January 2011 Volume 7 Issue 1
The teaching of Business English has had a history of over 50 years in China. A milestone event in its history was the accreditation of the Business English program at the University of International Business and Economics as an undergraduate program by the Ministry of Education of China in 2007. By the end of 2010, 15 institutions of higher learning in China have won approval to operate their Business English program.
To run the new undergraduate program requires answering a number of questions regarding the syllabus, content, course design, methodology, etc. These are issues applied linguistics should address.
The booming of Business English in China has come in response to the need of China’s socio-economic development, the reform of English education in China, and the advances in research for business discourse and English for specific purposes. While China’s economy is increasingly globalized, there arises the demand for a large number of talents well-attuned to international business and adept at intercultural communication. As part of the reform of English education in China since the 1990s, the program for English majors has been called on to train composite-type talents and to put the emphasis on the integration of language learning and study of a specialized field, such as language and literature, language and culture, language and business, language and law, and language and diplomacy. Questions have arisen as to what a composite-type talent needs to learn and how language learning and the study of subject matter can be integrated.
The answers to these questions can be found in business discourse studies and English for specific purposes. Business discourse studies provide a truthful account of how English is used in the field and activities of business, which contribute to determining the content of Business English teaching, while English for specific purposes is the source of ideas for syllabus design and teaching methodology. Similar to the rise of English for specific purposes in the 1950s and 60s, the popularity of Business English as it now enjoys derives from the social need, advances in linguistic theories, and reform of English education.
This special issue comes in at a critical moment for Business English in China. We are pleased to have received 14 contributions from universities and colleges across the country, 9 of which are included in this issue.
These articles cover the major aspects of concern for Business English in China. Zhang and Wang take the Business English program at the University of International Business English as an exemplar in discussing the essential theoretical issues involved in developing a Business English program. Wang, Chen and Zhang elaborate on the more technical aspects of the program, in particular the specification of the major modules and units and the requirements of knowledge, skills, and abilities, and some guiding principles for the teaching of Business English. The next four articles by Wang, Jiang and Zeng, Mu and Liu, Zhang respectively concern specific issues in teaching Business English, such as cross-cultural communication and case method, teaching listening in Business English, training of interpreters for exhibition and convention, and information literacy. Liu and Xu’s discussion of two merging and acquisition cases concerning Chinese enterprises provide a glimpse of the rich content of business activities that create and are created by business discourse. This article testifies to the importance of disciplinary knowledge as an essential component in the teaching of Business English. Sun proposes a framework of business pragmatics, a welcome attempt of a linguist drawing on pragmatics and business discourse to model the use of language in the business field.
I hope that this special issue on Asia ESP will serve to showcase the research and practice in Business English teaching in China and to provide a venue for exchange of experiences and thoughts with colleagues in Asia and beyond. I would like to thank all the contributors including those whose articles are not included in this issue. Dr. Francesca Bargiela reviewed all the contributions and advised wisely on the title and the order of the articles in the special issue. Professor Wang Lifei, Dr. Zhang Cuiping, Professor Zhu Xiaoshu, and Mr. Ren Chi at the University of International Business and Economics helped with the special issue in various useful ways.
Professor Zhang Zuocheng
School of International Studies
University of International Business and Economics