II Всеукраинская научно-практическая конференция «Актуальные проблемы преподавания иностранных языков для профессионального общения». Том 1

Karmanova O.I.

The Customs Academy of Ukraine, Dnipropetrovsk


The demand for foreign languages and communication skills is steadily risingon the world labour market. In order to reduce the gap between offer and demand of language skills and to increase the motivation of learners, the development and dissemination of new methods of teaching languages need to be encouraged and implemented. These methods should be learner-focused, practically oriented and more applied to professional contexts.

Language skills are considered by employers as one of the ten most important vocational skills for future graduates and become part of a qualifications profile that matches the future requirements on the labour market.

Elaboration on language requirements on the labour market, however, is a very complex issue and requires the cooperation of employers, education and training authorities and learners to define the particular language skills for different business sectors. It could enable to draw profiles on which skills are needed for which jobs.

It should be pointed out that in large parts of Europe and beyond, English is already considered more as a basic skill than a foreign language. Due to the fact that English becomes a component of basic education in many countries, speaking like a native speaker is becoming less relevant. Companies are generally in search of people with the ability to apply language skills to a variety of different work situations. They are also looking for good communicators with cultural competence, ability to work in multilingual and multicultural teams, flexibility and international experience.

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) defines levels of proficiency which allow learners’ progress to be measured at each stage of learning and on a life-long basis. It describes in a comprehensive way what language learners have to learn in order to use a language for communication and what knowledge and skills they have to develop so as to be able to act effectively. The description also covers the cultural context in which a language is set. The Framework also provides a common basis for the elaboration of language syllabuses, vocabulary, curriculum guidelines, examinations, textbooks, etc. for each level of proficiency.

It goes without saying that learning methods need to be more applied and practice oriented.

One of the most important aspects of language acquisition is general and professional vocabulary. Nowadays the importance of vocabulary acquisition is strongly emphasized. This is reflected in the modern language courses, which have well-defined vocabulary syllabus with strong emphasis on frequency, useful expressions, pronunciation practice and dictionary practice. The teachers should fully recognize the key role vocabulary development plays in language learning. It is proved by the idea that without vocabulary no meaning can be conveyed. Most researchers now recommend a core vocabulary of at least 2,000 word families, while for specific needs of over 5,000 both in productive and receptive knowledge. It is obvious that learners should obtain a core 2,000 high frequency word families as soon as possible.

It is important to note that vocabulary can be taught on its own and not just simply as an add-on to skills lessons. To know truly the word means knowing both its meaning and form; in particular, its pronunciation, multiple meanings, its collocations, or how it combines with other words; the context in which it can be used; its properties (part of speech, prefixes and suffixes). It is essential that students should be trained by a teacher how to work with vocabulary and provided with strategies of self-directed learning.

We would like to consider some of the main principles in acquisition of vocabulary. First of all, students should strive to build a core vocabulary as quickly as possible. They need to be actively involved in the learning of words and take responsibility themselves for it. Vocabulary learning is a memory task; students need to retrieve words from memory repeatedly. It is the principle widely known as “use it or lose it”.

Vocabulary learning also involves creative and personalized use. Personalization is the process of using new words in a context that is real for a student personally. It can be reflected in various techniques. Students can be asked to make an association network centered on a new word, drawing a diagram, then comparing their diagrams to those of other students, asking about and explaining the associations.

Another technique is peer teaching when students teach each other vocabulary in different ways, one of which can be information gap activity. In order to complete the task students have to exchange the information known only to the individuals of a pair or a small group. Other ways of creative and personalized use of new vocabulary are making projects and presentations on a certain topic. Various word games can be very effective, because an emotional factor and a competitive element may help make words more memorable.

Students need to make multiple decisions about words. Decision-making includes the following tasks: identification, selecting, matching, sorting and ranking words. In this respect we should speak about use of various dictionaries and ability or wish of students to work with them. How can the information in dictionaries be exploited to promote vocabulary acquisition depends on how well trained the students are in using dictionaries. The more decisions a learner makes about a word, the greater the degree of cognitive processing. Dictionary-based activities can require students to make decisions about word’s spelling, pronunciation, meaning, collocations, its connotations and style, its derivatives and frequency.

Due to the development of technology and corpus linguistics we have a new source of accurate information about word’s frequency and its different collocations, as well as authentic examples of the word in context. The benefit for a teacher and a student of corpus data is that it provides them with easily accessible electronically stored information about real language use. Integrating technology into teaching can also facilitate learning professional vocabulary in context. It is a great way for an educator to enhance the effecttiveness of their lessons and connect with their students.

Speaking about authentic profession related materials, it is necessary to mention some new approaches to teaching. One of them is CLIL (Content and language integrated learning). It is an approach in which a foreign language is used in to teach certain subjects in the curriculum with the aim of developing both language skills and content knowledge. The key principle is that the learner is gaining new knowledge about the 'non-language' subject while using and learning the foreign language. CLIL is taking place and has proved to be effective in all sectors of education including adult and higher education. Its success has been growing over the past years and continues to do so. Learners immerse in the professional vocabulary environment.

CLIL's multi-faceted approach offers a variety of benefits. It builds intercultural knowledge and understanding, develops intercultural communication skills and improves language competence and oral communication skills. CLIL allows learners more contact with the target language, develops multilingual interests and attitudes, increases learners' motivation and confidence in both the language and the subject being taught, as well as provides different methods and forms of classroom practice.

Another benefit is that it does not require extra teaching hours. While the need for higher levels of proficiency in foreign languages is growing, the amount of time and number of lessons spent on foreign language teaching have gone down in many countries in Europe, as well as in Ukraine. Therefore, new approaches like CLIL are very much needed to provide high levels of proficiency. However, teaching of CLIL requires specially trained teachers and trainers, good organization and very good team work between different categories of teachers.

To sum up, nowadays the main challenge is for language teaching to become learner-focused, better geared to professional contexts and the needs of the jobs market. This, in turn, will improve learner motivation and develop a wide range of language skills and competences.