From the President - 5 years Jubilee of SPELTA
11th SPELTA Conference (November 1999) Programme
Abstracts of the Conference Presentations
Elizabeth White - 5 Years of the British Council in St. Petersburg
Jeremy Comfort Interview
Five is the highest mark at schools of many types. To become a specialist and get your first degree you have to study for five years.
In the English and American culture 5 seems to have a good reputation too. For all of us a five-star hotel is a sign of class, chic and luxury. 5 o'clock tea is a nice English tradition loved in Russia.
America plays hockey where the team consists of five players plus a goal-keeper. And we picked up this tradition from there. Basketball team is five too, it goes without saying. In English schools they still play fives and five-a-side.
By the way, all English textbooks are mainly graded into five levels, remember? And those who reached the top look down at all the others.
We all have five fingers equally dear to us and the Roman figure of five, a V-sign, is a sign of victory. Five is a good number for flowers you are going to give as a present.
So, I believe, that all of the above was enough to persuade you that fifth anniversary is a happy one. Although in tough conditions the first five years have passed. Congratulations!
Adrian Underhill, the new President of IATEFL has recently offered to discuss an interesting concept of continuous professional development (CPD). He defined it as the attitude and process of being a lifelong learner. CPD helps us to remain fresh, alert, up-to-date, and confident in ourselves and in the topic we teach. It enables us to participate in and contribute to the development of our schools as ‘learning organisations’ and our profession as ‘learning profession’.
The mission of SPELTA as a professional association is to provide conditions for CPD and encourage it. We all are trying to do it together.
The period between the two conferences was very interesting this year. We had seminars with very interesting visitors : Joan Morley, a distinguished teacher educator, one of TESOL executives, is the first in this list. She came in May and gave two inspiring lectures on teaching pronunciation.
Then the terrible heat at the end of June did not stop our guests from Moldova, Soros Foundation lecturers, Hamilton Beck and Oxana Abramova with a workshop on modern literature. And, finally, in September we had a very special guest from IATEFL, the author of a well known book Reward, Vice President of IATEFL, Simon Greenall.
So, Happy Birthday and best wishes to us all.
Yours, Tatiana Ivanova
NEW WAYS IN ELT
20-21 November 1999
Saint Petersburg, Russia
20 November, Saturday. Venue: 11, University Emb., room 191
10.00 - 11.00 Registration
11.00 - Conference Opening by SPELTA President Tatiana Ivanova.
Sergei Bogdanov, the Dean of the Faculty of Philology
Elizabeth White, the Director of the British Council St. Petersburg
Thomas Leary, Consul for Press and Culture of the Consulate General of the USA
Joel Ericson, the Director, of American Council for the Teachers of Russian
Margarita Mudrak, The English -Speaking Union, St. Petersburg
Nina Kozlova, Mayakovsky Library
Natalia Medvedeva, BESIG Russia
11.40 -12.40 Plenary meeting
Jonathan Floss (USIS Fellow). A Student-Centered Guide for Discussing Ethical Issues
12.40 - 13.00 - Break
13.00- 14.30- Concurrent sessions
Chair - Natalia Orlova
Lidya Levchenko (School # 2). Books for Young Learners
|From School to College and University- Continuity
of Teaching and Learning.
Chair- Elena Petrova
Tatyana Ryzhova (Pskov Pedagogical University). Humane English: Teaching and Learning for the Future
Tatyana Sallier (St. Petersburg State University). What is Most Difficult for Students of English When They Come to Universities
Svetlana Serova (School #83). Syllabus Design for Optional School Course in Business English
Vadim Goloubev (Saint Petersburg State University). Perceiving Argumentation: Teaching Persuasion Dialogue in American Print Media
14.30 - 15.00 Break
15.00 -16.00 Workshop
Jan Stanbury (The British Council St. Petersburg). Using Poetry in the Language Classroom
15.00-16.30 Professional Awareness in ELT. Chair - Luidmila Devel
Nina Medvedeva (Moscow). Methodology
of Teaching Business English
Alexander Andreushkin (St. Petersburg). An Ideal Business English Manual for Russian Students, and how Different Books Come Short of that Ideal.
Luidmila Devel (Herzen University). Tacis Working Dictionary
Asya Silaeva (ETS, Moscow). TOEFL: Preparing Students for the Computer based TOEFL Test
November 21, Sunday. Venue: 11, University Emb., room 191
10.40 – 12.00 Plenary Meeting
Jeremy Comfort (York Associates, the UK). What do we Mean by Effective Communication?
Aaron Hotchner (a close friend and personal biographer of Ernest Hemingway). Hemingway and his Llanguage
12.00- 12.20 Break
12.20 - 13.20 Professional Awareness in ELT. Chair - Luidmila Kuznetsova
Natalia Medvedeva (Moscow). Business English and Public
Luidmila Kuznetsova (St. Petersburg University). Search for New Ways in Teaching ESP
Ekaterina Shutova (St. Petersburg University). ESP: Teaching English to Theology Students
13.20-14.00 Experience of Teaching in PMTI Programme- Panel Discussion
Simon Winetroube (the British Council, Moscow)
Natalia Bespalova (University of Telecommunications)
Larissa Tarnayeva (Regional Instutute of Training Managers)
Tatiana Ivanova (St. Petersburg University), Grigory Pershin (IMISP) and Professors from the University of Finance.
14.00- 14.30 Break
14.30 - 15.30 Concurrent Workshops
|Betsy Lewis (EFL Teacher Training Specialist). A Small Transference Error: Typical Mistakes Made by Russian Speakers of English.||Alice Murray (EFL Fellow). Combining the Arts: Literature, Plays and Film|
5.40-16.30 Closing Plenary
Simon Winetroube (the British Council, Moscow). ELT: Where is it going?
16.40 Conference Closing, Raffle, Socialising
An Ideal Business English Manual for Russian Students, and how Different Books Come Short of that Ideal
Taking into account the variety of levels in the students’ knowledge of English, the different degrees of specialization that they need, and the different time frames, one should probably say that there is no such thing as an ideal Business English manual. However, there are so many books on the market now, that some analysis is necessary. This report limits itself only to books printed by Russian publishers, now on sale in St. Petersburg in 1999.
The weak point of many books is that they try to combine what is difficult (if not impossible) to combine: learning English from zero knowledge (beginner’s level) together with commercial and financial words and phrases supposed to enable the learner to take part in complicated business negotiations.
Some of the points that will be discussed are as follows:
1. One may classify existing Business English manuals according to many criteria, but a nice criterion would be: does the book devote more attention to E n g l i s h or to B u s i n e s s E n g l i s h? There are books frankly addressed to those who already know the language, and books which are really just English language manuals, only instead of «He waters the flowers» we find «He writes memoranda».
2. The important thing in teaching Business English is to know that
some learners want not so much to learn the subject as to be part of the
group. By definition, business people are very busy, so, for example, a
typical short-term group of learners could be a delegation going abroad
in a month's time and including people of very different language levels.
It may even be that the boss (head of delegation) knows English the
least, but still wants to continue to exercise control over the rest of
the group. He cannot only b e p r e s e n t in the classroom,
however, but wants t o t a k e p a r t.
Is this «Business English»? Yes, very much so, because it helps some members of the group not to lose face, and not losing face is important in business.
3. Finally, there is a brief look at the differences between Business English manuals translated from English (written by native speakers) and those written by Russian authors.
Alexander Andreushkin is the author of the book Business English compiled on the basis of his Business English course and first published in 1992. Now a second, revised and enlarged edition has been printed.
Tacis Working Dictionary
This talk presents the results of a year and a half work. The dictionary is intended for those who would like to extend their knowledge in the sphere of translation and interpreting, who would like to talk with their business counterparts independently, without interpreters’ assistance.
Our experience shows that when preparing for a conference, every experienced interpreter studies the specific vocabulary of the given field, its terminology, jargon and general business expressions. This non-systematic dictionary is an attempt to collect these words and expressions and put them together.
A Student-Centered Guide for Discussing Ethical Issues
English language teachers typically face two problems in the discussion class: reticent students who contribute little more than an insubstantial «It depends» or verbose students who measure quality of speech in terms of unfocused quantity. Either situation can encourage the teacher to revert to a teacher-centered instructional mode.
This «Guide for Discussing Ethical Issues» serves as a tool and framework for the students to use as they prepare to discuss ethical issues. It helps them map out the elements (political, sociological, economic, legal, etc.) that enhance the formation of a focused, educated response that will make an impression. The guide forces them to think in broader terms while also requiring them to be specific. In particular, it emphasizes the need to carefully consider the far-reaching consequences of one single action. The guide focuses on the role played by five factors: rights, obligations, values, consequences and circumstances. Examples will be given for each step. The guide was originally developed by Professor Candace Matthews and will be presented as adapted by the speaker.
Participants will be given copies of the 5-step guide and a set of ethical situations for classroom use.
Jonathan Floss is the USIS EFL Fellow, Ekaterinburg
Perceiving Argumentation: Teaching Persuasion Dialogue in American Print Media
Traditionally, argumentation research has been dominated by rhetorical studies whose purpose has been to investigate the impact of persuasion on the passive recipient. This kind of argumentation research has mostly concerned itself with analyzing argumentation from the perspective of the arguer, the speaker of an argumentative message.
Researchers have pointed to persuasion techniques and methods the speaker employs to make his or her argumentation effective with the universal or particular audience. They have explained why this or that method is more effective than others basing their conclusions on audience and communication situation analysis. However, one can call such conclusions educated hypotheses rather than well-supported claims because, by its nature, rhetorical studies cannot provide empirical evidence to explain why some persuasion methods work and others don’t in a seemingly similar communication situation with the same audience, unless in exceptional cases audience responses to the message have been recorded. I believe that we can fill this gap by taking a dialectic look at two available discourses, one of which is a response to the other one. Examining both juxtaposed discourses, we can take the opposite perspective in argumentation analysis, one that explores how argumentation is perceived by a message recipient in a given communication context. Our study will primarily focus on the second discourse because it reflects the perception of a recipient of the first message. We believe that argumentation perception analysis can help students of English become better interpreters of the English language argumentative texts and better communicators of their own ideas.
Vadim Goloubev, Ph.D. in Argumentation Theory, a Reader at the Department of English Philology and Translation, St. Petersburg State University. His field of interest is argumentation and the language of mass-media.
Aaron E. Hotchner
Hemingway and His Language
Born in St.Louis, A.E. Hotchner is an American author and graduate of Washington University (LA and JD, 1940) who briefly practiced law in St.Louis. In 1942 he joined the United States Air Force and directed the London-Paris bureau of the Air Force Magazine from 1946 to 1948. After a period of free-lance work in Paris from 1949 to 1950, Hotchner went to work for Cosmopolitan magazine as a feature writer from 1950 until 1954. He then returned to serious free-lancing and sold stories and articles to well- circulated magazines. Hotchner later turned to television and the stage as a playwright, writing successfully for Playhouse 90, U.S. Steel Hour, Playwirght ’58, and Omnibus. A full length novel, The Dangerous American, appeared in 1958, and his plays such as The White House (1964) were produced in New York. In 1955, he began various adaptions for stage and television of work by Ernest Hemingway. Hotchner had meet Hemingway in 1948 in Cuba while on assignment of Cosmopolitan and the two were friends until Hemingway’s death in 1961. Papa Hemingway, Hotchner’s controversial memoir brought to court by Hemingway’s widow, was published in 1966 by Random Houe.
The Hotchner Papers consist primarily of material relating to Ernest Hemingway, notably Papa Hemingway, and drafts of Hotchner’s adaptations of Hemingway materials. Also included are drafts of five original plays by Hotchner, written for television and stage.
Developing Communication Skills.
Introducing new workshop in RELOD-SPELTA Resource Centre
If we all agree that we teach communicatively, we would have to admit that one of the teacher’s primary roles is to be a good communicator. Some people feel themselves more comfortable, some more uncomfortable playing this role due to a number of reasons. To effectively develop communication skills in our students we are to develop these skils in ourselves trying to be in some way on the same side of the learning fence. Introducing a fragment of the workshop on developing communication skills the talk shows areas where accuracy and even fluency is not enough to make communication effective and outlines the ways to solve the problems. The workshop offered is a joint project of Relod and SPELTA aiming at training teachers in classroom management, classroom dynamics and communication and to provide them with both teaching and learning experience. It is a kind of tailored set of minimum 4 maximum 40 hours of training, using a variety of books and a lot of video materials.
Tatiana Ivanova, Ph.D in Linguistics, associate professor of SpbSU, President of SPELTA; Resourse centre is a part of Library on Humanities and Economics at the Faculty of Management, given by RELOD.
A Small Transference Error: Typical Mistakes Made by Russian Speakers of English
I find this topic both helpful and entertaining. What I have done over my years in Russia is to collect typical errors made by fluent speakers of English—meaning mostly those made by English professors! My idea was to collect the most typical ones in order to help people to become aware of them. I then wrote a story around the mistakes, incorporating all of them into the narrative. The task for the audience is to read the story and then correct the underlined mistakes. Then I go over each of the errors with the group and we discuss them.
Elizabeth Lewis is United States Information Agency EFL Teacher Training Specialist. Based in Moscow, she conducts seminars there and in other Russian cities. She is also the co-ordinator for the EFL Fellow Program in Russia, overseeing the work of four other Fellows.
Combining the Arts: Literature, Plays and Film
Movies are a very useful resource for teaching a topic or theme in the EFL classroom, giving a visual perspective to an idea or culture that students might know little about. Teachers often teach historical or cultural periods without giving students a sense of what the period looked. This workshop will present activities using passages from an American novel and a play to introduce a target theme and then show the corresponding scenes from the film versions. The workshop will also include activities that can be used comparing the written work to the film and comprehension.
Alice Murray is the USIS EFL Fellow, St. Petersburg
Motivating prospective teachers of English with songs
We consider songs to be an effective tool for language teaching. They could be used teaching phonetics, grammar, or expanding the vocabulary of the pupils at different levels of study. For the purpose of presentation, songs (folk, rock, country, and pop) will be treated from a different perspective: they will be used to develop the speech skills of prospective teachers of foreign languages.
The presenter will give a short theoretical overview of the problem in question and will describe the model of using songs for the development of speech skills of prospective teachers of English. The model is comprised of three stages: preparatory, forming, and developing. Each of them has its own objective, composition and techniques.
The first stage implies the formation of speaking and reading skills
within the topic «Music» and includes reading specially chosen
micro-texts on the topic and fulfilment of post-reading activities directed
at vocabulary development. The aim of the second stage is forming speech
skills while discussing the songs under consideration. The third
stage of using a song in an English class is to further develop speech
skills on the topic «Music» and to teach students how to use
songs in ELT.
Handouts will be available and time will be allowed to discuss the procedures with participants.
Natalia Orlova, Ph.D. in TEFL, Associate professor at the English Department of Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia. Her research interests encompass methods of promoting speaking skills of advanced learners of English as well as ways of teaching American Studies.
ESP: Teaching English to Theology Students
The recent years have witnessed the growing interest in the problems of religion, the Church and theology. The number of institutions providing theology education to people who wish to work in this field has increased too. Most of their students expect to be able to communicate with their foreign colleagues, attend international conferences and keep abreast of the new trends in theology. Therefore, they feel the need to learn the lingua franca of our century - the English language.
Teaching English to theology students has certain peculiarities, specific problems which call for specific solutions. Some of them are not of linguistic nature and reflect the position and attitudes of specific churches and religious movements towards the use of English in worship and everyday practice. In the present paper a special attention will be given to teaching English to Orthodox theology students.
The future priests, theologians, religious educators and journalists need to acquire a number of skills such as reading, reporting, conversing, writing and, which is very important, to build up an extensive vocabulary to be used in their professional work as well as the awareness of the numerous pitfalls of the use of theological terminology. Theology texts require understanding of the nuances of language, style and register and the failure to use or understand words and expressions correctly may seriously distort the meaning and lead to misrepresentation or miscomprehension of the general idea. In this light the study of syntax and sentence structure takes on a special significance but vocabulary remains a primary issue.
Among the major theological vocabulary problems are the difference in confessional usage of the terms, the concurrent use of a great number of Hebrew and Greek words and their English translations in Orthodox literature as well as the abundance of quotations from the works of theologians of different ages and the Bible. All this is aggravated by the lack of dictionaries and authentic textual, audio and visual materials approved by the Orthodox church.
TOEFL: Preparing Students for the Computer-Based TOEFL Test
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is designed to evaluate the English language proficiency of people whose native language is not English. TOEFL scores are required for admissions purposes by more than 2,400 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, as well as many institutions and agencies in other countries. I’ll make focus on teaching methods which help students to be able to pass this exam successfully. I also will give some advise on strategy which test takers should choose when they plan to pass multiple-choice tests such as TOEFL, GRE (Graduate Record Examination), GMAT (Graduate Record Admission Test). In the conclusion I’ll make short presentation on IIE’s FLTAP (Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program).
Motivating communication at an English lesson
In spite of enormous literature on motivating students/ pupils to speak, establishing atmosphere of authentic communication in class remains a problem. The question How can I make my students speak? has not been answered yet and there are two more significant ones we should ask ourselves Do I really want my students to speak? and Do I do anything to motivate them?
Teaching foreign language to children should not be just for teaching but for communication, as language, first of all, is a means of communication. This goal can be reached by a variety of ways. The talk analyses a certain strategy and tactics in lesson management and classroom dynamics important for pupils’ motivation. All these require a lot of time and efforts and the results are rewarding.
Tatyana Zolotova is a graduate of Russian Christian Humanitarian Institute in St. Petersburg, who is now reading for her post-graduate course entry exams. Her diploma paper was devoted to comparative analysis of textbooks and their methodology principles.
In May this year, the British Council celebrated an anniversary; five years ago, the Council’s handsome offices in the Mayakovsky Library for Foreign Literature were opened by Prince Charles and the mayor of St Petersburg. An anniversary provides the opportunity for retrospection and evaluation and reconsideration, and it was useful for all of us and those we work with to look back over the work we have done in the first five years here, and to think further about where we go from here.
When we opened the offices in St Petersburg, it was with the support of and at the express invitation of the city administration and the city’s main universities - in particular, the Philology Faculty of the State University and the Herzen University -and with the valued partnership of the Mayakovsky Library of Foreign Literature. In starting up a new office in a new city for the Council, we had the possibility of designing the work that we do to suit the context, matching the interests and needs of the city with relevant British experience and expertise. It was clear from the first that the main direction of our work was to be the support and development of English language teaching and learning in St Petersburg and the North West. Our partners in the city were very specific about this. The Council’s work is to increase and enrich cultural contacts, in the widest sense, between Britain and St Petersburg, but in particular at that time the main task was to address then sudden and considerable need for the English language to give access to the many new opportunities opened up by the changes in society and by new technologies. In the early nineties, the English language more than any other skill made a vital difference to a person’s scope and prospects; at the same time, the teaching of English in schools and in some universities was threatened by the opportunities presented for competent English-speakers in fields outside their profession.
The British Council, in partnerships with the Education Committee of St Petersburg, the universities and schools and individual teachers of the city, designed projects and programmes in support of English language teaching development and educational reform. Over the five years that we have been working here, the English language has always been at the heart of our work - through the library of resources and materials for teaching and learning English, through methodology support for in-service teachers, through the training in Britain offered for key professionals in English language teaching, through the work of the English Language Centre, and through a considerable amount of project work. The projects range from the relatively small - the support of the development of a handbook of English language teaching terminology, which was presented at the previous SPELTA conference - to the wide-ranging, ambitious and important SPEX project in support of reforms to end-of-school testing and assessment. We work in INSETT and in PRESETT projects, and in a major new all-Russia textbook development; and we provide access to training for teachers interested in teaching for the Cambridge examinations. Full information on present and past projects in ELT which are coordinated by the British Council in St Petersburg is available on our website - www.britishcouncil.ru\spb\ - or from the British Council office; we warmly invite you to visit both.
There are principles behind the choice of projects. Every thing that we do is done in partnership and with equal commitment from either side. In ELT, the aim of the projects across Russia is to introduce sustainable systemic change, through addressing key needs of four major components of the system: Curriculum, Assessment, In-service and Pre-service training. Projects must be feasible, sustainable, and capable of dissemination; and more than that, since ELT is a natural area for piloting innovations and promoting Britain as an international partner, priorities are set in such a way that ELT projects implemented may not only benefit ELT community and clients, but also provide patterns which can then be disseminated into other areas of education. We welcome your interest in existing projects, and proposals for work in new areas which fit within this general brief; in particular, we are looking to extend our work in the North West of Russia. If you would like to discuss our work in ELT, or to bring forward an idea for a new project, please contact us.
The five years since we opened the office of the British Council in St Petersburg have been times of enormous change, and exciting times to be living and working in this city. One of the most astonishing changes has been in the development of English language proficiency - an increase and improvement in capacity which has no parallel in my experience. The facility with which so many of the student and working population now use English, the resource and variety and riches of English language teaching at all levels, the access for teachers and learners to up-to-date materials, services and examinations - all are very far from the levels we met when first we came to St Petersburg five year ago. To some extent, this is a matter of history, and these changes were implicit in the changes in Russia; to some extent, I would hope that the British Council has played a part; but to the greatest extent, it is a tribute to the work of the teachers of English in St Petersburg. On the occasion of the opening of the second SPELTA conference, I salute you and your work, and pledge the British Council’s continued and continuing support.
A key to success in the business world often lies in a businessman’s ability to use a language suitable for the situation (Brown , Reynold 1986 ; Huseman 1988). A true businessman extols values of being prepared to win any encounter with a prospective client, with a live audience. Possessing a good vocabulary and correct grammar of speech, a well-trained and sonorous voice, ability to use adequate tone inflections in a business conversation is a necessary part of a businessman’s professional kit. Mary Stewart writes: “«All business employees are expected to have good vocabularies... It is more than a large store of words. The possessor of a good vocabulary: 1) uses preñise words to express meaning, 2) uses the synonóms, 3) pronounces words correctly, 4) spells them correctly» (1978:58).
There is one important problem in the strategy of a businessman’s behavior in his professional world. This is the art of asking questions, the art of using linguistic means of expression suitable for this particular type of an utterance. It is a well-known fact that asking a person a question is intruding on his private life, trespassing on his privacy. In business asking questions is the main way of acquiring information. Very often direct questions arouse negative reactions on the part of the conversation participant. To ask a question and not to break the rules of politeness is a golden rule for a professional businessman.
Teaching ESP in the field of business communication impelled us to investigate the art of asking questions with partiality to the types of questions being asked in the chosen field and the linguistic means of their formation.
The communicative aim of a polite request, as our research showed, predetermines the choice of the vocabulary, of the grammatical composition and the prosodic structure of the utterances in question. The study of the varieties of polite question types used in business English revealed the fact that certain groups of them seem to be preferable to others.
The most frequent type of a polite question used in business communication (28% of all the questions in the collected corpus) is the type that is a non-direct question, generally placed within a context and asked after a statement preceding it ( we called it a ‘long distance question’). Such type of a question seems to be most safe, the least offending. For example: “ First about the office. How much space are you looking for?” ; “About your customers. I know you sell to the big manufacturers, but who are your other customers in Germany?” ; “ I think we should hire John Hart. He has ten years of experience and he’s 35 years old, quite mature. What do you think?” The choice of context in such a question is of great importance.
The next most frequent type of question used in business communication is a direct question ( 21% of all the examples), the main “politeness marker” in this type of question is intonation. It should be noted that straightforward questions are very much popular with businessmen since they get more information from the answers to such questions. However, the intonation of such questions is chosen very carefully by the speaker. For example: “|How many \bales have you used so /far?” ; “Is it only the \last delivery that has been a /problem?” In these questions there is , as can be seen from the given examples, a strong accent (emphatic stress) upon the nucleus of a sentence which is shifted to the left (upon the words ‘bales’ and ‘last’). The use of a Divided Fall-Rise makes the question weighty and serious. The tempo of such a sentence is deliberately slow. The speaker sounds serious and genuinely interested.
The next type of a question is a “what about …” type (20 % of all the examples). It is a very polite form of a question leaving a lot of breathing space for a business partner: the latter is free to give or not to give the information sought after. The non categoric character of the question prevents any possible negative reactions to this type of question. The intonation of such a question is very calm, non emphatic, with a Low Fall in the focus of the sentence. For example: “What about the duration of the guaran\tee period?” ; “What about the \price?”.
Very popular, and thus very frequent, are formal “non-questions”
(19% of all the examples): questions in the form of statements (supplied
with questioning intonation) and indirect questions. These questions
help the speaker to ask questions “without asking”. For example: “You seemed
to be against it?” ; “I am wondering if we could get together, say Wednesday?”.
The voice of the speaker is held on a level note throughout the utterance
and at the end of it is slightly raised.
Among the rest of the polite forms of address in the order of frequency go disjunctive questions (“The price is fair, isn’t it?”), questions starting with the construction types “Would you…”, “Could you…”, questions containing modal words of the type “I imagine…”, “I suppose…”, “I hope…”, serving as “polite” markers of the requests.
It is necessary to underline the role of intonation in the expression of politeness in the business communication style. The research has shown that questioning melody in Business English is mostly associated with falling nuclear tones at the end of utterances ( Low Fall and High Fall), contrary to the preferable use of rising tones in other styles of speech. Emphatic stress is rather recurrent in the business oral discourse. The pauses are amply used. The tempo of speech is rather slow. The rhythm of speech in questions is regular, the stressed words have a clear and prominent character of enunciation. The timbre of business speech is rather neutral, with few voice modulations, it conveys a sincere interest of the speaker.
In all the analyzed examples it was not difficult to trace down a deliberate attempt of the speakers in using all these types of questions to lessen the tension in the conversation and to get a positive response from the partner in the discourse. Speech etiquette in the sphere of business is closely connected with the notion of politeness ( Brend 1978) and it has definite linguistic means of expression on the grammatical, lexical and suprasegmental levels of oral speech.
1. Brend R.M. Politeness // IREAL. 1978. Vol.16. ¹3.
2. Brown J., Reynold R. Communicating in Business. Boston, etc.: Mifflin, 1986.
3. Huseman, Richard C. Business communication: strategies and skills. Chicago, 1988.
4. Stewart M. Business English and Communication. New York, 1978
Jeremy Comfort is well known to many of our readers. He is one of the authors of Effective Communication Series published by Oxford University Press. Together with his friend and partner from York Associates, Nick Brieger, he has been involved in several programmes of the British Council, teaching tertiary level teachers, ESP teachers, teachers of Business English. This autumn he was teaching at the RPMTI teachers at a residential course in Zerkalny, where he kindly agreed to give this interview. The second seminar starts on 22 November and we are very lucky to have Jeremy at our Conference.