in a five-year National Science Foundation grant under its Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program. I have support to build an online course, “Technical Communication in Multicultural Environments,” which will deal with the linguistic and extralinguistic factors that attend technical communication in such settings, factors that engineers and technical personnel must deal with effectively in order to promote and maintain high-level professional outcomes.

As suggested, this project involves two simultaneous goals. The first is to teach technical communication that supports uncompromisingly high engineering practices; the second is to do this in ways that recognize that well-trained professionals respond to situations and workplace sociology in culture-specific ways.

These goals require attention to issues such as the following:

  • assertion of professional knowledge and contrary findings up the authority/status cline
  • approaches to planning including lead time, coordination, and contingency
  • professional explicitness and culturally valued nonassertiveness as imperatives in competition
  • equipment maintenance (with attention to productivity, protection of invested capital, worker safety, and environmental protection)
  • expressed and unexpressed meaning

In turn, these questions must be folded back into exercises and assignments in technical communication that address engineering and technical issues as such.

Any suggestions regarding instructional approaches, topics to be addressed, existing materials, or bibliography from colleagues interested in these dimensions of technical communication would be most welcome. Going forward, I hope to make available new materials and strategies that will be of interest to other colleagues and programs.

ESP Notes From the Field: Technology and the Corporate Training Room

David Kertzner, Managing Director, ProActive English

English for specific purposes (ESP) trainers in corporate settings often deliver language and communication training in state-of-the-art conference rooms that include sophisticated conference call systems and excellent projection capabilities. Many ESP program participants use such technology on a daily basis in their work. ESP trainers, however, may struggle to use such technology in pedagogically meaningful and innovative ways during training.

My colleague, Margaret Lyman, and I have developed several effective training modules that capitalize on the technology tools available—particularly conference call systems. Here is one example of what we do.

At a recent set of onsite classes for a client with teams of market analysts in India, China, Taiwan, and Korea, we used the company’s conference call system to record conference calls during class sessions among training participants and their managers. We then used the recording of that call for “training purposes”—just like the recorded message says sometimes when you call a company for help!

The activity works well with advanced-level nonnative speakers—or virtually fluent native-like speakers (such as India)—but we have also done this with intermediate-level speakers in corporate settings and they have found it helpful as well.

Here are some pointers if you want to try such an activity in your training situation.


Introduction of Language and Communication Behaviors Over Several Training Sessions

Because so much communication among our global teams occurs via conference call, we spent a significant amount of training time before the conference call activity working on what we call “conference call communication behaviors.” This included a series of short activities (about an hour each) that focused on

  • Demonstrating interest in others on the conference call
  • Formulating analytical questions that deepen discussions
  • Responding to questions by
    • Clarifying the question (if necessary);
    • Acknowledging the question and demonstrating understanding;
    • Responding succinctly; and
    • Finishing with a “toss back.”
  • Active listening
  • Speaking succinctly when making points or presenting information

Setting Up the Call With a Manager

In companies with global teams, managers or colleagues typically hold conference calls in which they

  • share information with colleagues (using a “deck” of slides) about new products or company services
  • get or give updates on clients
  • get or give information about ongoing projects or business processes

Before the course began, we contacted managers of our course participants and asked them if they would be willing to conduct a 15- to 30-minute conference call with the group on a topic of their choosing. Though some managers were too busy, most were delighted to participate. It helped that we had already established credibility and trust by asking for manager input during the assessment process.

Arranging to Record the Call

Corporate conference calls are set up on internal conferencing systems that usually allow the call to be recorded. We asked the person setting up the call to check a box on the internal system that allowed the call to be recorded. The system allowed us to receive a temporary password so that we could download the .mp3 file of the recorded call within 72 hours of the call being completed. We were then able to play highlights from the call in the next class using free software like Audacity to edit it into smaller, usable chunks.


Manager Role

Managers were asked to provide a simple rationale for the call. One manager, for example, put together 11 slides that showed the features of a new product the company had developed. He wanted input on the product from the team (the class) in Beijing, because their clients would be using the product.

Course Participants

The class was divided into two groups of four people (with less than six people, we would have had just one group). The first group was on the call for the first 10 minutes while the second group observed and took notes on communication behaviors. Then, the two groups switched roles. For the group on the call, one person was the facilitator, responsible for managing time, involving others as needed, and staying on agenda. This scenario does not exactly mimic the typical call for the participants, but it is often the first time they have been responsible for anything other than responding to questions during a call. The learning from that experience alone can be significant. The trainer also took notes on all behaviors and had the authority to jump in and address communication issues if a teachable moment presented itself during the call.

After the call ended, we asked the participants to offer reflective comments on the experience. Then we asked the manager to comment on how he or she thought the call went. Finally, the trainer provided feedback and the class reviewed their notes from their observation time. The learning can be significant, though this process is often not as much about language as it is about addressing questions about behaviors, such as these:

  • How do I jump into the conversation?
  • How do I stop myself from speaking in long chunks?
  • What do I do when I get lost in the conversation?
  • How do I respond to jokes?
  • Is it impolite to say my manager’s name or a client’s name? Disagree? Correct an error by my manager?

Follow-Up Activities

Reviewing the audio of a 20- to 30-minute conference call can take several hours. However, the material generated can fill the entire next class and beyond. Tools like Audacity allow you to create short clips that provide excellent, real examples of communication behaviors you want participants to correct or emulate. As the teacher preparing the audio, listen to the recording once through and write down the time in the conversation of examples you want to share with the class. Select no more than 10 examples, using the editing function of Audacity, but use only 5 in the follow-up class session.

Final Thoughts

Language and communication training in corporate settings is most effective when the chosen activities allow program participants to recognize the immediate, practical applications of what was learned or practiced during a class session.

The activity described above allows participants to communicate in class using the same technology tools they use every day at work. The activity allows trainers to provide much needed feedback that participants don’t get otherwise from colleagues and supervisors. But most important, the activity allows program participants to listen to themselves—most for the first time—reflect on how they engage in conference calls, and, with the support of the trainer, communicate more effectively the next time they have to do it “for real” at work.

For more information on this activity and other ways we have approached training in an onsite corporate setting, contact David Kertzner at 503-231-2906 or