Using Webquests for Oral Communication in English as a Foreign Language for Tourism Studies

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the last few years, Schools of Tourism have increased in number everywhere in Europe from Ireland to Spain. Although five or six years ago, many expected written communication (synchronic and asynchronic communication) to prevail in specific purpose foreign language education, recent developments in technology have changed this belief dramatically. The power of images transmitted by Internet video conferencing and the possibility of attaching video files to written messages have turned teachers towards the vital need to develop students' oral production, more specifically in English as a foreign language for tourism. Additionally, all the latest Internet-based technology requires certain training that not all students bring to the class. In a school experiment done only three years ago at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain it was noticed that many students lack the appropriate necessary resources to manage themselves electronically (Garcia Laborda, 2002). Thus, they can chat and send emails every day but they have difficulties with the use of Internet for professional development (Garcia Laborda, 2004). Estimates of the number of students who can work using a foreign language properly after graduation in activities such as searching for tickets, contrasting tourism information or finding economic studies or reports online vary according to different teachers in many Tourism colleges. Colleges like Gandia (Universidad Politecnica de Valencia) have introduced many subjects devoted to the specific use of computers for Tourism including Amadeus or Computers I & II. Additionally, foreign language classes have started to include computer skills use for communication. an important component in new technologies for communication. To do so, asynchronic communication experiences started in 2000 in cooperation with Valdosta State University. They seemed to work efficiently for a while but introducing speech communication procedures has been more difficult. Apart from issues of security, there is the additional difficulty of controlling the students' talk. A further problem has been the different perspectives towards the role of the Internet in professional communication which are frequently used in learning tasks in Content Based Language Learning such as contrasting technical business communication or, for instance, a meeting to negotiate bulk rates between two travel consulting companies versus the ordinary customer attention, as in a travel agency

simulation.

Some of these problems of training and communication have traditionally been solved through students' simulated interviews, role plays or other classroom tasks. However, it is not unusual that these exercises become decontextualized because the market nowadays changes easily. For instance, air travel varies greatly according to the

changing price of fuel. Therefore, it is necessary to provide students with the required information that can place them in the type of near-to-real situations that they can expect to face upon their university graduation. As a consequence, the speaking needs for most Tourism students are (Garcia Laborda 2002): professional speech, contextualized tasks, efficient and current information and opportunities to interact with students of different nationalities. In addition, students also need a certain fluency in their expression, and the capability of using adequate vocabulary acquired both passively and actively. This vocabulary is usually acquired through oral interaction but also through reading (Shanahan, 2006; Krashen, 1998; Cho & Krashen, 1994; Krashen, 1989). The Internet offers a unique opportunity for natural unmodified input that textbooks can seldom match. Finally, the Internet has a significant role in promoting Content Based Language Learning in English classes for business (Luzon Marco, 2002, 2001).

From the Students' Needs to Webquests: Theoretical Support

Luzon Marco (2003) has given examples of different uses of webquests in the teaching of ESP. …