Academic journal article The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education

Challenges and Perspectives in Teaching Specialised Languages

Academic journal article The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education

Challenges and Perspectives in Teaching Specialised Languages

Article excerpt

1 The functions of communication at work

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects in teaching specialized languages is the establishment of the types of words and expressions that occur. Research has shown that new words enter the general and specialised vocabulary of English as technology pushes humanity forwards. According to their frequency and range, we may have field specific lexical items (a very limited number), lexical items also belonging to more than one ESP fields, multi-word sense segments or compounds appear. Polysemes and homonyms, function words and general service words evolve. As technology pushes society forwards, new and sometimes unexpected discourses are created.

Hymes (1962) puts forward an account of the factors that must be taken into consideration when trying to describe what happens when people use language: where the exchange takes place - the setting refers to the concrete physical circumstance in which communication takes place, e.g. conference rooms, workshops, etc. The scene refers to psychological and cultural circumstances of the communicative situation, e.g. inviting, advising, pleading, and instructing. Ends are the conventionally recognised and expected outcome of an exchange, as well as personal goals that each of the participants tries to accomplish. Keys refer to the tone, manner in which a particular message is conveyed. He also mentioned the choice of channel, as well as norms of interpretation, and norms of interaction, followed by the genre that has to be recognised, e.g. e-mails, internal regulations, articles, technical specifications, price lists, advertisements, etc.

Professional contexts are often characterized in terms of how interactions occur, as well as the behaviour and language one is expected to find. Crowther and Green proposed a definition that specifically designates the discourse of engineering as having the following characteristics: "One could talk about the discourse of engineering: a world view on engineering which has emerged and has been sustained through bodies ... The discourse produces engineers through training; the embodied engineers then practise the discourse of engineering in their working lives" (Crowther, & Green 2004:137). Any approach to the discourse of engineering should take into account such issues as: who the language users are, what kind of language they use in their professional surroundings and how effective communication skills influence professional success.

The general objectives of communication in our professional lives are believed to be:

· to persuade; a car maker displaying a model of a new car and the politician urging his audience to vote for him have the same objective of persuading others;

· to provide information; a science teacher demonstrating an experiment, the bank announcing a reduction in interest rates and the finance minister, presenting the budget are all providing information;

· To maintain socio-professional relations;

· To express our emotions.

According to Camp and Satterwhite (2002) there are four main purposes of communication:

· To inquire - to find out information in various ways;

· To inform - to disseminate information using channels of communication that are available;

· To persuade - to influence people and cause them to change their minds;

· To develop goodwill - to form and maintain cordial relationships with people around you.

Cultural and technological forces are now (re)shaping the world. It is becoming more and more evident that in the light of the new developments and the broad access to information, communication has a central place in the orderly functioning of society in general. Professional communication in multidisciplinary teams requires the presence of specialists with expertise in various fields, working on joint projects in the field of production, services, etc. Furthermore, what is required is the presence of interactional skills, rapport building, the ability to ask for and give detailed information and clarifications. …

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