English Language Needs of Business, Economics & Accounting Students


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IATEFL BESIG 2010 Annual Conference talk by Miriam Symon

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English Language Needs of Business, Economics & Accounting Students

  1. 1. English Language Needs of Business, Economics and Accounting Students Miriam Symon BESIG 2010, Bielefeld
  3. 3. In what ways are these disciplines similar (intersection) and how do they differ? Business EconomicsAccounting
  4. 4. Can a Business English course cover the needs of Accounting and Economics students too? Business Accounting Economics
  5. 5. Implications for the English course?
  6. 6. Overview  My Study  Business English and Globalisation  Business as a Discipline?  Practical Aspects for the Business English course
  7. 7. MY RESEARCH  Needs analysis  The context: EFL  Method:  Semi-structured interviews  Triangulation of sources rather than method
  8. 8. Participants  Lecturers  Business (4)  Economics (3)  Accounting (3)  Students  3rd year Business (11 including 2 specialising in Accounting) All have taken courses in Economics (continued)
  9. 9. Participants (continued(  Workforce representatives / trainers  Careers Adviser and Placement officer for Business students  Presentation Trainer in Companies  Business Consultant  EFL Course Coordinators (3)
  10. 10. GLOBALISATION Has globalisation affected these three disciplines equally? I think even this word 'globalisation' is meaningless at this point, because everything is global. (business lecturer) Well in the world of business today, it's an international world; we live in a globalisation world. Without English, you are dead. (economics lecturer) Not even a topic of discussion  a starting assumption  Global working environment for everyone  Can we differentiate its effect between the disciplines? YES!
  11. 11. English and the Global Work Environment  Need English to be “a player” The global arena is there for the players who know the rules of the game, and language is an essential element of the rules and in the everyday life of the players. (Louhiala-Salminen and Rogerson-Revell 2010: 92)  Even greater importance in more senior positions
  12. 12. Use of English in the Global Workplace  Intra-corporate communication conducted in English – even when workers share same L1  Use of English technical jargon even when lecture is in first language. Why? - Comes to mind more naturally than first language equivalent - often no equivalent in first language
  13. 13. Local/ global distinction Exception= ? The IFRS - it's an international language actually (accounting student) Adoption of IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) – if country wants international investment http://www.ifrs.org/Use+around+the+world/Use+around+the+wo -> effect on accounting profession GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) -> IFRS IFRS- free access (need to register) http://www.ifrs.org/IFRSs/IFRS.htm
  14. 14. What is a discipline? … identified by a broadly agreed set of common public goals (Swales 1990: 24) …human institutions that reflect diverse ways of constructing knowledge (Hyland 2006) Communication practices are not uniform across academic disciplines  Boundaries? Differences between disciplines?
  15. 15. Can we call Business a DISCIPLINE?  Divisions/specialisations/ sub-sets of business  How is Economics related? You can know economics without knowing finance or accounting, but there is no way you can learn accounting and finance without knowing economics (business lecturer)
  16. 16. Soft/ Hard Sciences Continuum Soft disciplines Harddisciplines Business? Economics ? Accounting?
  17. 17. Gross National Product (GNP(  In tertiary level Economics textbook  Theoretical treatment of the concept, GNP – emphasising the numerical calculation  In tertiary level Business textbook  Practical application to assist in understanding the concept (Bhatia 1999)
  18. 18. Working with numbers-< ? The linguistic level required for students was lowest in finance and accounting since students in these sub-disciplines devoted more time to working with numbers and equations. (Jackson 2005: 298) Is this true today? Accounting is mostly about numbers; there are accountants that all they do is crunch numbers – for that they don't need English, but like in many other professions, the more senior you become, the more you need English. (accounting lecturer) The Financial Statement Analysis … you take a company and you analyse it, and you have the numbers, but the question is – what do those numbers mean? (accounting
  19. 19. Accounting vs. Finance (business major)
  20. 20. PRACTICAL ASPECTS for the English course 1. TOPICS 2. VOCABULARY 3. GENRES 4. TASKS - PROJECT
  21. 21. VOCABULARY - how specialised? In accounting … it's a language…for instance, you have to know what …is long-term debt … etcetera. So these are more of the technical terms that they have to know, on top of the finance kind of terms like present value concepts etcetera. So the accountant has additional needs, in the sense that he has to know the accounts name, and the explanations for the financial statements etcetera. (accounting lecturer) Accounting is a language of its own, ok? It's got only two verbs – debit and credit – and it's got some nouns… and that's it …economics and business is not like that. Economics and business is a regular language that you use. (a different accounting lecturer)
  22. 22. Should English for Accountant course be technical? I would say accountants…focus on the numbers without understanding the story behind the numbers. Every number has a story – tell the story behind the numbers or make numbers come to life…Accountants think that once I've got my numbers right, that's enough. (workplace) Not just the “what”, but also the “how"
  23. 23. What constitutes Business English? Not just “a list of specialized lexical, syntactic, and discoursal features … it has its own subject matter, interpersonal relations, choice of media and channels of communication, and patterns of organizing messages.” (Zhang, 2007:406)
  24. 24. TASKS - Project COMMON CORE +  Business (practical)  Economics (theoretical)  Accounting (technical) Not just what -> what does it mean?
  25. 25. How specific should we be? Ideal world … BUT Interdisciplinary nature of academic studies and professional lives
  26. 26. Thank you Any questions? msymon@idc.ac.il
  27. 27. References Bhatia, V. (1999), 'Disciplinary Variation in Business English'. In M. Hewings and C. Nickerson (eds), Business English: Research into Practice. Harlow: Pearson. Hyland, K. (2006), English for Academic Purposes: An Advanced Resource Book. Oxon: Routledge Applied Linguistics. Jackson, J. (2005), 'An Inter-University, Cross-Disciplinary Analysis of Business Education: Perceptions of Business Faculty in Hong Kong'. English for Specific Purposes, 24, 293-306. Louhiala-Salminen, L. and Rogerson-Revell, P. (2010), 'Language Matters: An Introduction’ (editorial) Journal of Business Communication, 47 (2), 91-96. Swales, J. (1990), Genre Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Zhang, Z. (2007), 'Towards an Integrated Approach to Teaching Business English: A Chinese Experience'. English for Specific Purposes, 26, 399- 410.