Н.В. Шмакова A Model for ESP Terminology Activation

Н.В. Шмакова, ст. преподаватель Shmakova N.V.

A Model for ESP Terminology Activation

Abstract. Planning vocabulary work in ESP context, a number of principles of effective and efficient foreign language learning should be observed. The choice of content and communicative activities is crucial in ESP as it has to be relevant to the cognitive and affective needs of the learners and promote both acquisition and production of the new lexis.

Key words: learning-centred approach, intrinsic motivation, ESP, interactive communicative activities.

Under the influence of the learner-centred movement in ELT, ESP has become more learning-centred, focusing more on the conditions that facilitate learning and promote learner investment and participation. When planning specific-purpose vocabulary learning and teaching, which is one of the central tasks of ESP, the following principles should be observed.

a) ESP Vocabulary Learning is Context-oriented

ESP largely concentrates on language in context and all the teaching activities within ESP, independent of their aims, should be presented in a context [2:11]. Business vocabulary, as any other area of language, does not exist in isolation and therefore contextualised learning is preferable to de- contextualised one. Besides, “the more learners pay attention to the meaning of the language they hear or read, the more they are successful [and vice versa] the more they have to focus on the linguistic input or isolated language structures, the less they are motivated” claims Fiorito [3]. Moreover, the outcomes of the Bangalor Project [1:102] confirm that “form is best learnt when the learner’s attention is on meaning”, which is particularly true of the ‘intermediate plus’ learners. Therefore, an important role should be assigned to the choice of content in ESP to make it relevant to the cognitive and affective needs of the learners.

b) ESP Vocabulary Learning is an Active Developmental Process

Inspired by the cognitive code view of language learning, ESP puts

learners centre-stage, treating them as active processors of information, not passive recipients. The cognitive theory emphasises that learning will take place only when students engage in deep thoughtful processing of the information to be learnt, i.e. when they use their knowledge of the world and their cognitive capacities to make sense of what they feel, see and hear, which is essential for integrating new information within the existing network of knowledge [5:43-46]. The impact of these ideas on ESP classroom practice and teaching of business terminology in particular can be seen in adopting a problem-solving approach to vocabulary learning through employing activities that would trigger learners’ previous knowledge of the language and their own specialist field and that would encourage learners to be conscious decision-makers.

c) ESP Vocabulary Learning is an Emotional Experience

To sustain motivation in learning ESP, having an externally imposed need to acquire knowledge, which ESP learners apparently have, will not suffice, since there is even a greater need for the learners “to actually enjoy the process of acquisition” [5:51, 2]. Thus, in addition to cognitive factors even more attention should be paid to affective or emotional aspects in the specific-purpose vocabulary acquisition process. The learners must want to think about something before they actually do it, the emotional reaction to the learning experience being the “essential foundation for the initiation of the cognitive process” [5:47]. As concerns such a complex issue as motivation, it is commonly described as being of two types: “instrumental” or external motivation and “integrative” or intrinsic one, both of which are usually present in all learners but in various degrees [5:48]. It is critical for ESP learners to be intrinsically motivated, getting satisfaction from the process of learning and not just from the understanding that what they learn is useful and relevant or from the prospect of using what they have learnt in the long term. Thus, though pre-experienced students of management may need only to read English-medium books and articles in their field, it might be oral practice that will help them reach that end. To develop positive emotions in the learning process, the students should be given space, i.e. choice and the opportunity to be creative, while avoiding undue pressure by putting more emphasis on the process of getting the right answer rather than on the product itself. Besides, teaching materials should cater for the students’ learning styles, which can be done by varying the types of activities, changing their focus and interaction patterns [2, 5].

d) Communicatively Purposeful Activities

In order to activate the lexis being learnt, communicatively purposeful activities that integrate effective vocabulary learning principles will be explored here. Activities which are regarded to be communicative ones are commonly characterized by the following key elements, encapsulated by Thornbury [13:36] into the following notions: purposefulness, reciprocity, negotiation, unpredictability, heterogeneity and synchronicity.

There is a general agreement among applied linguists [14, 11, 1] that interactive pair and group activities are extremely desirable and useful as they provide the students the opportunities to use the vocabulary that is being learnt and to receive immediate and relevant feedback, which allows to progress beyond individual competencies. Group-interactive procedures can also “reduce anxiety, increase awareness of possible solutions to problems and increase commitment to learning” [1:75].

Long and Robinson [cited in 11:291] advocate activities which foster the negotiation of meaning, i.e. activities that, “in order to be completed, push learners to engage in checking and clarifying as they go along”. The results of the studies by Ellis at al. (1999), de la Fuente (2002), Loschky (1994) also suggest that the activities encouraging negotiation of specific lexical forms are particularly effective, as they benefit productive learning [4:268]. At the same time, Nation [9:124-125] points out that negotiation itself is not a condition affecting learning, but it provides “opportunities for conditions like retrieval, generative use and instantiation to occur”.

In spite of the learning opportunities that communicative tasks may provide, Lambert [6:19] stresses that the outcome will depend on the students, since “learning - of anything, anywhere - demands energy and attention from the learner” [10:17]. Learners’ motivation will have a direct influence on the quality of their performance, on their willingness to invest the effort necessary to perform the task effectively. Thus, first and foremost, the ways should be found to capture and sustain students’ interest through boosting learners’ intrinsic motivation.

The success of communicative activities depends to a great extent on the teacher’s skilfulness in setting up the task and the planning done before the class. Tait [12] and Leedham [7] suggest that teachers should think about the following points when preparing for communicative activities. First, the teacher should decide upon the purpose of the task and create a realistic context for it. Second, it should be considered how to generate the students’ interest in the activity, perhaps by reflecting on similar experiences the learners are familiar with. Third, the instructor should think of the type of groupings (pairs or groups) which will be most appropriate for a particular activity and the group of learners. Next, giving the students preparation time should be also considered, since it might be too challenging for them to use their language resources effectively and be creative at the same time. Besides, having practised formulating their ideas once (in pairs or small groups), the students will feel more confident expressing them in front of the whole class. Preparation time can be also used for eliciting relevant vocabulary, providing conversational gambits or clarifying the requirements or objectives of the task. Flowever, when the activity is set in motion, the teacher is advised to withdraw from the scene and avoid unnecessary intervention, which can discourage the learners and “hinder the development of their communicative skills” [8:19]. Circulating around the classroom is still preferable to ensure that the students are on the right track and to identify the areas which may present difficulties. It is also recommended to provide some time for a ‘focus on form slot’ after the activity is finished [7]. This language slot could be vocabulary items that the learners were searching for or misusing during the activity or some grammar or pronunciation areas to work on.

Finally, Littlewood [8], Brumfit [1], Thornbury [14] and Willis [15] highlight multiple benefits of including well-designed and well-executed communicative activities into a language course, their major contributions to language learning being summarised here:

  • • They integrate language and content, promoting holistic approach to language learning.
  • • They foster interaction and collaboration.
  • • They encourage creativity and experimentation with language.
  • • They promote acquisition and production of the new lexis, primary attention of the learners being on the content rather than form.
  • • They are motivating as they prepare for real-life communication.
  • • They are learner-centred, as the learners work largely independently, taking responsibility for their own learning, while teachers act as facilitators.
  • • They help create dynamic and supportive learning environment which enhances learning.


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