ESP and EAP Strand
The first session on ESP and EAP was focussed on teaching Psychologists and the problem of syllabus design. Ekaterina Redkina from Moscow State Linguistic University, said that the main objective of the professional communication course at her university was to develop knowledge and skills essential for psychologists. The curriculum covers general terminology applicable in any field but also topic specific terminology. At the university, they develop professional skills such as scientific and research skills, public writing, presenting and interpersonal communicative skills as well.
She calls the main principles 'the 4C's' - communication, content, cognition and culture that are important for both CLIL and ESP. The aim is to lead students and enable them to develop higher thinking skills. They also take care of the balance of genre and inquiry approach and for that purpose she introduced essay rubrics which her students like. She mentioned that she uses a lot of technology in the classroom as well.
She talked about her experience from the United States of America and compared how syllabi are created and used in Russia and in the States - in Russia, syllabus is teacher oriented while in the states it is student oriented. She also mentioned that it is project based as well.
She was talking about the open education platforms that are common these days, however, one has to be a member of the university network which is a drawback. She presented an independent platform, coursesites.com, that teachers can use as a back up to their face to face teaching.
In her presentation about cultural differences in academic discourse, Olga Rotko talked about the differences in academic writing styles influenced by culture. She opened the session by outlining the characteristics of different languages - she mentioned that Oriental languages are around the topic, Roman include direct statement of thesis, while English language is traditionally linear, direct and concise and takes the reader straight to the point. She was talking about Contrastive rhetoric studies that showed that academic writing in Russian is less linear and also tolerates digressions.
It is important to have a specific target audience on mind when writing since students might not be aware of the specifics defined by culture. Olga gave an example of the conference where a presenter spoke as if she addressed an English audience and, even though the talk was overall good, the "style" was not appreciated by the Russian audience. She stressed that in Russian the topic is stated usually in the beginning but on the other hand not as direct as in English. Russian discourse is also deliberately complex hence it is often difficult to read Russian papers. She compared Russian and British style by giving an example of two titles for the same presentation that were completely different. She also said that that is not a universal rule and mentioned a scholar, Judith Butler, who wrote a paragraph that won the first prize for the worst sentence. No plain and up to the point language there.
She also talked about reader - writer responsibility. The English will be ready to explain the terms and make them simpler, while in Russia that will not be the case. Focus on the form in English is extremely important and also writing about about the methodology used, as compared to the Russian style.
Professor Vera Ivanovna Zabotkina opened the plenary on the topic of essential skills for academic writing with an overview of 'TRIPLE I' approach to modern education which implies that research is interdisciplinary, international, intersectoral and intergenerational. She went on and explained how we look at academic discourse from different perspectives and aspects. She said that the key competence of 21st century is linguistic competence. According to the research, the writing skills are the weakest link of modern education. She said that what is crucial for the 21st century is the intersection of technology, information and language.
Stating that 'A word is a mirror of culture' she started explaining different intellectual styles and registers in different cultures - she mentioned Saxon, Teutonic, Gallic and Japanese. Structure of paragraphs is also different in different languages. English is writer-responsible language, Russian, Chinese and Japanese on the other hand are reader-responsible languages. A good sentence should be clear at first reading and should be one thought. She talked about the curse of knowledge in academic writing - that writers suppose the reader has the same knowledge as they. The advice is always think about the reader.
She continued with strategies of contrastive rhetoric and mentioned the difference between English and Russian. In English, the key principle is 'less is more', while in Russian it is quite the opposite. In academic writing, we never repeat verbs but we repeat nouns. If we change the noun, the reader might think the author is referring to something else.
Five-paragraph essay is a basic axiom of academic writing in English. The Anglo-Saxon culture follows the Aristotelian logic according to which the writer has to defend the thesis, while the Russian culture in writing is based on the Hegelian model where we have thesis, antithesis and synthesis.
Steve Kirk opened his talk by saying that knowledge practices may differ across the academy and universities. In science, knowledge is empirical and objective and genres are highly structured while in humanities we have more dispersed knowledge and more fluid discourse. Language and context are co-constituting. It is important that students know why differences exist. EAP can not be seen only as a language work but as academic work as well - content learning, disciplinary differences, text as culturally purposeful are all crucial.
Steve mentioned the way they do training in his organisation. They give to the students something he calls a managed essay - a reading pack with 4 - 6 journal papers, unedited. Students get an essay question and attend a content-based lecture. Since their language level is around IELTS 5.5, they also have sessions on dealing with long readings, note-taking and planning writing. Via the academic process they integrate the skills.
Steve stressed that content matters and it is not only carrier for language work; trainees build critical thinking through content. He stated that the four skills do not have equal weight, and that has be noted.
He pointed out that we can rephrase English for Academic Purposes as 'Participation in academic practices through English' in order to be more efficient.
He discussed the usage of 'I' and 'We' in academic writing and the differences. In Science, knowledge is what matters and 'I', the writer, is often less visible. In Humanities, academic knowers are more valued and there is a tendency that 'I' is often more visible. That is informed by the discipline - when writing, we choose either to stress the writer or the research.
It is important to understand the target academic context and there should not be one universal guide for EAP teachers. E in EAP should be standing for 'enabling academic participation'. Teaching materials are one-size-fits-all, but with teacher knowledge and awareness of the nuances, teachers can make a difference. He advises teachers to collaborate locally and explore globally. Steve closed the session and the first day by mentioning a hashtag, #Tleap, that is being used for EAP online.
By Kristijan Rajkovic