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

Litvinchuk A.T.

National University of Water Management and Natural Resources Use, Rivne, Ukraine


Globalization of higher education is a key driver of huge demand for English in universities. Nowadays universities are not concerned with just learning English anymore, but are more concerned as to what students can do with the second language. Foreign language learning correlates positively with success in other content areas, and promotes an interdisciplinary view of the curriculum. This in turn has brought about change in the way in which English language is taught.

The rationale for English for specific/academic purposes courses (ESP/EAP) in Higher Education (HE) wishes to implement language instruction taking into account specific educational needs [1]. Such didactic aims can be fostered by content-based instruction (CBI), a valuable approach which enhances both language acquisition and academic success by the incorporation of content material into language classes. This matching of language and content also broadens cross-curricular awareness and specific knowledge [5, p. 5] to be spent both to improve academic studies or for the world of work.

Content and language integration is starting to become the established language teaching approach. More increasingly, universities have been doing more with English and content, thereby demanding more in terms of professional development. Being in contact with a foreign language when learning other contents, the language itself can support the acquisition process.

At university level, and in English as foreign Language (EFL) contexts, this integration increases language proficiency as CBI makes students realize how the discourses pertaining to their field of specialization are organized in the target foreign language. This approach highly motivates EFL learners since it can draw on knowledge already acquired in subject disciplines and applies even to freshmen because they do not reach higher education totally blank. On the contrary, bring with them both content and foreign language expertise [6, p. 44].

Although the matching of language and content has a high face value in motivating students, CBI implementation opens the way to what has been defined the ESP teachers subject knowledge dilemma since CBI implies that ESP professionals have to tread specialistic paths. This bias can have a two-fold solution: either the ESP practitioner consults a colleague expert in the field, or asks the same for a deeper collaboration. As concerns the latter issue, Dudley-Evans and St. Johns [2, p. 43–48] acknowledge the importance of such an engagement and recognize three different stages upon which this joint work can take place: cooperationcollaboration and team-teaching. The first stage, or cooperation, witnesses the ESP teacher to take the initiative and to enquire about the students fields of specialism to design an appropriate program of study.

The second step, that of collaboration, plans for a more direct involvement of the subject teacher to validate the syllabus content by devising common materials, whereas the third stage,team-teaching, implies a stricter conjoined work in the classroom, where each educator provides his/her own expertise in the field.

The English course, scheduled at the first year, is commonly targeted by our University boards at the B1/B2 level of the Common European Framework, for the written and spoken skills, respectively. This means that the ESP teacher has to provide instruction considering future academic and workplace requirements to be used by students to access, say, foreign literature for the final project work or to be used after graduation for the profession. The drawback emerging from this study situation, and common to many EFL countries [6, p. 39–41], is that students find it difficult to consider the ESP activities motivating as too much detached from their present learning situation. To overcome this motivational shortcoming and to exploit different teaching methods, the CBI approach was deemed a suitable solution to stimulate a linguistically non homogeneous group of freshmen, struggling to find their way between HE requirements and study habits peculiar to secondary school instruction.

Although it is common ESP practice to rely on themes taken from content areas and to develop them for communicative teaching purpose, the idea behind this strategy was that of finding interdisciplinary cooperation to achieve a balance between language and content [5, p. 286]. By integrating other curricular areas and authentic target language materials into the foreign language curriculum, educators will both expand learners' general knowledge and encourage their communicative and usually professional competence in the foreign language. In effect, the foreign language becomes a tool for learning information rather than an object of study.

Once ascertained the interdisciplinary cooperation, the first step is to find topics to lay the ground on which the instruction could be built up. These themes have to be sound by a disciplinary point of view, but had also to bring educational benefits to ensure growth in foreign language proficiency.

Such a quest implies first of all a careful examination of the co-discipline’s (usually major) syllabus, its expected outcomes and the educational approach the content teacher outlines for the discipline. The rationale is that communicative competence in foreign languages can be enhanced by the previous content knowledge students bring in the EFL classroom.

The selection of English materials takes a longer time because this is the most important part of any CBI plan and success or failure is deeply influenced by the resources learners have to work on. English materials to serve the purposes of CBI experiments have to satisfy particular issues, i.e. they have to be appropriate to the language proficiency students do possess to avoid the feeling of dealing with something too far over their heads. At the same time think about what is needed and don’t just follow an off-the-shelf course or course book. Use authentic materials, contexts, texts and situations from their subject area. Texts have also to be seen by learners as having a direct bearing on their learning efforts, that is they have to be considered meaningful. Last, but not least, language texts have to facilitate communicative interaction in the ESP classes for language sake.

CBI project may give students a good amount of confidence on their foreign language skills and make the overall comprehension of the English text easier, thanks to the previous exposure.

In conclusion, CBI is a successful means to develop foreign language learning by exploiting the possibilities offered by content knowledge. Such an approach is an effective way to develop language and other academic skills. Team-teaching may pretty well answer the interfaculty educational process which encourage interdisciplinary educational aims, in line with the objectives brought out by the European Community. Cooperation is extremely positive as both teachers get an insight on the learning teaching process when learning aims are shared. We get experience on working with others and on building reliable materials conforming to specialist and language requirements.

The list of references:

1. Dudley-Evans T. English for Specific Purposes The Cambridge Guide to Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages / T. Dudley-Evans // Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. – P. 225–238.

2. Dudley-Evans T. Developments in English for specific Purposes / T. Dudley-Evans, M.J. St. John. – Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. – 301 p.

3. Jordan R.R. English for Academic Purposes / R.R. Jordan. – Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. – 404 p.

4. Kasper L.F. The impact of content-based instructional programs on the academic progress of ESL students. English for Specific Purposes 16 (4) / L.F. Kasper, 1997. – P. 309–320.

5. Stryker S.B. and Leaver B.L. Content-based Instruction in foreign Language Education: Models and Methods / S.B. Stryker, B.L. Leaver. – Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 1997. – 275 p.

6. Widdowson H.G. Learning Purpose and Language Use / H.G. Widdowson. – Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983. – 310 p.