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Article 1 Article 2
Introduction Author: Tuula Lehtonen, Sinikka Karjalainen Author: Seyed Mohammad Mohammadi,
Manijeh Masoudi Moghadam
Date of Publish: 29 January 2008 Date of Publish:11 August 2015
Title: Workplace Oral and Written Language
Title: University graduates’ workplace language Needs for Graduate Students: A Review
needs as perceived by employers Text:

Text:  One of the inherent problems in


language teaching at university
 Individuals working in a particular context language centers is not knowing
have specific needs or are expected to have enough about the students’ future
specific skills in a particular language careers and language skills needed
 Language used at work often differs from at work, so we concentrate on the
that used in other contexts ‘‘common core” of the workplace to
 Inherent problems is not knowing enough help teachers plan courses for
about the students’ future careers and students from many different
language skills needed at work. disciplines.
 Concentrate on the ‘‘common core” of the  The LSP/ESP approach, often
workplace to help teachers plan courses for focusing on the business context
undergraduates from many different and employing methodology that
disciplines. often stems from genre or discourse
 Until rather recently in language centre analysis, offers us invaluable insight
teaching at universities, workplace into the language needed at work.
language needs have not been paid enough  For example, Crosling and Ward
attention, even though the Bologna Process (2002) analyzed the development of
places great emphasis on improving oral communication skills in an
employability undergraduate business and
 Graduates’ need for language skills was commerce curriculum and argued
also pinpointed in a recent international that undergraduate experience in
evaluation of teaching at the University of formal presentation only can be a
Helsinki (Horppu and Niskanen, 2004) at sign of insufficient preparation for
the University of Helsinki. oral communication in the
 Language Centre need to find out about the workplace.
language needs at the workplace in order to  Despite the need, and the varied and
bridge the gap between language teaching often creative ways of including
and the linguistic needs of the workplace. oral communication skills in
 This evaluation of teaching that provided subjects, there appears to be little
the initial impetus for the study reported on research available that provides
in this article. precise understandings of the nature
 To focus on the language needs of of workplace communication for
university graduates at today’s workplace graduate employees.
according to the views of their employers.  Regarding the social context of
 Use interview data to highlight certain workplace communication, one can
language-related trends at the workplace of point to the language specimens in
Finnish university graduates from different social contexts for purposes of
fields. professional communication such as
 Also consider different languages needed power (Foucault, 1982; Bourdieu &
instead of one particular language and its Moreover, workplace discourse can
specific uses. reflect power relations (Fairclough,
 Pay attention to cultural aspects which are 1995).
relevant to the workplace in today’s  oslehifar and Ibrahim (2012)reports
multicultural/multilingual world. on an investigation of English
 The practical aim of this study is to help Language Oral Communication
LSP/ESP teachers and curriculum (ELOC) needs of HRD
designers in university language centres or undergraduates from a public
other similar institutes plan their language university in the Southern part of
programmes even in cases where the Malaysia and concluded that there
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students’ future employment is rather were some specific oral
unspecified. communicative events and skills
 Help practitioners in setting workplace- required by HRD trainees at the
related goal levels workplace

Methodologies 1- This study is set within the context of the 1- Telephone Interviews
Language Centre of the University of Helsinki,
Finland.  In addition to the interviews with
2- Caters for students from eleven different faculties graduates, 15 of their workplace
and provides them with opportunities to fulfil the supervisors were also interviewed
degree requirements in languages. via the telephone to gather details of
3- A project called Language Needs at the the company communication
Workplace profiles and to obtain their views
4- To investigate the actual language use of about the graduates' particular
employees with an academic degree and to communication needs.
interview representatives of employers about issues  These interviews, with both the
related to language use. graduates and their supervisors,
5-First, Horppu (2005) carried out a postal survey were used to supplement the
(structured questionnaire) on the actual use of information obtained via the
languages at work, and the frequency and type of questionnaire in order to achieve
usage five years after graduation. greater reliability and validity
6-As shown in Table 1, Horppu’s (2005) findings
suggest that English is needed on a regular basis,
2- Collection of Authentic Workplace Texts.
and about a third of the Finnish-speaking
respondents use Swedish regularly.
7-When the respondents were asked if there was a  Throughout the investigation, and in
language that they did not know but would need at fact as an on-going process,
work, the most frequent, although not merchandisers have provided
overwhelmingly frequent, answer was Russian. samples of correspondence they
8-Other languages in the repertoire of the have written or received.
respondents were reported to be used much less  This has enabled an analysis of the
seldom, German being the most known and used writing style of these authentic texts
language. to be carried out.
9-The respondents represented all faculties, and the
response rate was highest among those who 3- Visits to the Workplace
graduated from the faculties of Science (52%),
Behavioural Sciences (51%) and Arts (50%)  The authors visited the
10- These 15 employers represented the sectors that administrative office of a Hong
employ university graduates: town councils (two Kong-based buying office for half a
employers), state offices (three employers), day to obtain an understanding of
universities or other institutions of higher education the operation of the company and to
(two employers), the Lutheran church of Finland, observe merchandisers at work.
i.e. the predominant religious community (one Two days were spent at the
employer), NGOs (one employer), and private or company's large factory just outside
state-owned companies (six employers in the fields Shenzhen, a city in China close to
of law, pharmaceuticals, paper, insurance, Hong Kong, to observe the
publishing and broadcasting) procedures involved and the
communications required in the
production of garments.

Findings 1- Need for languages  Even though English is not the first
language of many of these
 The general message received from the countries, the international language
employers was that, today, language skills of business, English, is used by the
are important in professions requiring Hong Kong merchandisers in their
university education (cf. communications with most of them.
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 This is in line with the findings of a recent  While the survey results indicate the
study on the effects of language skills on extensive range of countries
the European economy (ELAN, 2006). merchandisers may need to
 In fact, these skills are often regarded as communicate with, the countries
self-evident, and job applicants with a poor will obviously vary according to
knowledge of languages are not even individual business contacts at any
considered. time.
 This question aimed to gain an
appreciation of the range of
-English countries with which Hong Kong
 The general message received from the companies trade and it was found
employers was that, today, language skills that 46 different countries were
are important in professions requiring mentioned.
university education  Other major trading countries
 In fact, these skills are often regarded as included Japan, Macau, Taiwan,
self-evident, and job applicants with a poor Korea, Canada, Italy and the UK
knowledge of languages are not even  The identification of the most
considered frequently required written
-The national languages of communication activities has
the country provided an insight into the specific
 This is consistent with Horppu’s (2005) communication needs of these
findings and the Europe-wide trends merchandisers and as a result,
expressed in the newest Eurobarometer teaching and learning materials have
(European Commission, 2006) which been developed to provide practice
states that English is the most widely- in such activities.
spoken foreign language at the workplace  The current collection of over 100
throughout Europe samples of authentic written
 (Private company: pharmaceutical correspondence, mostly in the form
industry) Good language skills in our of faxes, has provided an insight
company mean that you are able to take the into the type of communications
floor in English without being nervous. common in textile and clothing
 Swedish is important too, especially in jobs merchandising.
at the sales department, but if there is a
meeting where one person does not know 1- Presentation of the Message
Swedish, English is the language used
 Use of uppercase letters was
4- Other languages noticed. A number of examples
were printed entirely in uppercase
 The need for languages other than Finnish, letters. Such a style is not easy to
Swedish and English is relatively difficult read and students have been alerted
to assess, but the interviewees gave not to use this type of writing.
context-specific examples of their use.
 They stressed that skills in some other 2- Paragraphing
languages complement the ‘‘usual”
package of Finnish, Swedish and English.  This varied in the samples collected,
 In the Finnish workplace context in with some short paragraphs of just
general, based on our data, the three most one or two lines through to solid
important languages are Finnish, English blocks of text of more than 30 typed
and Swedish. lines. Students are advised to follow
 According to the Eurobarometer (European the recommended paragraph length
Commission, 2006), Finns state they know given in many business
English (63%), Swedish (41%) and communication texts
German (18%) well enough to have a
conversation. 3- Headings and Paragraph Numbering
 In official European Council
documentation (e.g. Commission of the  Students are advised to consider
European Communities, 2003), the aim is their use so as to improve the
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for all Europeans to be able to use their appearance of the message and to
mother tongue and two other languages. ease comprehension.
 Russian was the only single language  These features, which were in
mentioned by both the employees in evidence in some samples, made the
Horppu’s research (2005) and by the messages easier to read.
employers in our interview data as a
potentially useful future language in 4- Abbreviations
Finland.
 Almost all of the sample texts
5- Level of knowledge collected used abbreviations and
this supports the survey findings
 As indicators of good language skills the which showed over an 85% usage.
employers included good communication  Student activities to practice
and presentation skills, confidence to use a comprehension and production of
foreign language, and the ability to interact abbreviations are now included in
and adapt to various linguistic and cultural the programs.
conditions.
 The employers’ definitions of good 5- Grammatical Accuracy
language skills in their work context were
similar, regardless of the sector the
 Examples of grammatical errors
employer represented.
noted in the texts include a number
 They mentioned several high-level
of common errors made by students
receptive and productive tasks that
in Hong Kong.
employees need to perform, such as
negotiating, giving and attending lectures
and presentations, writing up contracts and 6- Tone
drafting project plans (cf.
 Knowing languages other than English  The use of an appropriate tone was
helps in social settings. mentioned as an important issue by
 (University) Knowing languages other than the supervisors.
English is an extra bonus.  This facilitates an effective
 It helps you establish contacts and build up relationship being built between the
networks, it makes the distance shorter merchandiser and the custome
between you and the others from another
culture. 7- Connectives
 On the other hand, the interviewees saw
that less advanced skills in a less well-  The use of connectives, while
known language can be beneficial socially. effective in linking ideas in a
message, were often over-used in
2- Knowledge of culture(s) needed the sample correspondence or used
inappropriately.
 Some of the interviewees felt, in fact, that
cultural awareness comes before language 8- Incomplete Sentences
knowledge, and that culture and language,
though interrelated, can be treated  Incomplete sentences noted in some
separately. correspondence can imply a careless
 The focus of professionals at the attitude towards the work in hand
workplace seems to be on smooth and may lead to misunderstandings.
communication in context – much in the
vein of the CEFR (Council of Europe,
2001) – and on co-operation with people
from other cultures, often in a lingua
franca.
 Similar ideas have been expressed in other
contexts as well, for example in the recent
final document of the Thematic Network
Project
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 The situations where different languages
are used can be described as ‘‘cultura
franca” or ‘‘culture three” (Louhiala-
Salminen et al., 2005) situations: in a
situation where English, for example, is the
lingua franca and not the native language
of any of the participants, the participants
are often expected to adapt to the demands
of the ‘‘cultura franca”, the nature of
which depends on the cultures of those
present.

Conclusion  A clear message from the employers  A clear message from the employers
interviewed in this study was the need for was the need for language centers to
language centres to see language skills see language skills from a wider
from a wider perspective essentially perspective essentially including
including skills such as fluent presentation skills such as fluent presentation
and interaction, use of a lingua franca or and interaction, use of a lingua
lingua francas, confidence to communicate franca or lingua francas, confidence
in a variety of situations, cultural to communicate in a variety of
competence, and learning-to-learn skills. situations, cultural competence, and
 Close co-operation with employers in learning-to-learn skills.
planning language centre courses is thus  The findings confirm that foreign
needed in order to tailor language teaching language skills are an increasingly
to adequately meet the needs of the future important basic component of
academic workforce. professional academic skills,
 Representatives of 15 employers were particularly in countries which have
interviewed on various themes concerning major business contacts with the
language skills and recruitment, language world and their native languages are
use at work and future language needs. not among the major world
 The findings confirm that foreign language languages.
skills are an increasingly important basic  This again may call for attitude
component of professional academic skills, change in language programs as
particularly in a country like Finland, language teaching has tended to be
whose native languages are not among the geared towards the academic needs
major world languages. of students, or considered as
 This again may call for attitude change in contributing to their personal
language centres as language teaching has development.
tended to be geared towards the academic  Authentic texts in the media, and
needs of students, or considered as widely available international
contributing to their personal development. textbooks published for various
 The employers also sent another message fields can be used selectively and
that concerns countries where several efficiently according to the specific
foreign languages may be needed at work: needs of particular students in an
professionals need to be highly proficient ESP context.
in languages.  Syllabus design is influenced not
 We believe that our findings may be only by the target situation but also
generalized to other countries with a by many other factors that make it
similar language situation to ours. dynamic and interactive to
maximize learning.

Recommendation  More research like this is needed in other  University students starting to learn
contexts, e.g. other regions of Finland or a new language should be
other countries, different academic fields encouraged to continue their studies
and different languages. in that language to a level that
 Research focusing on the real life of enables them to actually use the
individuals and their language use at work language effectively.
is also needed in order to create a link
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between this reality and the applications of  An effective and flexible ESP
the CEFR. course design can be produced from
 University students starting to learn a new the teachers own practical
language should be encouraged to continue experiential knowledge and from
their studies in that language to a level that the students themselves.
enables them to actually use the language  Close cooperation with employers
effectively. in planning language courses is thus
needed in order to tailor language
teaching to adequately meet the
needs of the future academic
workforce.