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Business English, Professional English, Legal English, Medical English, Academic English etc.
Online peer-reviewed Journal for Teachers

English for Specific Purposes World (ESP World)

English for Specific Purposes World

ISSN 1682-3257

English for Specific Purposes World (ESP World) Home    Information   ESP Encyclopaedia    Resources    Contacts

Troy B. Wiwczaroski, Magdolna Silye, Ildiko K. Tar

Technical Languages Instruction Centre

Debrecen University Agricultural Sciences Centre

On the Effects of Globalization on ESP:
A Thought Paper on Preparing a Place for Ourselves
in Hungarian Higher Education


As the 21st century will surely see an increasingly interdependent world, so too will departments giving instruction of ESP need to embed themselves in the greater university curricula, in order to survive. Technical English teaching centers must provide the impetus for pushing university administrations to recognize the necessity of internationalizing their institutions, i.e. to truly begin to provide foreign students with a wide range of study programs here in Hungary, taught in English. The financial, research, and student and faculty exchange opportunities show great promise, should higher education prepare itself to take this prodigious step. Preparations for such a step can involve, in a wide range of activities, especially, but not exclusively, English language teachers. The paper below provides a fundamental definition of globalization and its impacts, and then discusses the opportunities, needs and roles ESP departments should focus on, in order to ensure their proper places in the university community of the future. The paper closes with the detailed presentation of a course which could be integrated into a number of possible M.Sc. degrees, as one example of a way forward for higher education language departments.


The 21st century will surely see an increasingly interdependent world. Whether higher education in Hungary will be able to keep pace with the rapidity of changes that mark the growth in global interconnectedness will depend on how well it can promote, emphasize and expand its international character. Today, curricula and courses are underdeveloped in many university departments. Teaching materials are simply untranslatable in their present forms and contexts, as applies to presenting them to students from other cultures. This lack of an international target student population equally results in a lack of proper dissemination of Hungarian research and development findings outside our borders. To change this unfortunate status quo, higher education here at home will require interdisciplinary cooperation and the rethinking of how departments work together, even across faculties.

During the 1990s, the Education Ministry created unified universities nationwide, but it largely formed institutions that unified in name only. Cross-faculty cooperation on the curricular level is, at best, oftentimes disappointing. Every castle has its own king, and territorial conflicts, wrought from envy and fear of trespassers from other departments, are putting up barricades to development and improvement of our educational offerings. The term colleague' needs rethinking, and should not be as minimally defined as someone from one's own department, or someone one often meets in the corridor and greets. The term colleague is in serious need of a broader, deeper meaning, in the sense of how one works together with someone from another discipline.

As our borders change to a certain degree after May 1, 2004, we have to redefine the definition of the word colleague' in another way, as well. Our colleagues will no longer be, in the stricter sense, Hungarian, but European, i.e. professors, researchers and instructors working in higher education from Lisbon to Riga, and from the Bergen to Malta. Many of these new' colleagues have a number of other' colleagues. In fact, they have had these colleagues for years, and have already established quite close professional relationships with them. For the present, to a lesser degree, these other' colleagues will also become our new colleagues next year, and they work anywhere from Rio de Janeiro to Auckland, or from Beijing to Cape Town. In other words, we need colleagues such as those our colleagues living and working in the European Union already have: colleagues across the globe. I do not wish to imply in any sense that Hungarian institutions presently lack any such colleagues, from either group, but I would emphasize here that we are, in practically most cases, not working together with them in a structured manner that would be the most advantageous for ourselves as professionals, or for our students.

In the service of both internationalizing university curricula, i.e. opening it up to great numbers of foreign students, and in making visiting research and teaching professionals more integral parts of the everyday teaching activities of their host departments, the language department, and especially those teaching ESP, can play a focal role.  I make this assertion based on the fact that a number of Hungary's language departments already boast significant experience in cross-cultural and professional communication teaching and research. These activities provide only two examples of resources for utilizing the potential of Hungarian higher education on the international stage. While firmly and inextricably linked to Hungary and their more immediate regions and localities, universities here will only find their places among the leading educational institutions of the world if they are preparing their students to live and work in an increasingly international world, and simultaneously preparing themselves to accept students from around the world here.

We live in a rapidly changing world, in which international travel, global exchange, education and communication play an ever-greater role. In the future, leaders will need special skills and training, as well as sensitivity to issues of diversity and global interdependence. Those who would become such leaders, whether they would be active in cultural, educational or business spheres, should also come from here. This is not a political issue, nor should one politicize it: as with graduates from every other nation in the world, ours in Hungary should also expect to be prepared to venture into the working world with all the requisite skills and knowledge needed to excel and lead. No student unprepared for the interconnectedness of our world today will be able to obtain, much less maintain, a leadership position. If our universities are failing to provide such preparation, then they are equally failing the nation, and the greatest fears of some for Hungary's future will become reality: others will come and do the leading for us. The choice is truly ours to make.

Hungarian university agendas must therefore reflect an increasing awareness of the global context, without exception. Hungarian higher education must signal a commitment to internationalize its universities and embrace the challenges facing our institutions of higher education to prepare students for a world influenced by globalization.

In this respect, the governmental policy to speed up the process of marketization in the traditionally state-regulated sectors of higher education also affected cross-faculty cooperation in a negative way. With the introduction of pay courses, faculties even within one university became each others' competitors, and the often aggressive protectionist policy to ensure one's hardly acquired market share in an evolving competitive sphere did no good to academic cooperation, whether in the formulation of common projects or in building true interdisciplinarity into curricula. Membership to the European Union must also be viewed from this perspective, since the recently decentralized Hungarian educational system will now have to step out into an even more competitive market. In trying to predict future trends that will shape our role in a globalized academia, one should recall historical lessons and investigate past issues in globalized networks of production. By looking at past trends in international trade, economics and the worldwide spread of information technologies, some of the forthcoming courses of events could become predictable. The ability to view events from a historical perspective enables educational policy makers to take the lessons learned into account and prepare for problems in advance. University staff, on the other hand, should also realize that the overdone segmentation of institutional bodies will isolate them from the main currents of research and a vast, globalized market. Joint curricula give more flexibility, motivation and a more dynamic exchange of values, and further represent better value in a market-driven, higher educational system.

Globalization broadly defined, from an academic point of view

What is globalization? Many definitions abound, but a more complex and comprehensive one is most often lacking when one meets with mention of this process, whether in research literature, newspapers or at conferences. The most often verbalized dispute between the different notions of the concept is materialized in the views of those, who, on the one hand, see the emergence of authority structures of the corporate world compete with independent state authorities over the development of global political economy, and those, on the other hand, who see states as a principle motor in the shaping of global political and economic events and orders. Whether one agrees with the definition of globalizers or internationalists is really of secondary, theoretical, importance. More important is our lived, everyday experience of this process. In this respect, globalization entails an expansion in the circulation of products, employees, currencies and intellectual property across national and regional borders. It is this phenomenon that occurs when areas, whether remote villages or continents, are intertwined in events that take place, geographically, far away, but which have local impact, due to cultural, economic, political or ecological ties.

All study programs face new challenges, as changes of global nature make new demands on education. While acknowledging and emphasizing the importance of local or regional distinctions of culture or language, we need to understand how historic, national boundaries are changing. Political borders have rarely truly provided separations of distinct cultural boundaries. The same may be said concerning the boundaries of social, economic or political systems. As no such boundaries should be used as a basis for studying a nation or cultural group in relative isolation, neither should the higher education system of any country develop in a self-contained manner. Today, Hungary too finds itself in a global period of history; one in which new information technologies and inconceivably powerful market forces accelerate change, albeit social, cultural or economic. No longer can a nation assume that it can mould its educational content independently of the contents used by its neighbors. Areas, nations and regions are more porous and less definable than would have been assumed, even five years ago, due to the everyday positive and negative activities of globalizations, and their impacts:

  • growth of trade, cross-national distribution of manufacturing production
  • international division of labor and manufacturing processes
  • liberalization and deregulation of markets, privatization of assets
  • hegemony of Western (arguably 'American') values
  • consolidation of a single global market by a techno-industrial elite
  • ability to move huge sums of monies from country to country or across oceans at the press of a button, i.e. instantaneously
  • the greatest migration of people across the globe seen in recorded history
  • international exchange of ideas and popular culture via Internet and cellular telecommunications technologies
  • globalization of environmental devastation
  • globalization of disease, i.e. the possibility for pandemics due to the rapidity of air travel or e.g. the 'Chunnel' between the UK and the European continent
  • globalization of production by multinational corporations
  • the phenomenon of what I propose to term informational synchronicity, due to the global, instantaneous nature of audio, visual and multimedia news reporting.

The expansion of linkages across national borders demands new skills, awareness, approaches, and, of course, training. Higher education confronts a critical challenge to ensure that students and, thereby, local and/or national societies, develop the proper tools and perspectives necessary not only to flourish in a global world, but to preserve cultural, social and linguistic uniqueness. This is the essential point of our argument, since we feel that the degree in which the newly emerging democratic states and their post-socialist populations will be able to integrate within a globalized world very much depends on how much the individual feels him/herself able to globalize' formerly acquired abilities, skills and scholarship. This challenge exists at home because globalization, for all its power, does not lessen the value of local communities. Local small and medium-sized businesses, governments and non-government organizations, civic organizations, cultural circles and clubs still have an immeasurably great impact on local everyday life. Additionally, differences at the local level will continue to steer opinion and mould decision-making, whether these disparities lie in culture, language, nationality, religion, class, ethnicity, economy or form of governance. All these will shape the self-image and representation of people at the local, regional and national levels.

Any talk about the global village' fails to recognize that globalization has yet to even begin to have any substantive impact on these three societal levels that one could term homogenization. Rather, what globalization has done is to bring the international down to the local level. What has occurred is that these two planes are now largely so intertwined, that a paradox has appeared between globalism and localism, in that events that were formally considered as having only local impact now, in reality, have worldwide repercussions, and vice-versa. This process is often characterized by the terms globalizationglocalization, which point to two levels of the change, the latter referring to the socio-political milieu we know from our everyday lives, i.e. the environment that motivates our responses to globalization.

The two fundamental forces that create strong links between the global and the local are accelerated technological change and the opening up of national borders, not only in terms of economic alignments, but in the form of the new ethos of openness in civil society. This formation of a global civilization challenges the university and its students to establish identities and understanding within local and global communities and cultures, in order to come to terms with the global reaching interconnectedness of individual local events, be they business, political or social in nature. While some academic disciplines, such as world history, international relations or international economics, have researched and taught the importance of this paradox and its impacts for some time now, professionals in other fields have yet to recognize how great the effects of globalization will reshape their curricula in the near future. Agriculture, the social sciences, foreign languages, the natural sciences and environmental studies, schools of social work, pedagogy programs, geography or even demographic studies departments all these and many more all these disciplines will have to redefine how they prepare research and present findings to colleagues and students, in order to reflect the enormous changes globalization has brought to every facet of modern civilization.

The threats arising from reaction to globalization

Education cannot emphasize enough the critical importance of promoting study with colleagues and students from across the globe. Modern society has become highly advanced, global and, for some, affluent, and social and human activities, and their outputs, have become complex and highly integrated. This results in a variety of local and global issues to be addressed.  The fact that the world's populations are still largely xenophobic is perhaps the greatest paradox of globalization, and because this is true, education must set itself to the task of promoting cross-cultural understanding. Much is at stake: war, famine, poverty, and even pandemic disease. These comments are not doom saying in nature, they rather reflect the ugly truths of human history.

Because globalization presents tough challenges to the modern welfare state and social contracts between peoples, their societies, and their governments, the temptation seen in results from local, national and regional elections is to retreat toward isolationism and reflexive nationalism. These reactions most certainly contributed to the crises that precipitated the global depression that began after World War I, and indeed also both World Wars of the previous century. Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia have all been through similar experiences, each costing the local inhabitants countless lives, chronically wrecked economies and a bleak outlook which persists today.

In order to strike a balance between economic growth, human rights, local and global security and justice, individuals across the globe need to develop a fundamental understanding of globalization, but, more importantly, one that recognizes the interconnectedness of societies and how this phenomenon affects their own abilities to survive in a globalized world. Education is the key to providing such understanding. Ensuring literacy is not enough. Without education shaping mentalities that reflect and emphasize the uniqueness of individual identity and the inalienable right of every human being to shape one's own character, while at the same time holding as inalienable every other human being's right to the same self-understanding and self-worth, the struggle to avoid global, cultural wars will be lost.

Indeed, globalization is an ongoing process. As seen in history, developments that dramatically change the nature of any of the interactions we touched upon above have their consequences. However, their magnitudes depended on the awareness and preparedness of those living through such changes. The development of market-based production and exchange in the West, and especially that which is now ongoing throughout the formerly Communist East, in orienting national production structures toward a world market, coupled with the impact of non-government corporations with global reach, all are transforming the economic bases of power and the capacities of nation-states to respond to that power. These developments have led to unease, and even violent protest; some would say to global terror, as well.

The strengthening of international economic/trade relations, and diplomacy within specific geographical regions of the world have resulted in a new kind of regionalism, a form of interstate economic and political interactions which is an alternative, even an act of resistance to global integration. Events of the recent past have proved that this resistance, coupled with religious radicalism may put the finely balanced power-structures of world politics into a state of turmoil and that the future of globalization depends on the relationship between states and the different understandings of nation, local identity, space and territoriality, in short, the distribution of political and economic powers.

Globalism itself, for all its profit, faces many challenges, as problems arise from the closer linking of national communities. The future of the cooperation between the member states of the European Union (EU), that of the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Asian and South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Commonwealth, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the G-8, or even the United Nations (UN) have all seen, especially in the wake of the Iraq Crisis that began in 1990, and reemerged after 2001, on just how shaky legs they stand.

How departments teaching ESP can respond to these challenges 

Our students too will stand on shaky legs, should we shirk our responsibilities to them, and not prepare them for the global business culture they will face upon graduation. The question for us is: what does the future hold for ESP departments? As the 21st century will surely see an increasingly interdependent world, so too will departments giving instruction in ESP need to embed themselves in the greater university curricula in order to survive. The examples of areas for development in response to globalization I will be giving below refer directly, but not exclusively, to technical English teaching centers, also known in Hungary as lektoratusok.

We would like to first turn to the research aims a department teaching ESP, such as a technical language teaching centre, might pursue to contribute to preparing not only Hungarian students for their futures, but, equally importantly, to prepare such departments to survive in the universities of the 21st century.

The underlying philosophy which should be influencing our teaching is that our research must be used to support special purpose language education which is based on a practical skills-oriented approach. In my department, the Centre for Technical Language Instruction of Debrecen University's Agricultural Sciences Centre, we want all graduates from our technical translation and professional language communication minor programs to leave us with highly employable, applied language skills. With this in mind, in addition to exploring intercultural and cross-cultural communication topical areas, my department's research goals include the areas of:

  • developing pedagogical theories and models for teaching writing and presentation skills
  • exploring and developing professional preparatory courses for young researchers to be able to proficiently research, write, publish and give presentations in a second language
  • exploring and developing methodologies for teaching, e.g. analytical and evaluative skills
  • researching the influence and use of media and electronic tools in language education
  • developing models for cross- and interdisciplinary studies based on language department curricula
  • general curricular development for special purpose language study
  • translation theories, methodologies and practices
  • measuring impact of teaching outputs on the world of commerce and trade, i.e., how our teaching is actually used by our graduates
  • measuring the status quo of and predicting future trends of actual language skills' and knowledge use in the 'real world'
  • producing high quality teaching materials reflecting all the above points
  • exploring how to use language teaching to support research and development, and especially the university community as a whole.

Foreign language departments, such as my own, are in a strong position to serve as leaders of curricular change at our institutions. The changes necessary will increasingly involve interdisciplinary work and efforts to provide students with a broad global awareness, allow us to apply several of our academic and professional abilities at the institutional level. First, we offer an important experience and awareness of pedagogical issues that involve both classroom methodology and second language acquisition research. Our knowledge of the former underpins our classroom skills and, ultimately, student performance; our knowledge of the latter informs our preparation of materials and the structure of our curricula. We can lead in the evaluation of teaching on campus in the faculty discussion of preparation and curricular structure. Unlike many of our colleagues, we already have a tradition and a metalanguage for methodology, which will become increasingly important, as administrations will later need to assess accountability.

We can also contribute to efforts toward interdisciplinarity. Foreign language departments can lead in the development of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary curricula because of their vast experience with multidisciplinary work. For years, foreign language departments have fostered the integration of research and teaching by using these resources in teaching language classes which integrate such elements as linguistics, culture, business, ecology, EU studies or even the basics of biology; these disciplines are united within language departments through their presentation in the target language and their focus on the target culture.

One of the greatest future goals of our department is to integrate itself into the university research community, by lending (through teaching) particularly its know-how of employing powerful knowledge transfer tools, especially to young colleagues (Ph.D. students).

The applicability of the transformations in foreign languages teaching and research to the wider university community

This goal goes hand-in-hand with one of the most decisive strategic goals the Agricultural Center has been pursuing for some time now.

In order to thrive as an internationally-recognized research and knowledge transfer institution, DE ATC must be able to attract students from abroad and offer them solid education and research possibilities here. As a first step to achieve the goal of globalizing the curriculum-based approach to knowledge transfer, the faculty as a whole must engage itself with each of the following tasks:

        advocate the idea of developing joint curricula in specific disciplines or sub-disciplines, this cooperation may include initiating contacts on both the national and international level

        publish a foreign language information booklet intended for visiting students containing all the relevant faculty-related details, and make this available for access through the Internet, and in addition, to establish an international information office. This activity has been largely pursued, except that the available publications often lack true reflection of which faculty are, from a competence point of view, available for consultation, research and/or teaching in a foreign language

        make available (on a departmental level) a description of ongoing research projects, their objectives, methodology and members of research teams (with contact addresses). Such department profiles may not only help to launch joint research projects on the international level, but arouse interest among both undergraduate and Ph.D. students who want to come to Hungary to study

        use already established cross-faculty relationships to inform foreign colleges and universities about the possibility of student exchange projects

This also means our faculty must be in a position to offer courses taught in English. However, the preparation necessary to give such a venture proper foundation includes professional growth and developmental activities (i.e. trainer training courses), which can ensure that our teaching and research staff can in English:

successfully prepare and/or use teaching/lecture materials (writing skills)

comprehensibly teach these materials to students who may not necessarily speak English as a first language themselves (speaking skills)

properly answer students' questions and explain difficult subject matter when needed (listening comprehension and speaking skills)

empathize with and effectively assist foreign students with study-related problems when necessary (cross-cultural communicative skills)

These are only four of many other areas that first need attention and preparation, before any fully functional, much less successful, curricula for international students can be realistically considered.

How research done by applied (and) technical language departments can contribute to the university community

Our research can also assist the larger university community to better understand how language teaching may benefit the student by developing mature thinking strategies.

Research in my department has already begun to explore how a student who has seriously taken up foreign language study

is less likely to view the teacher as the sole or even primary source of knowledge

is used to making connections among school subjects

is accustomed to interdisciplinary ways of thinking

is used to interpretation

is used to a presentational mode of displaying knowledge and skills (poster sessions, portfolios, presentation writing and creation, etc.) rather than to being evaluated primarily through written and oral tests

is likely to have more highly developed critical thinking skills

has a more integrative view of language (as opposed to the more traditional separations among language components such as grammar, vocabulary, communicative functions)

is used to guessing and taking chances with the language

knows how to retrieve information from a variety of authentic sources (Internet, target language textbooks, magazines, newspapers, films)

has learned how to distinguish between what is important and what is not important to the understanding of a particular topic

is a better reader, both in terms of reading strategies for dealing with unfamiliar material and in terms of different text types

is better able to discuss and talk about topics

is more likely to exchange ideas with peers and fellow students

views research projects as an intellectual challenge, instead of a requirement that must be fulfilled

raises problems that arise from his/her own professional experience and doing so individualises the learning process. This may be a crucial issue with foreign visiting staff and students, whose personal experience may enrich our understanding of particular issues

is more likely to find the right balance between approaching problems both theoretically and practically.

Understanding how student proficiency in each of these areas can be transformed into the creation of dynamic, creative and cross-culturally aware future university and scientific staff members may serve as the linchpin to creating successful international programs in the near future.

The systematic development of interdisciplinary curricula is one of the biggest challenges facing academic programs. Our colleagues both here and abroad inform us about how university financial offices and administrators are usually inflexible or inexperienced at creating or managing strong interdisciplinary programs and evaluating interdisciplinary teaching and research. However, language departments have long been stewards of wide-ranging interdisciplinary work, and thus they can offer experience and leadership. Our programs are models of how to structure effective undergraduate and graduate interdisciplinary curricula; they often include integrative introductory and capstone coursework designed to help students develop the capacity to synthesize and apply knowledge to real-world situations.

Concrete first steps

How can we use the ideas listed above in answer to globalization? Before many of our departments can move to the areas outlined above, there are certain steps which must be made, and made decisively.

But first, we must earn inclusion.

How? In addition to some of the activities already mentioned, there are three main steps which require our attention:

1. Departments, such as ours, must develop their staffs. Doctorates must be obtained, and full-fledged departments created, in order to establish clout among our non-language teaching colleagues. This gets our staff on committees and into positions to effect change. Full departments also have more funding opportunities, which may be used to finance an array of developments. There is another reason to become an academic department: we cannot work towards preparing our students linguistically for the future if our students do not respect us in the manner they do our better titled colleagues. They oftentimes do not approach language study with the same demeanor as they do courses in other areas of the university because they view a lektoratus and, therefore, courses offered by one, as not being equal in importance to courses offered by academic departments. This sounds perverse, but ask your colleagues whether they truly feel part of the university community, and the responses will be enlightening.

2. Establish bridges to the international programs office of your institution. Ask to meet and confer with all staff and students from abroad. Ask English-speaking visiting faculty (not even necessarily native-speaking, as long as these individuals can express themselves clearly) to take the time to work together with your staff. Get them into your ESP classrooms, and co-teach technical language courses to more advanced Hungarian students. The foreign colleagues can present their disciplines in class in depth, while our departments can provide, for example, preparatory vocabulary and follow-up language assignments. Develop and run multi-semester courses, mandatory for all visiting foreign students, on Hungary's culture and language. Get these students more familiar with their surroundings, culturally, historically and linguistically. Give them an appreciation of where they are and with whom they are dealing, and they will return home with a more profound, positive experience of Hungary. This is how contacts are made for the future. Pave the way towards successful global interaction, but on the basis of mutual understanding. A student visiting here for a year should never be allowed to go home without taking with them some understanding of where they were that is more meaningful than a memory of beautiful city. Rather, they should leave us with memories of what is special about Hungarians themselves. In addition, offer them high quality courses in English, such as professional communication, public speaking in English, or business English. There is such a wide range of opportunity for involving departments teaching ESP in handling foreign students and maximizing the use of visiting faculty, that all our ideas could fill a book. And yet, after eight years here, we cannot get them to work, because point one above has yet to be fulfilled.

3. Work to build new degree courses which have, as a key part of their contents, ESP courses. Our experience in teaching the languages of business, agriculture, law, EU studies or communication, and especially that in employing practice-oriented, problem-based learning in our curricula, has given us a firm footing on which to build cooperative courses with our non-ESP teaching colleagues. Agri-business majors with well-developed English language skills would benefit from a degree which incorporated a more in-depth study using skills needed in the global business culture, for example, presentation skills or cross-cultural communication skills. We are already teaching in these areas, but our impact could be much greater, and equally effective in graduating more realistically trained students.

Example of such a course

For four years, we have been teaching a central component of our department's Professional Language Communication course, Professional language skills, which is taught over three semesters. The course was developed in response to lacks and needs diagnosed in our immediate graduate and post-graduate student population. Our diagnosis confirms the findings of an earlier and wider scope nationwide survey investigating priorities of ESL use in bi-lingual (Hungarian and English) working environments.[1] In this survey, three populations were queried: 1) recent graduates from higher technical educational institutions, as employees, 2) companies with different profiles, as employers, and 3) teachers of ESP from different technical higher education profiles, as providers. Based on the data gained from the three population samples, as well as those gathered from our own students, we arrived at the following general conclusions:

(1) The recent graduates who were questioned are only partly satisfied with their language preparation.

(2)  Data suggest that rather than isolated skills, in their everyday activities, these graduates require a complex, well-proportioned set of language skills.

(3) This multi-component set of skills can be identified as professional language competences and cross-cultural communicative competences.

(4)  Both the employers and the employees think that creative and flexible language use is highly required but, unfortunately, mostly missing.

(5) The language teachers in many respects voice opinions different from the other two populations. The reason for this can be summarized as a lack of flexibility and a partial, non-deliberate ignorance of real life needs. The overwhelming majority of the teachers in this study do not carry out a needs' analysis before defining their course syllabi.

(6) In general, language preparation is missing a strong practical orientation. Goals tend to be set in the artificial environment of the language classroom and pursued accordingly.

The findings delineate the guidelines for the definition of the major pedagogical principles of an ESP program-model as follows:

1.)    the training is learner- and learning-centered

2.)    it is task- and skills-based

3.)    it brings the target task and the pedagogical task close to each other by use of  the virtual environment of the internet

4.)    by project tasks (virtual and real life) it encourages autonomous learning, research and team work

5.)    it develops L2 and cross-cultural awareness in students

6.)    it strongly relies on learner creativity and develops critical thinking

7.)    it develops learning strategies

8.)    it has a communicative approach

9.)    the communicative approach is supported by a strong focus on form

The major pedagogical principles and focus points are summarized in this table:

Major pedagogical principles of the program-model

(F. Silye, 2004)





Language  focus

Focus of skills development

Teacher-student roles


Learner- and learning-centered

Content- and task-based



Professional language skills and strategies

Changes depending on the task and content



Consciousness raising

Cross-cultural communicative skills and strategies



Technical lexicon and terminology

Electronic communication skills



L2 culture

Critical language skills


The program-model we developed has several subject components. Some of the subjects are responsible for teaching language content in subject content contexts; others focus on complex communicative competences development. The subject professional language competence (together with cross-cultural communicative competences) is the core element of the program.

Our focus is to achieve the same primary goal that applies to all communication courses: the improvement of our student's communication abilities. Unfortunately, we have had to recognize that the average student lacks the necessary job experience on which one could develop problem-solving skills required in a business setting. Most students also lack an awareness of how they look and behave in front of an audience when giving presentations, and how this impacts negatively on their success. Our findings forced us to seriously rethink, e.g. our course syllabi. We will not only focus on the in-class experiences that have been influencing our approach to our courses, and how we have had to adjust to remedy problems such as those mentioned above.

Because communication is a complex process, in designing the course's three-semester curriculum, we had to ensure that our own understanding of what communication is would be formulated and presented to our classes in an easily digestible manner. We were therefore careful to consider those elements that influence communication and its outcomes, as well as to focus on the interaction between those elements, in order to be prepared to give students models of effective communicative behaviour which would be applicable in specific contexts.

In our understanding, most communication on the professional level actually meets the definition of interpersonal communication, i.e. professional communication also involves a process in which one individual formulates or encodes a message about a specific reference for a receiver.  The formulation process involves verbal stimuli, which are further encoded through non-verbal extension stimuli, such as gestures or facial expressions. The receiver not only receives the message containing all these forms of stimuli, but, if the message is decipherable at all, the receiver then decodes, transforms and even translates all these into a form he or she can comprehend. There are, of course, many levels of distortion involved in the decoding process, which is why students should develop an understanding for how ineffective communication can negate the value of an intended meaning. (Johnson 1994)

In communicating through a second language, the variables which might lead to ineffective messaging and its reception are, of course, more complex. Since we are teaching Hungarian students not only communication as such, but rather communication as a mode for ESP use, an understanding of how communication takes place between non-native speakers and native speakers, and especially those of how communication may take place between two non-native speakers, both using a second language as a means of communicating within a given professional context is vital. Houser (2003) notes that the related issues of audience identification and analysis are crucial components of successful communication, and both are emphasized in the material we present in class that students must master.

The inherent danger we saw in designing the curriculum was that the results would better serve what Speier (1973) defined as conversation, i.e. people seeking each other out for the predominant purpose of talking, rather than having speech in the classroom which developed communication in such a way that produced students who could become professional strategic agents', a term we borrow and transform from James (1996). By this, we mean individuals who can be changed enough in their thinking strategies to provide them with the tools of reflection and empowerment they simply need in order to effectively communicate for personal professional success. We did not want to develop good conversationalists, but focused effective communication professionals who use ESL as a means to an end.

Basically, while our initial considerations fundamentally followed the Composite Interaction Model originally developed by Riccardi & Kurtz (1983), both our practical considerations and the choice of action we took were largely supported by current tendencies in (post-communicative) language teaching in general, and in that of ESP in particular. As we discussed in a Fall 2003 article in NovELTy, in general,  we also designed the course to reflect the clear tendency today to: 1) stress the pragmatic issues of language learning (usage as opposed to use, Widdowson, 1983) 2) reflect socio-cultural considerations 3) involve students' constructive roles and needs and 4)  focus on consciousness raising. Following this logic, we formulated our immediate training goals, i.e. what exactly we want our students to achieve as a result of the training. We identified the following goals:

1) We want our students to understand and interpret written and oral technical texts on lexical, discourse and contextual levels. To do this, they have to be able to apply their explicit and implicit linguistic and cross-cultural knowledge and competences and have to be able to select appropriate strategies when approaching a certain text.

            2)  Students will be made aware that language as a means of communicating ideas can be and is used to shape the thinking of others and, when used properly, it is the most effective tool to convince those who have opinions different from ours. For this they will be equipped with the skills of coding and decoding L1 and L2 socio-cultural patterns.

            3) They will be trained to use their explicit and implicit linguistic skills to clearly,  properly, creatively and effectively organize  and communicate their ideas in L2 both in writing and orally.

            4) They will be acquainted with different genres of written and spoken communication, and will be helped to develop relevant productive skills.

            5)  They will be made able to notice the affective, stylistic and cultural values of L2 texts and contexts.

            6) They will be taught how to find, approach and critically use conventional and electronic sources.

            7) The students will acquire the necessary academic competences and strategies to develop their cognitive abilities via L2. (F. Silye 2002)

On an even more general scale, we also follow Van Lier (1996), who notes an important shift in language teaching towards interdisciplinarity (language acquisition, linguistics, cognitive science, sociology and anthropology), and therefore attempt to integrate students and appropriate materials from various disciplines into our syllabi, whether as subject matter treated from a business communication point of view, or as the subject of a full-fledged case study. 

At all times, emphasis is put on the gradual, improved professional development of each student, and the development of a 'business mentality'. Proper metacommunicative methods, professional appearance and demeanour, careful lexigraphical selection and sentence structure based on proper grammar - with due attention given to error correction and consciousness raising - to ensure successful communication of a selected message to a target audience, diplomatically handling conflicts across cultural lines, the importance of meeting deadlines (late or improperly done assignments are not graded) and the development of a 'feel for the weight of responsibility' are all target areas, integrated across each of the three semesters of this course.

The first semester of the three offered in Professional Language Communication best serves to highlight the real purpose of this article, namely, how the lack of job experience in the majority of our students significantly reduces their ability to effectively communicate in a professional context, and the remedies we apply to bridge their knowledge gap.

Our course begins with a formal introduction to the theory and practice of formal public speaking. Students not only receive instruction on how to give a presentation, but must give their own over the course of the semester. There are three types of public speaking assignments: 1) a formal, 6-8 minute self introduction, in the context of replying to an actual job advertisement, 2) a 10-12 minute presentation to convince, which encompasses topics from public policy change, to issues of business strategy, to environmental protection, and 3) a 12-15 minute duo sales pitch in which two students work together to give an effective, professional sales presentation, not of a product from a store shelf but of a product or service involving a process which must be described in detail, such as for a new product from a gas pipe manufacturer and supplier company, which also does installation and repair. In every case, students are first given a careful microculture-contextual basis for their speeches, i.e. an understanding not only of which information a non-native speaker audience would require, but a feel for the business mentality called for by their choice of topic. Students work with the S.P.A.M. model of creating professional presentations, i.e. situation, purpose, audience and method analysis.

We will now focus on how the theoretical/methodological considerations we had integrated into our course design, as well as the assignments we have just outlined, needed adjustment due to the problems students had in immersing themselves in their assignments. Since our courses have a decidedly practical emphasis, students must necessarily possess, as a minimum, a general understanding of what a business environment might look and sound like, in order to be able to effectively communicate in one. For many students in e.g. North America, this ability comes easily, as many young people have had numerous employment positions in various companies and in various capacities by the time they have reached 18 years of age. Unfortunately, our students here often do not have even one opportunity before graduation to tale on any job more complicated than putting advertising leaflets in mailboxes or selling beverages to tourists. In other words, even those with some job experience have only rarely found themselves in a functioning, complicated business communication environment. If one examines the impact of the lack of such experience, then it quickly becomes clear how such a situation might impinge on the ability of students to properly engross them in an assignment which requires imitating a business environment.

We will use the second public speaking assignment we introduced previously as an example: a 10-12 minute presentation to convince, which encompasses topics from public policy change, to issues of business strategy, to environmental protection. As we have already stated, students are taught to use the SPAM model in preparing their speeches, the first element of which is to analyze the situation at hand. Let us assume a student wishes to prepare a presentation to convince their university to modify its policy for using the NEPTUN on-line registration system, to allow students an additional 4 weeks to register for classes. What is the situation from a professional communicative point-of-view, and how would this influence the writing of the presentation? In answer to this question, the student must be able to identify the most important elements involved: Who has authority to make changes to this system? Is there a chain-of-command involved, which must be followed, in order to avoid the pitfall of being rejected because one has stepped on the wrong toes'? Is there a timeline to be followed, i.e. a predetermined, yearly committee meeting for discussing this system, in which any criticisms or requests for system adjustment need to be raised? And, if so, how do I get our query onto the agenda? Who sets the agenda? The list may be longer.

There is also the element of the audience: Who is involved in the decision-making process? What do they have to gain and/or to lose from the changes the student would be requesting? What tone is acceptable in speaking to this individual? What is this individual's attitude towards student input? Who in the audience could be a prospective ally, and who a foe? Which one should one rather focus attention toward? For us, both as professionals with employment histories and as adults and/or parents, such questions probably come easily to mind. We are used to handling complex and difficult bureaucratic communicative tasks, but what about our students? In most cases, their parents have simply handled such problems for them. Often, in-class communicative practice tasks are hindered by lack of such life experiences: even simple brainstorming exercises produce insufficient ideas for raising such questions as those we gave as examples, because the student lacks the basis from which to formulate them.

In attempting to compensate for our students' inability to produce their own logical preparatory questions, we have developed and now use a problem-solution-action worksheet. This worksheet guides the student through the logical process of problem analysis towards a specific, communicative goal.

The course of action begins with the student writing down the elements of the Attention Step of their speech:

        How will they gain their audience's attention?

        How should they bring their audience to recognize that they are somehow affected by the problem?

        What credibility-enhancing material can one present to establish clout?

        How can they effectively preview their main points without giving away their solution(s) too early?

Next, there follows an important transitional element, which leads into the next part of the presentation, the Problem Step:

        What, specifically, is the problem?

        Cause/effect: explanation?

        What evidence supports these elements/causes?

        Who is affected by them?

        What evidence supports this supposition?

        What are the consequences of NOT solving the problem?

        What evidence justifies this prediction?

Then, the Solution Step is worked out:

        What is my proposal?

        What is my specific plan?

        How do my remedies fit and fix the elements of the problem?

        How does my solution satisfy those affected by the problem?

        Will it work? Is it affordable?

Next, the Action Step is tackled:

        What, specifically, should the audience do TODAY?

        Why is this appropriate for the audience?

        How can I ask the audience for their support?

The worksheet concludes with the transition to, and design of, the Conclusion:

        What summary statement can I employ to tie all the main elements together?

        How can I end memorably to achieve maximum effect on my audience?

This worksheet invariably leads us to the second, and perhaps most important, problem we attempt to solve in teaching effective communication to my students: tackling the audience.

It is vital for any professional presentation that the speaker develops an awareness of their presence in front of an audience. Students learning the tools of professional communication must approach each communication task armed with the understanding that there always exists a fluid relationship with one's audience. This relationship is based on many factors, and these range from the level of sophistication the audience members have in grasping the complexity of the message(s) they are receiving, to their role in not only interpreting that message, but to then using it to bring about a desired change. Yet, this relationship is groundless without the communicator's ability to skilfully weave a message to trigger a proper reaction from an audience. We follow Ede and Lunsford's (1984) response to Mitchell and Taylor (1979) in teaching students how audiences constitute the key element of the communication environment. Ede and Lunsford agree with their scholarly predecessors that focusing on the element of audience is critical for effective writing of information for others, but argue that invention,' i.e. the term used to describe those methods designed to aid in retrieving information, forming concepts, analyzing complex events, and solving certain kinds of problems is actually equally necessary.

Actually, in our understanding, the term invention more closely denotes those cognitive methods employed by a speaker to create an element of uniqueness that must exist during any communicative activity in order to create an appropriate environment, i.e. to garner and keep the audience's attention, in such a manner that allows for the transmission of an intended message. Without establishing a proper environment with one's audience no effective communication can take place; yet, there is equally no communication without invention. Houser (2003) reminds us how an audience's interaction with such an environment, and its products, influences their behaviour, their perceptions, and their problem-solving strategies. In other words, students must master the craft of individually designing their messages to tailor them to perfectly fit individual speaking environments, in order to successfully impact their audiences' behaviours, perceptions and problem-solving strategies: indeed, the messages one wishes to communicate must be encoded and delivered in a way which guides the members of the audience to perform each of these three tasks in harmony with the speaker's intended purpose in communicating them.

The element of delivery is crucial for communicative success, and confronts students with their greatest challenge. As, unfortunately, many schools do not provide pupils with ample opportunities to develop self-confidence in expressing themselves, especially in post-secondary language courses, which focus on the active use of verbal skills by students, students often approach in-class verbal tasks the way they take some oral language examinations: with meek, monotone speech which belies their actual abilities to use a second language. One key ingredient of communication is confident presentation. We have explored many methods for purging our students of their shyness. The most effective changes we have made to-date:

  • We never belittle shy students in front of their peers.
  • We use constructive criticism when necessary, but always by mostly emphasizing the positive results of the student's performance
  • We exploit the use of group verbalization exercises to increase confidence in pronunciation and word emphasis in annunciating sentences and messages
  • We use a one-on-one review process of the student's videotaped communication assignments to show them their strengths and weaknesses. This is much more effective than solely using a written evaluation.

The process of creating confident speakers out of shy students is slow and difficult, and teachers should set realistic goals for the improvement of their students on an individual basis. Teachers who use blanketed targets for entire classes will only succeed in not improving their more introverted students, and will only frustrate themselves in the process.

The teaching of professional communication courses to foreign language students involves careful planning and in-depth knowledge of how to best use aspects of the discipline of communication theory to develop one's own students. Perhaps the best way to illustrate our point is to end by reminding colleagues that our students are our audiences, and that the effectiveness of our teaching also stands and falls on our ability to analyze them, and to tailor our messages in ways that they can use to learn most effectively. If we keep that in mind, then our approach to designing courses, syllabi, in-class lectures and student-participation exercises should be one that brings success.


There are, of course, many other courses which might suit a language department's needs, so that it might survive the challenges the globalized world, present it in higher education in Hungary. Regardless, the onus is on us and our colleagues nationwide to quickly work towards integration of our course offerings into the greater curricula. The consequences of the indecision surrounding the role of foreign language teaching in Hungarian higher education are that the level of L2 competence in Hungary remains, even after 15 years, low in comparison with those of other EU countries.

The mismanagement of foreign language education will remain, unless we, who are working in this field, can convince the Ministry, our academic management, parents, students and employers that the only sensible goal is that the student prove competency in all five linguistic skills in the performance of tasks that closely mirror real-life in the workplace. It seems that the future role of foreign language education in Hungarian higher education lies in its development into a full-fledged, academic discipline, with all the related consequences, or its eventual demise. Without the inclusion of special purpose language training in higher education, the majority of our work force will start their careers unprepared to work anywhere but in the domestically oriented sectors, and higher education will have failed to meet its chief goal - the proper preparation of its graduates to work in a globalized market.


Ede, L. and A. Lunsford (1984): Audience addressed/audience invoked: The role of audience in composition theory and pedagogy. College Composition and Communication 35.2 (May), 155-171.

F. Silye, M. & T.B. Wiwczaroski (2003): The Professional Language Communication Minor at Debrecen University Agricultural Sciences Centre. NovELTy 10.3, 25-35.

F. Silye, (2002): Globalizacio, interkulturalitas, nyelvoktatas I.  Magyar Felsooktatas, 10, 32-36, Budapest

F. Silye, M. (2004): Pedagogiai iranyelvek es tantervi javaslat a felsofoku szaknyelvi kepzes szuksegleteknek megfelelo tovabbfejlesztesehez. Tanulas, kommunikacio, neveles. IV. Orszagos Nevelestudomanyi Kongresszus, Budapest

Houser, R. (2003): What is the value of audience to technical communicators? A survey of audience research. First User Services, Inc. In-House publication. Accessed 2003.10.06.

James, P. (1996): Learning to reflect: a story of empowerment. Teaching and Teacher Education 12, 81-97.

Johnson, R.R. (1994): The Unfortunate Human Factor: A Selective History of Human Factors for Technical Communicators. Technical Communication Quarterly 3 (2), 195-212.

Mitchell, R. and M. Taylor (1979): The integrating perspective: An audience-response model for writing. College English 41, 247-271.

Riccardi, V.M., & Kurtz, S.M. (1983): Communication and Counseling in Health Care. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publ.

Speier, M. (1973): How to observe face-to-face communication: a sociological introduction. Pacific Palisades, CA: Goodyear Publ.

Van Lier, L. (1996): Interaction in the Language Curriculum: Awareness, Autonomy and Authenticity. London and New York: Longman.

Widdowson, H. (1981): Learning purposes and language use. Oxford: OUP.

[1] Language Skills for European Union Accession. A Baseline Study of current market needs and provision in Hungarian institutions of higher education. Feketene Silye, M. Nagy, E. - Noble, H. -  Sardi, Cs. Veresne Varga, T.  The British Council material.  2000


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