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teaching scientists

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Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2003 7:15 am    Post subject: teaching scientists Reply with quote

I hope you don't mind if I post this message in two locations on the ESL Cafe. You never know who reads them.

Having read the summary of the article in the Guardian Weekly which talks about the current situation of teaching English in Japan, I jumped to the GW link where I found another related article. It was written about the poor state of affairs in Japan with regard to English used by scientists.

I have an interest in this subject, both from my own professional background and from the fact that I have some private students who are Japanese scientists. One statement in the article struck me:

"The emphasis on practical usage already has other professionals searching for alternatives to Toeic, which critics say rewards cramming, but not communication skills. Doctors, lawyers and accountants are just some of the groups for whom tests in English for Specific Purposes have been devised."

I have searched high and low for suitable texts to teach conversational English for scientists, and to teach presentation skills for EFL students. All in vain. Does anyone here know of the ESP tests that this article is talking about? Moreover, on a professional level of curiosity, just what good are tests without the proper training? I wish the article had mentioned how those doctors, lawyers, and accountants are getting their required specialized training. Does anyone know sources for this, as well?
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Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1520
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2003 6:18 pm    Post subject: English for Mad Doctors Reply with quote


I used to teach TOEIC to Korean college grads and hated doing it. I knew and they knew that in the end, the test did not require them to demonstrate any real use of the language.

About vocabulary sources for ESP - I used to use (I know this sounds cheezy) Scientific American articles and items from other science journals for reading and discussion material. Discussion of the concepts in articles gives you a chance to monitor their pronunciation and idiomatic use of the new vocabulary. Get them to teach you about some facet of their field. You might want to look at the Longman business series for presentation models. I remember coaching my business students to do presentations not on business per se, but on theory in their fields. I used Business Matters to lead up to the presentation days.

I'm going to look up the title of a textbook series for you. I can't remember it right now.

Liz, who is going to Japan for the sushi, not the money

PS Also, could you post the url for the Guardian? Other folk might be interested in it.
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Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2003 9:42 pm    Post subject: the Guardian link Reply with quote

Yeah, Liz, I agree that using articles such as Sci American sounds cheesy, but they are too long to use, too. I used to teach a group of eikaiwa students a class called Science Topics once a week. We reviewed much shorter topics, so I'm familiar with using this type of lesson plan. I just find it so frustrating that there is nothing useful around to teach science English on a practical scale. Looking forward to that book title you can dig up. Thanks for the message.

Here's the link for those interested in the articles I mentioned.
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Joined: 03 Feb 2003
Posts: 69
Location: tokyo

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2003 4:53 am    Post subject: teaching scientists/ presentations Reply with quote

There's a pretty good business English text called 'Developing Business Contacts'. One of the authors (Jeffrey something?) also wrote a text devoted to presentation skills, which I recommend. Sorry, I'm in an internet cafe and don't have details to hand.

Agree that Scientific American articles are too long. I'd get the students to bring in examples of their own writing, emails etc for us to work on together. 'Scientific' English covers a lot of ground, try to get a more specific statement of their needs. You can do a good lesson just on describing the properties of materials, for example.

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Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Posts: 17

PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2003 3:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Glenski.

You recently sent me information about teaching in Japan. Thank you.

I have some experience working with executives from the oil industry and other engineering related fields in Houston and have faced a similar delima. I suspect that part of the challenge in finding a good text for such situations is due to the highly specific nature and needs of these individuals.

What I have discovered that works, however, is to design a course specifically geared to the needs of each student by asking the right questions and I do know of a text that guides a teacher in doing just that. The name is "Business English Teachers Resource Book" by Sharon Nolan and Bill Reed published by Longman.

Using the basic concepts there and some of my own sense and experience I have worked very successfully with different business people and now one school where I'm working always gives me their most important clients. One key is to get the students to tell you about their day and require them to be very specific in detailing exactly what they do and how. Generally people try to answer in a very unspecific way such as "I go to my desk, I answer e-mails, I eat luch, I go home.) My job is to say "What is in the e-mail? What is it's purpose? Why do you talk to him? How does your job relate to that? Is this always a problem at your company?...." Of course the level of the student will limit what is possible initially, but as the questions come you will see that they are very eager to try to say things. Assist that eagerness. Give them the language that allows them to tell you about their day. This is the key. This is the context from which to build an awesome lesson that will have them excited to be working with you. You don't need a text.

As they speak, I generally write down their grammar and pronunciation mistakes. We then go back to important things they described and look at how to say it in correct English both grammatically and phonetically. I also use this information to guide my teaching and selection of topics in many different ways.

Also, get published material from their profession in English, especially if it is from their company, and have them bring in actual e-mails if that is a part of their job and it's something they have expressed a desire to improve. It usually doesn't matter how long the published material is so long as it is not completely over their heads. I use them, initially, not as something to read and comprehend, but as a source of information to identify pronunciation problems with words that they use and hear over and over again in their field of expertise, or as a source of vocabulary that is immediately relevant and practical to them on the job.

I hope this information is helpful.
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