Newsletter No. 113

2 No. 113 8th October 1997 CUHK Newsletter A Linguist's Refl Academic Purpos P rof. John M. Swales, the father of English for Academic Purposes (EAP), visited the University as Wei Lun Visiting Professor last month. A 32- year career in EAP, an impressive publication record, an interdisciplinary approach to teaching, and a talent for synthesizing theory and practice, amongst other things, have made Prof. Swales one of the leading authorities in this applied field. He is currently professor of linguistics and director of the English Language Institute at the University of Michigan. EAP is the branch of English as a Second Language concerned with special courses for university staff and students. How does it differ from ESP (English for Specific Purposes), a closely connected area on which Prof. Swales has also written widely? There are two possible differences, Prof. Swales explained. EAP is always academic whereas ESP can refer to both occupational or professional English, e.g., English for taxi-drivers, English for navigators on aeroplanes, and academic English in a sense slightly different from EAP. In this second sense, ESP becomes English for academic specific purposes. 'A university might have a general course teaching any student how to write academic papers — that's EAP. But an ESP course is more specific, often catering to the needs of a department or faculty. There might be, say, an ESP course teaching students how to write geology reports. I personally tend to use EAP to refer to both specific and non-specific teaching within the university, and ESP to refer to other situations. But other English teachers may use the terms differently. It might be a bit confusing,' Prof. Swales admitted. ESP courses are generally more focused since they are tailor-made for a group of students with a relatively homogenous academic/career background. They are also, ideally speaking, interdisciplinary in approach. 'To me, ESP is a rather attractive combination of studying an educational situation, looking at the texts and the spoken discourses in that situation, deciding on your pedagogical aims and objectives, and then developing a methodology that will allow you to deliver what you want to deliver. For me, as both a kind of linguist and English teacher, it is a very good way of combining my interests. I can do research into, for example, how economics lectures are delivered, and then I can develop a programme to help people understand those lectures better. That's why I like it. It allows me to get to know other displicines quite well. I've taught ESP for over 30 years. I always surprise the doctoral students in engineering and medicine who came to my classes in the US because I usually remember a famous name or something important from their field,' said Prof. Swales. ESP/EAP is 'very strong' in Hong Kong, compared to some other parts of Asia. All the local universities have well-established units to organize EAP/ ESP courses. At The Chinese University, the English Language Teaching Unit offers an EAP course 'Introduction to Academic Writing', and an ESP course 'Communication in Business Studies' to undergraduates. Prof. Swales believed that 'Hong Kong could probably put the world's best team of ESP together.' The situation in Japan is slightly different. 'TheJapanese tend to be more traditional and humanistic in their approach to language learning,' Prof. Swales observed. 'They want to learn English for social interaction. They are not so interested perhaps in investing in it as a way ofreading or writing scientific research articles .' Thailand has a long tradition of ESP dating back to the 1960s in places like Chiangmai, and at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, but it has declined somewhat in recent years. Malaysia is an up and coming ESP country. It is also quite widely used in Singapore as well as in mainland China. During his visit to the University, Prof. Swales delivered a public lecture entitled 'Language, Science and Scholarship' wherein he examined the academic linguistic imperialism of English, a topic he professed to be 'strange' for someone who has been an English teacher almost all his life and who has done so much research into academic English. 'And now, towards the end of my career, I question i f we haven't been too successful,' said Prof. Swales contemplatively. He went on to point out: 'Something like over 85 per cent of the homepages in the world are written in English, and only two per cent in French. Is English becoming too powerful? Of course some people will say it's very "efficient" to have one language for global intercommunication. But is this overwhelming predominance of English preventing academic cultures in developing countries from developing?' Prof. Swales quoted Henry Kissinger to describe the situation: 'Oneside's total security is the other side's total insecurity.' To help strengthen weaker academic languages, Prof. Swales argued for more research into their linguistic and rhetorical properties. But then will English lose its dominant world position in the future? 'There are two schools of thought,' Prof. Swales answered. 'One argues that because English is so widespread, its position will go unchallenged in the future unless... electricity disappears. The other says no, there always has been a change; the era when English is the dominant language will come to an end one day to be replaced by Spanish or Chinese.' The lecture also looked at whether feelings of insecurity in non-native speakers of English when attempting to write in English may be increased by postmodern trends toward more informal writing styles in academic discourse. For example, the use of the first person pronoun 'I', direct questions and imperatives, the employment of 'and' and 'but' at the beginning of sentences, writing in incomplete sentences 一 in other words, writing styles many people were told to steer clear of in secondary school. Prof. Swales has been doing a research project with the international postgraduate students at the University of Michigan wherein he conducted panel discussions and interviews with them. Do they think this relaxed writing style is a good thing or a bad thing? Do they feel threatened by it? Do they like this new freedom? Of the students he interviewed so far, all except one believed it to be a threat. ‘They said it's hard enough to learn in any case,' Prof. Swales said. 'Whatthey want is for everybody to use a formal, academic style. They don't want to have to think 一 in addition to their computer science or political science — whether, say, it is a good moment in their writing to use 'I', whether an imperative would give offence, whether a direct question would make their writing look too simple... .' But would the relaxation of certain rules mean having to follow new and different rules? In that case, the new 'freedom' is a qualified freedom. Prof. Swales agreed: 'Those rules are very hard. I start some sentences with 'and' and 'but', but I don't think I can explain exactly why I feel it's right in this sentence, but would be wrong in that sentence where I should use 'however', 'moreover', or 'additionally'. These are almost literary considerations. Engineers don't seem to want to know about them.' Piera Chen Educated at Cambridge University and the University of Leeds, Prof. Swales spent much of the early years of his career teaching at universities in the Middle East, becoming professor of English and director of the English Service Language Service Unit at Khartoum University in 1973. In 1978 he returned to England, where he was tutor for the MA course 'Teaching English for Specific Purposes' at Aston University, becoming reader in English for Specific Purposes four years later. Since 1987, he has been professor of linguistics and director of the English Language Institute at the University of Michigan. Feng Kang Prize on Scientific Comput i eg Goes to CUHK Mathemat ician Prof. Raymond H. Chan of the Department of Mathematics, concurrently associate director of the University's Institute of Mathematical Sciences, is one of the two winners of the 1997 Feng Kang Prize. The Feng Kang Prize was established by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1995 in memory of Prof. Feng Kang, founder of computational mathematics in China, who won world renown by his independent discovery of the finite element method and the development of the finite element theory. The finite element method has been regarded as one of the most efficient numerical methods in the field of engineering and scientific computing. Prof. Raymond Chan has been selected because of his achievements in numerical linear algebra and scientific computing, and his contribution to the solving of Toeplitz systems, which are important in signal and image processing. He will be presented the Feng Kang Prize later this year in Beijing. Service to t heCommunityandInternationalOrganizations • Prof. J.A. Gosling, professor of anatomy, has been appointed by the Secretary for Health and Welfare as a member of the Nursing Board of Hong Kong for one year from 1st September 1997. • Prof. Leslie Lo Nai-kwai, professor in the Department of Educational Administration and Policy, has been appointed by the Secretary for Education and Manpower as a member of the Curriculum Development Council for one year from 1st September 1997. • Prof. Daniel Shek Tan-lei, professor in the Department of Social Work, has been appointed by the Secretary for Health and Welfare as a member of the Nursing Board of Hong Kong for three years from 1st September 1997. • Prof. C.N. Yang, Distinguished Professor-At-Large, was appointed a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences by Pope John Paul II in April 1997. • Prof. Lee Sing, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry, has been appointed as an associate editor of Transcultural Psychiatry, a publication of McGill University, from 1st January 1997, and a member of the editorial board of The Chinese Journal of Clinical Psychology for four years from May 1997. He has also been appointed as honorary lecturer in the department of social medicine at Harvard Medical School from 1st July 1997. • Prof. Anthony P.C. Yim, associate professor in the Department of Surgery, has been elected fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Glasgow from September 1997. • Prof. Ronald C. Li, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy, has been selected for inclusion in the fifteenth edition of Who's Who in the World published by Marquis Who's Who, a leading biographical publisher in America. 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