English and Communication Skills
for the Global Engineer
Engineering graduates require an ever-increasing range of skills to maintain relevance with the
global environment of the new millennium. Communication skills are an vital component of this,
recognized by academia and industry alike. English language skills are also important given its
widespread status across the globe as a lingua franca. Indeed, multilingual skills are considered a salient
element in the make-up of the new global engineer. English for specific purposes focuses the learner’s
attention on the particular terminology and communication skills required in the international
professional field. Communication skills development is discussed in the paper, with examples given
of different methods of teaching and assessment. The impacts on communication skills development
include various elements, including gender equality. A lack of sufficient communication skills serves
only to undermine the image of the engineer, but this can be tackled by engaging features of
emotional intelligence (EQ) in the education of engineers. EQ offers various components that can
improve communication skills and emphasize a more experiential approach to learning.
A lingua franca is any language widely used beyond the
population of its native speakers. The de facto status of lingua
franca is usually quot;awardedquot; by the masses to the language of the
most influential nation(s) of the time. Any given language normally
becomes a lingua franca primarily by being used for international
commerce, but can be accepted in other cultural exchanges,
especially diplomacy. Occasionally the term quot;lingua francaquot; is
applied to a fully established formal language; thus formerly it was
said that French was the lingua franca of diplomacy.
The term quot;lingua francaquot; was originally used by Arabs to name all
Romance languages, and especially Italian (Arabs used to name
Franks all peoples in Western Europe). Then, it meant a language
with a Romance lexicon (most of words derived from Italian and
Spanish) and a very simple grammar, that till the end of XIX
century was used by mariners in the Mediterranean Sea,
particularly in Middle East and Northern Africa.
Different Aspects of a Gloabal
What is “THE GLOBAL ENGINEER”
Globalization directly influences industry’s needs; a global engineer must be able to easily
cross national and cultural boundaries. This in turn directly affects engineering education. A
common code for communication is required. Those education institutions, which
meet the language requirements for the new global engineer, will be ready to face the new
H.P. Jensen states that employers want:
…a number of new competencies, with an
emphasis on an increased ability to
communicate…and good foreign language
This is reinforced in N. Grünwald’s study of competencies required by the engineer of
tomorrow, which includes hard skills like good foreign language skills. He goes further to
claim that cross-disciplinary language skills are not sufficiently taught . This indicates a
lack of a direct fit between graduate skills
and those required by industry.
Engineers can relate the same theories of mathematics, of mechanics and technology,
but the modern engineer must also be able to communicate effectively n a shared tongue.
This is especially important
given that engineering projects are now planned and implemented across national and
ENGLISH AND ENGINEERING
Comparises of the folowing sections:
The Globalization of English
English Language Instruction
English for Specific Purposes
THE INTERNET AND MULTILINGUALISM
The Internet has become increasingly a crucible for world languages. This has
direct implications on engineering education, as the Internet is central to various
elements of engineering education. It also increases the global access to engineering
education information, as under-served languages come online.
Statistics indicate that the prime language of Internet sites is becoming
increasingly regionalized, with the local dominant language being the first choice in
language options (see Figure 1). English is still strong, but it is becoming the second
choice in an increasingly
multilingual international community. The Internet, as an instrument of globalization,
contributes to this process of recognizing diversity.
This has clear implications for engineering education. Language will no longer be
the prime determinant for access to engineering education based on traditional
European structures because large, previously under-represented communities will
gain greater representation. Furthermore, this expanded access to the Internet builds
a new dimension in the education process in this era of globalization: by combining
language education with technology education. This also generates a greater element
of regionalization as these large under-represented groups in Asia and Africa demand
the skills required to operate competitively in the world. However, language still
remains a strong barrier.
A recent report from Melbourne, Australia, stated that employers now
seek graduates with skills beyond the standard paper degree; this includes
an excellent level of skills in:
However, the report also found that most graduates felt that they had
gained analytical and problem solving skills, subject-specific knowledge,
research and improved decision-making abilities through their
degrees. Yet despite this, much fewer felt that their graduate degree
• Oral communication skills.
• Awareness of the social implications of their
• Management skills.
• Understanding of other points of view and other
• Confidence and competence to work in international
While the study of famous speeches,
learning oral communication theories and
techniques from textbooks will still be
beneficial, it should be noted that the
literature has indicated that experiential
methods have generally yielded better
results than purely didactic means.
How to improve one‘s
ISSUES IN ENGINEERING
Three sources of weakness that can
significantly impact on an engineer’s
communication skills education were
• Students’ attitudes to communication.
• Insufficient course content.
• Deficient or inappropriate teaching
Emotional Intelligence, also called EI and often measured as an Emotional Intelligence
Quotient or EQ, describes an ability, capacity, or skill to perceive, assess, and manage the
emotions of one's self, of others, and of groups. However, being a relatively new area, the
definition of emotional intelligence is still in a state of flux. Some, such as John D. Mayer
(2005a) prefer to distinguish emotional knowledge from emotional intelligence, as discussed
In 1920, E. L. Thorndike, at Columbia University, (Thorndike 1920), used the term quot;social
intelligencequot; to describe the skill of getting along with other people. In 1975, Howard Gardner's
The Shattered Mind, (Gardner 1975) began the formulation of the idea for quot;Multiple
Intelligencesquot; (he identifies eight intelligences, later 2 more are added), including both
interpersonal intelligence and intrapersonal intelligence. Many psychologists, such as Gardner,
believe that traditional measures of intelligence, such as the IQ test, fail to fully explain
cognitive ability. (Smith 2002)
The term quot;emotional intelligencequot; appears to have originated with Wayne Payne (1985), but
was popularized by Daniel Goleman (1995). The leading research on the concept originated
with Peter Salovey and John quot;Jackquot; Mayer starting in the late 1980s. In 1990, their seminal
paper (1990) defined the concept as an intelligence. Mayer and Salovey continue to research
the concept. The term quot;emotional quotientquot; seems to have originated in an article by Keith
Beasley (1987). There are numerous other assessments of emotional intelligence each
advocating different models and measures.
The theory of emotional intelligence (EQ) states that IQ is actually less important for
success in life and work than EQ – a set of skills that are not directly related to academic ability
.Communication may be inhibited depending on the level of self-actualization of the
communicator. This ties in with the EQ elements of self-awareness and self-regulation. Given
that communication is ranked as one of the prime characteristics required by employers in the
engineering industry, EQ has an important role to play in strengthening communication skills
when certain EQ elements are enhanced in the student. It should be noted that EQ is not the
opposite of IQ.
In industry, IQ gets you hired, but EQ gets you
promoted . For example, a manager at AT&T
Bell Labs was asked to rank his top performing engineers.
High IQ was not the deciding factor, but
instead how the person performed regarding answering
e-mails, how good they were at collaborating and networking
with colleagues (rather than lone wolf), and
their popularity with others (rather than socially
awkward) in order to achieve the cooperation required
to attain the goals .
Language and communication skills are recognized as
important elements in the education of the modern
engineer, including English for specific purposes. Yet,
there seems to be limited implementation of English
courses globally, despite its current lingua franca
status. Those institutions that have already implemented
multilingual and communication elements will
be at the forefront of providing the demands of industry
The incorporation of several components of the
fundamentals of emotional intelligence in education will
facilitate advanced communication skills. However,
given the traditionalist nature of many engineering
curricula, this may take some time before change is
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