- Roger Nunn & Colin Toms
ForewordIn this edition of The Asian ESP Journal, we are happy to present another varied set of studies in the Asian context. At The Asian ESP Journal, we are keen to publish well-researched studies that make a difference. This may be in the local context but it is also very important that a study has some resonance beyond the local context that is translatable to other setting.
In the first paper, Overcoming Institutional Barriers to Establishing an ESP Programme: A Case Report from Japan, Michael Guest provides a very interesting example of research and reflection based on real experience that made a difference. Importantly it also shows how an experienced academic can approach a real-world issue and use research to come up with a solution. His study is therefore a good example of the way that first-person narrative and reflection counterbalanced by triangulated research can provide solid grounds for curriculum improvement. AESP welcome the first-person input of this type, which acknowledges transparently the inevitable presence of the teacher/researcher in the report of his research. It is also interesting to note the process through which this particular study helped overcome initial institutional resistance: something that many ESP specialists can relate to beyond this particular setting. ⊞ moreIn the interest of variety, our second study Exploring Industry Expectations of Graduating Students’ Oral Communicative Ability was conducted by a team of researchers in Malaysia: Anie Attan, Abdul Halim Abdul Raof, Masputeriah Hamzah, Noor Abidah Mohd Omar and Masdinah Alauyah Md. Yusof. Not unlike the first study, this team designs new activities to make curriculum more relevant. They grapple with the complex but very real ESP issue of the relevance of graduate study to industry and the potential mismatch in expectations. This study focuses on spoken language and comes up with a practical oral test that illustrates how assessment and task design needs to go beyond developing language skills into areas such as thinking and interactive ability.
We follow this with a piece by Luo Yang and Yingli Yang, which notes that in China, there has hitherto been little research into the mastery of discipline-specific vocabulary knowledge by Business English majors. Their study examines Business English majors across four grade levels. With a vocabulary test adapted from Hsu’s (2011) Business Academic Word List , one hundred and twenty seven Business English majors were tested as part of this study. Although students generally demonstrated better mastery of business vocabulary as grade level increases, their overall scores did not show a consistent pattern. Furthermore, a significant difference was found among the four grades in word mastery at different frequency levels. Results of the study are interpreted in terms of both testing and curriculum, with specific implications for vocabulary testing and curriculum development being discussed.
Our focus shifts to Iran for our next piece, Revisiting the Topical Knowledge of Iranian ESL Learners in Reading Comprehension: Text Types and Question Types by Masoomeh Estaji and Hussein Meihami. Their study considers the effect of topical knowledge on ESP learners’ reading comprehension performance, specifically on different types of reading questions. In particular, comprehension, inference, and lexical question types were investigated. The study comprised a total of 46 upper-intermediate students, 26 of them civil engineering students, the remainder being General English students. All participants were in their mid- to late twenties. Two types of reading texts, General English and ESP, were assigned to both groups. Results showed that the ESP students performed better on both the General English reading text and the ESP reading text. In addition, the topical knowledge of the ESP students was deemed to be instrumental in helping them answer different types of questions. The study also revealed that there was no statistically significant difference between the ESP students’ performance on specific reading texts and their performance on General English reading texts. The authors conclude that, despite the limitations of what is a relatively small-scale investigation, their results have implications for both teachers and test designers.
We remain in Iran for our final offering, a topical study by Seyyed Mohammad Reza Adel and Mostafa Janebi Enayat. In Gender Representation and Stereotyping in ESP Textbooks, the authors present an exploration of gender equality in current ESP textbooks. Their concern was to investigate the gender representation in the images and texts of the ‘Oxford English for Careers’ series including Commerce, Nursing, Technology, and Tourism. Two separate taxonomies – the first from Goffman’s Gender Advertisements, the second from Kress and van Leeuwen’s Reading Images – were converged as an analytical instrument. Subsequently, a systematic quantitative content analysis was conducted to determine gender visibility. The principal findings were threefold. Firstly, men are portrayed as more active and competent in the specific arenas of technology and tourism. Secondly, women appear as objects of both scrutiny and desire in all the titles under scrutiny. Finally, men are more the frequently depicted ‘at work’ and identified as principal breadwinners in all but the Tourism text. The authors conclude that their results reflect extant institutionalized gender discrimination and, consequently, have implications for materials writers, teachers and learners alike.
It might be noted that this edition of The Asian ESP Journal departs somewhat from the established norm. Generally speaking, each issue is united, albeit loosely on occasion, by a central governing theme. The manifest heterogeneity of the offerings in this issue, however, defies any such thematic unity. That much said, all the articles presented herein are, as ever, underpinned by our firm belief in the supremacy of the authorial voice. We do not impose limits on the linguistic choices available to authors, nor do we impose a deterministic generic structure or style. In that regard, then, the current edition of The Asian ESP Journal remains true to its essential vision, one that is fundamentally Asian in both voice and orientation.
- Michael Guest
Overcoming Institutional Barriers to Establishing an ESP Programme: A Case Report from Japan
This paper is a Case Report describing a triangulation of 1) action research, 2) the application of my own previous field research, and 3) direct argument, undertaken in a university in Japan in order to inculcate a more informed and accepting attitude towards the implementation of ESP programmes among both peers and administrators. I undertook these actions in response to initial administrative claims that establishing a university-wide ESP-based programme was not feasible due to three stated reasons: 1) that specialist English content would be too difficult for first and second year students, 2) that students needed to master general English before beginning an ESP course, and 3) that ESP teachers should be content experts, not applied linguists. To address the first claim, I carried out in-class action research in which lesser achieving students were given a specialized task usually demanded of more competent learners. To address the second claim, I applied some results of existing field research from within the medical professional discourse community which indicate discourse competence without a mastery of English minutiae. To address the third claim, I presented to programme administrators a combination of established ESP research arguing that ESP teachers may actually be preferable to content experts when conducting ESP classes or in developing materials. These three actions were carried out in order to augment the case for the inclusion of an ESP approach in the university’s English programme and were eventually instrumental in changing and upgrading the university’s English curriculum. It is hoped and believed that these responses and activities might have application beyond Japan, throughout the region wherever similar conditions and sentiments may exist.
- Anie Attan, Abdul Halim Abdul Raof, Masputeriah Hamzah, Noor Abidah Mohd Omar & Masdinah Alauyah Md Yusof
Exploring Industry Expectations of Graduating Students’ Oral Communicative Ability
This paper is our attempt to address the issue of industry expectations of the speaking ability of prospective graduates through a study involving graduating students and workplace professionals. Information regarding oral tasks, minimum standards and quality expected from new graduate employees were gathered through interviews and discussions with the human resource personnel from various industries. Based on the information gathered, a pilot test of group oral interaction was designed and administered to a group of four graduating students. The interactions of the group were video-recorded and were then assessed by professionals from various specialisations based on their respective criteria of assessment. The professionals’ responses, comments and suggestions to interview questions posed were noted. The results were analysed to establish the different categories of criteria being applied by the professionals in their assessment of the new graduates’ performances. Findings show that thinking ability, interactive ability and professional image, which go beyond language skills, were other equally important criteria of assessment, besides language accuracy. From the analysis, the construct of oral communication ability for an exit oral test was determined.
- Luo Yan & Yingli Yang
Examining Business English Majors’ Business Vocabulary Knowledge Development
While previous studies have investigated vocabulary size of English and non-English majors in China, little research has been conducted on the mastery of discipline-specific vocabulary knowledge by Business English majors. This study examined knowledge of business academic vocabulary by business English majors across four grade levels. A vocabulary test adapted from Hsu’s (2011) Business Academic Word List was administered as the measuring instrument. One hundred and twenty seven students majoring in business English participated in this study. Although students generally demonstrated better mastery of business vocabulary as grade level increases, their overall scores of business vocabulary at different word frequency levels did not show a consistent pattern. In addition, according to results of ANOVA and post-hoc Scheffe analysis, a significant difference was found among four grades on their mastery of words at different frequency levels. The students’ scores on level 1 vocabulary were similar, whereas their scores on level 6 were most widely spread. Results are interpreted in terms of vocabulary test items and the courses in the curriculum and implications on vocabulary test and curriculum development are discussed.
- Masoomeh Estaji & Hussein Meihami
Revisiting the Topical Knowledge of Iranian ESP Learners in Reading Comprehension: Text Types and Question Types
There are disparate findings with regard to the use of the learners’ topical knowledge and its impact on their reading comprehension. Therefore, this study was an attempt to investigate the effect of topical knowledge of English for specific purpose (ESP) learners on their reading comprehension performance. Moreover, in this research the effect of topical knowledge on different types of reading questions namely comprehension, inference, and lexical questions were investigated. To this end, a total of 46 upper-intermediate students, including 26 civil engineering students and 20 general English students, with age range between 23 and 29 who were selected through convenience sampling participated in this study. Two types of reading texts, general and ESP, were assigned to both groups. The results of this study showed that the ESP students had a better performance on both general English reading text (p=.001) and ESP reading text (p=.001) than the general English students. In addition, the topical knowledge of ESP students was significantly constructive in helping them to answer different types of reading comprehension questions. The study also revealed that there was no statistically significant difference between the ESP students’ performance on specific reading texts and their performance on general English reading texts. This investigation bears some implications for teachers and test designers.
- Seyyed Mohammad Reza Adel & Mostafa Janebi Enayat
Gender Representation and Stereotyping in ESP Textbooks
The present research was an attempt to explore gender equality in current ESP textbooks as they play a key role in meeting the specific needs of the learners (Hyland, 2002). This study was conducted to investigate the positioning of gender in the images and texts of Oxford English for Careers series including Commerce, Nursing, Technology, and Tourism. First, dimensions identified in Goffman’s Gender Advertisements (1976) were converged with the image semiotic categories of Kress and van Leeuwen’s Reading Images (2006) to analyze the images of these ESP textbooks. Second, a systematic quantitative content analysis was carried out with reference to gender visibility in texts. The results indicated that (a) men are more active and competent in technology and tourism; (b) women appear as objects to be scrutinized and objects of desire in all the subjects studied; and (c) men are more frequently presented in workplaces and shown as the breadwinners in commerce, nursing and technology. The results, which mirror institutionalized unfair gender discrimination to the disadvantage of women in society, have implications for materials writers, language instructors, and learners which are fully discussed.