Business English for the Arels / LCCI Certificate in Teaching English for Business at International House London 106 Piccadilly.
To help me in my quest to improve my teaching skills in July two-thousand-and-three I returned to International House London language school at one-oh-six Piccadilly next to the Japanese embassy, where I had taken my CELTA course for a one thousand pound extension course to the CELTA the LCCIB cert in teaching English for Business. I eventually passed this course by writing a business case study and submitting it for examination. The details of the contents of the course appear in the two photos here along with the certificate.
Meeting Paul Emerson, Maurice Cassidy, and Nick Hamilton
At that time everyone who was anyone in business ELT textbook writing was connected with Internatational House. Indeed, they had two very prominent textbook writers in Mark Powell and Paul Emerson. Mark Powell had just retired from being a teacher but he was still writing textbooks like Business Matters. Paul Emerson had just written a book on writing Email English for intermediates. On the first morning, we got to meet Paul Emerson along with our tutors Nick Hamilton and Maurice Cassidy over coffee.
The big new thing for me in English Language Teaching was now to be introduced to ESP or English for Specific Purposes which is what I would eventually gain my masters in. Specific Purposes English is an English course which focuses on the students individual or communal needs resulting from some kind of Needs Analysis. This means you design your English course according to that student’s specific vocabulary and grammatical needs, their personal needs and personality and so on. For example, three traders on the Simex market in Singapore required English, but their requirements were so specific that they only had to ask and reply to a total of three questions in English in order to make money. Therefore, there is no need to learn a language in full that would take too much time away from their job and families, and might be seen as England wishing to exert a dominance still over the cities of its former Empire in terms of soft power. There are all kinds of reasons why people do not wish to learn English in full. In many respects, thier English doesn’t have to be perfect because they are trading with people in China for whom English might even be a third language and they are only using it as a lingua franca. Riyhadh Kassahneh was such a person. The Needs Analysis can be formal or done on the teachers experience and intuition.
ESP and the lexical approach with Nick
The lexical approach was first discovered in the late nineteen-eighties by a married couple Willis and Willis. It was heralded as the greatest advancement in language teaching since the bilingual dictionary. Willis and Willis’s textbooks were the first to be what is called corpora based. That is to say based on concordance samples or language that was genuine and had been recorded in conversation and transcribed onto a computer. Language teaching was beginning at last to focus on what people actually said rather than what teachers thought they were saying. It was in a way flawed from the start because no-one really understood it’s significance in those days except Willis and Willis themselves and their first lexical approach textbooks published by Longman ELT almost put them into administration they were so unpopular. The Lexical approach was saved by someone called Michael Lewis whom I believe I met shortly before he retired in his school the Euroakademie in Cologne which was an excellent school. He reinvented the methodology in book called Implementing the Lexical Approach which had got some momentum with Nick Hamilton. His approach was based loosely on higher level English being made up of basically two structures namely collocation and phrase. Collocation is a word partnership for example eat breakfast or cook breakfast. They both contain the noun breakfast but mean the opposite thing. The lexical approach focuses on teaching those word partnerships. Phrase is simply a chunk of language with a proper noun or noun, or other word missing that you can decontextualize learn as vocabulary and then re-contextualise in a different situation for example ‘You can ……. breakfast in the …….’. The trouble with that approach is that my German teacher at school tried to apply it to teaching us A level German and it really doesn’t work for German because it’s a much more grammatically rich language. For German, it’s better to learn the individual parts of the sentence, alternative ways of saying things and how they relate to case, collocation and phrase only come in at a very high level in German. The other thing that was mentioned by Nick was the ‘idiomacy’ as the level of collocation increased so did the complexity of the language and the register of the English especially business English. Maurice our other tutor who was slightly more conservative referred to Nick as an ‘evangelist’ when the rich American lady wanted to take her textbook Grammar Builder back to the shop because she was so convinced by what he was saying.
I was very for the lexical approach at first but it does have limitations. If they aren’t obsessed with language, it is boring for them, because they are interested in saying what they have to say, in the topics covered and not in the language itself. A lot of the lexical approach textbooks ignore the language in its natural context and abstract it too much by distancing it from the topics and contexts. It can be good though if you create a conversation for the class yourself and apply lexical exercises to the language they require. Nick mentioned six different exercises to implement the Lexical Approach. Insertion, deletion, cloze, sentence matching, grammaticisation, ordering. They are useful templates to remember when creating your own materials to provide language focus for the language you are trying to teach.
ESP and the traditional grammar focussed approach with Maurice
Maurice was a little more conservative. They were very interesting and had contrasting approaches Hamilton was a Maverick and Maurice was more of a don’t rock the boat and make any mistakes kind of person but nevertheless kind and well meaning. From him I learned the basics of the Helicopter and boots on the ground approach. The police need air support to catch criminals at night but the helicopter can provide too wide a focus and can’t arrest anyone. So, you need to make sure the overall direction of your course the helicopter is going in the right direction and the detail and communication on the ground is co-ordinated with it to such an extent that your teaching is effective. A wise teacher looks after his relationships and an inexperienced one always relies on his technical prowess and technique.
ESP and task based learning.
Task based learning was pioneered by Harvard Business School in the nineteen-seventies and nineteen-eighties. Students were given company case studies of hypothetical failing companies and were asked to turn them around. The original case studies for task based learning were over two hundred sides long. In the textbook Market Leader they had reduced these Harvard case studies to just two pages for the purposes of discussion in English Language Teaching and improve fluency and style. You can provide language focus by recording some of the discussion with a recorder or with pen and paper and putting their mistakes on the board and giving people a chance to focus on their problems and self-correct.
Business materials come in all shapes and sizes from beginners General business English and vocabulary for the Automobile industry to very specific ELT materials manufactured by the teacher for the exact purposes prescribed.
Mark Powell’s lexical approach business textbook.
Mark Powell was a person who wrote the first truly lexis based textbook for business called business matters. He worked for international house down in Hastings for a while before it was taken over by Embassy. It’s a very original book Nick recommended us to buy and I found it useful. I chose to take on board what I’d learned but have an eclectic approach to teaching to have my own style based on what I’d learned from everyone along the way.