This volume presents a selection of eight papers presented at three symposia on English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and English for Academic Purposes (EAP) that were held at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy. The experiences detailed in the chapters offer a representative sample of the diversity of approaches to teaching and assessing ESP and EAP that were shared on those occasions. The contributions vary markedly by teaching and research context: whereas some report the results of meticulously planned research projects, others describe in detail cases embedded in specific contexts in Italy and in the US; others analyse the specialised language of particular discourses or domains, or reflect upon teaching methods and materials.
Learner autonomy is often many different things to many people but Holec’s early definition that it is “the ability to take charge of one’s learning… to have, and to hold, the responsibility for all the decisions concerning all aspects of this learning” (1981, p. 3) is still extremely influential today. “All aspects” include decisions about the objectives of a course, defining the course contents, and even evaluating what has been acquired. In the context of teaching English at Italian universities, however, this vision can be challenging or even impossible to implement, given the vast number of limitations imposed upon undergraduate programmes from all the different stakeholders involved. This chapter will present an action research project whose aim has been to actively include students in the decision-making processes of an advanced English for specific academic purposes (ESAP) syllabus for economics students at the Free University of Bozen- Bolzano. Parts of the ESAP syllabus, including assessment means, are negotiated with the students in order to allow them to contribute directly to the course contents. In this way, not only does this approach promote learner autonomy as envisaged by Holec, but it also attempts to address the language needs of each individual learner, as each member of the class has the right and opportunity to contribute. The chapter will present the approach to the negotiated syllabus, problems encountered during the study and some of the results of the syllabus implemented, including evaluation from the students themselves.
Teaching English to Refugees in Italy: A Case Study
The story begins with a desire to make a difference in an Italian community by offering English classes to refugees. The intent was to help participants integrate into the local community and increase their chances for success if continuing on to another country. In practice, many of the things teachers thought they knew about teaching, from prior experience, mostly with adults, were based on assumptions that simply were not relevant in this specific context. In short, it quickly became clear that a thorough needs analysis and thoughtful consideration about participant and teacher expectations were essential in order for the course to reach its objectives. In this case, needs analysis was an opportunity for teachers to question and re-examine their teaching styles to better assess and effectively confront the real-life immediate needs of their students and update the course design accordingly. Trial and error and subsequent careful reflection directed teachers to move away from the teacher-centred approach often relied on in the adult English classroom at the Associazione Italo Americana del FVG/American Corner Trieste and instead take a closer look at the success of the children’s program to see if the strategies employed there could be adapted for an adult audience with varying levels of ability and prior educational exposure. This led to a shift towards experiencebased learning. Unlike the children’s program, however, which used STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) principles as a general approach, it was hypothesized that teaching so-called Life Skills in English would meet the real-life needs of refugees in their new context and, at the same time, allow all participants to thrive in their own individual way. The change to experience-based learning proved successful in the refugee classroom and was later applied to all adult courses at the Association.
Reshaping the Language of Mathematics and Physics: Some Intersemiotic and Interlinguistic Issues
This chapter aims to analyze some of the transformations the highly specialized languages of mathematics and physics undergo when adapted in the production of cultural goods, namely popular television productions. On this basis, it explores new teaching methodologies which might render the languages of these disciplines more interesting and stimulating for young adult language learners. The chapter thus analyzes audiovisual materials which intersemiotically translate the language found in various specialized texts (articles, books, textbooks, etc.) and describes the use of these texts and television productions as teaching materials during two third-year courses taught at the University of Parma in Italy for students of modern languages. These courses – which were taught in 2015–2016 and 2016–1017 – provided a useful testing ground for an innovative approach to teaching and learning English for specific purposes (ESP) with the aid of popular culture. In particular, the classroom experiment focused on the language of mathematics and physics found in Mario Livio’s Is God a Mathematician? (2009) and Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (1988) on the one hand, and in documentaries such as The Story of Maths (2008), Origins: Back to the Beginning (2004) and Stephen Hawking’s Universe (1997) on the other. Moreover, the chapter examines the transformations the specialized language of science is subjected to when inserted in popular television series such as Numb3rs, The Big Bang Theory, and Supernova, in order to demonstrate the extent of the role played by specialized discourses within cultural industries. The chapter therefore suggests that this phenomenon has important repercussion on the very notion of needs analysis, and it argues that ESP syllabi should acknowledge its existence, offering customized teaching materials.
Teaching and Assessing Academic Writing for Tourism Studies: An Example of Reflective Practice from the Field
This chapter describes the process of developing an English for tourism studies course at a trilingual university across five academic years. The process involved four phases. During the 2011–2012 academic year, I gained a grounded understanding of the needs of the learners from the standpoint of a reflective practitioner (see Farrell, 2007). This initial experience teaching the course served as the basis for a formal needs analysis which informed the writing and implementation of a customized course book during the 2012–13 academic year based on the concepts of English for specific academic purposes (ESAP) and task-based language teaching (TBLT). In response to the observed effectiveness of the course and student reactions, in particular their continued sporadic attendance and reluctance to complete ungraded collaborative writing assignments, I conducted two classroom experiments during the 2014–15 and 2015–16 academic years, respectively, in order to test the effects of two interventions involving the use of extra credit pop quizzes. The extra credit scheme utilized in 2014–15 relied upon multiple choice pop quizzes to incentivize attendance and participation, but resulted in less class time for collaborative writing tasks and less individualized instructor feedback for the students. The modified extra credit scheme in 2015–16 greatly increased the submission of collaborative writing tasks by awarding extra credit for satisfactory completion.
Anglicisms in the Discourse of Brexit: A Mixed-Methods Analysis of Italian Newspapers
This study describes the Anglicisms used by three important Italian newspapers (La Repubblica, Il Corriere della Sera, Il Sole 24 Ore) in reporting about Britain’s exit from the European Union. More specifically, this mixed-method analysis focuses on technical English expressions from the fields of economics and politics. The aim is to investigate how they are used in newspaper articles and why English is preferred to an Italian word, thereby making it harder for the average Italian reader to understand. Preliminary results show that Anglicisms are often used without any explanation, even though newspaper journalists sometimes provide a description of the concept expressed by the English word. It is argued that such corpora can be used to aid learners of English for specific purposes in the acquisition of specialized lexis.
Learner Corpora and Embedded Assessment of Undergraduate EFL Writing: The Case of Metadiscourse Markers
The present contribution discusses how a learner corpus can be used to identify learning gaps and plan assessments embedded in teaching and learning activities both inside and outside of the classroom. The learner corpus under investigation is a collection of opinion articles written by undergraduate students with English as a foreign language. A concordancer software was used to generate frequency lists from this collection and perform related searches. A first look at the list of the most frequent n-grams prompted us to consider specific clusters, which seem to relate to the organisation dimension of writing and the use of metadiscourse. A closer look at the concordance lines and the collocates for these clusters elicited initial “writing questions,” such as what patterns of cooccurrence can be found for the search terms? and what is the role of these patterns in topic development and argument building? These same questions can be passed on to the students as part of hands-on activities aimed at encouraging observation, such as short guided searches on the learner corpus, related searches on reference corpora and other learner corpora, and learning logs based on these searches. Ultimately, a learner corpus can be employed to generate continuous formative assessment (including peer- and self-assessment), thus providing students with feedback for improvement and at the same time encouraging them to reflect on their own learning process.
Communication in a Globalized World: Advanced English and its Assessment in the 21st Century
The special position of global English, a language used worldwide as a lingua franca, poses particular problems for those who teach and assess English, especially in English for specific purposes (ESP) and academic purposes (EAP) contexts. This article, the result of a longitudinal classroom study and reflection, explores key questions asked by test developers in the Language Centre at the University of Verona, when developing new assessment specifications to measure the language competence of advanced undergraduate learners attending the ESP course of English for Tourism Management. The questions that emerged during the re-assessment of existing assessment criteria were: What does it mean to be an advanced user of a global language? How should we redefine advanced levels if the traditional practice of respecting native-speaker norms is to be overturned? How should we assess this advanced level? The test developers explored learner motivations and needs by means of a survey of undergraduates, carried out with questionnaires and focus group interviews. This led to a re-assessment of the criteria for assessment where the example given here is of spoken English. The article shows ways in which these criteria are being reformulated to reflect the real needs of these learners, the majority of whom do not aspire to integrate in native speaker communities but need to be competent in English as a global language.
The importance of incorporating pronunciation in the ESL1 curriculum is highly underrated. Teachers tend to shy away from pronunciation activities. On the one hand, for most teachers, it is a matter of time management and curriculum requirements that force pronunciation to be pushed back or pushed out of the ESL classroom experience. For others, it is the belief that pronunciation must be taught in a formal, time-consuming manner that tests their abilities and skills. On the other hand, students need pronunciation instruction and welcome the opportunity to work on theirs. From my experience, ESL students look forward to the opportunity to improve their pronunciation to converse better with native speakers and teachers in the academic setting. Most students would welcome 3-5-minute mini-lessons that could help them communicate more effectively. Therefore, the knowledge that students want and need pronunciation practice should be a catalyst to inspire teachers to begin to find ways to incorporate pronunciation instruction time in their classes. The good news is that teachers do not have to devote hours teaching pronunciation, but, just by allotting a few minutes a day to pronunciation activities, they can give ESL students the tools and resources needed to make continued progress on their own. This paper will uncover seven so-called “secrets” educated speakers of English internally understand and can pass on to their ESL students. It also illustrates pronunciation teaching techniques that can be covered quickly without sacrificing vital classroom time.