Do students want to learn English at university?

If you have ever been wondering whether university students want to learn languages, here is some food for thought.

Recently I have conducted a survey among a private university students and collected their opinions about the number of hours of English language instruction. The students who participated in the research attend English classes for two years, during which they have two classes of 90 minutes per week. All in all, they are offered 240 hours of instruction and they complete the course with a certificate examination, either LCCI (2 level or 3 level) or TOLES (Higher or Advanced)

The survey was conducted among the full time first year students (63%) and second year students (36%) studying management (43%), law (21%), finance (20%), economics (12%), administration (4%) on 25 and 26 February 2019. The survey was completed by over 600 respondents.

For the majority of students (57%), the duration and number of hours of English language instruction is important when choosing a university.

The vast majority of students (81%) do not participate in any other English courses apart from the university course.

Those who decide to take additional classes choose private lessons or courses in language schools, and this results in too few hours at university and a willingness to develop speaking skills.

The vast majority of students (88%) want to take certified exams in English. Only 10% of students would like to finish the university English language course with an internal exam. In the case of law students, most are interested in obtaining an advanced level certificate, which is possible in the case of about 10 people per year with the current number of hours of classes.

Only 5% of students think that there are too many hours of English lessons. According to 95% of students, the number of teaching hours is adequate (61%) or not enough (33%).

Nearly half of the students would like the course to last longer, i.e. 3 years. For 27%, the length of two years is appropriate, but almost 20% of students would like to study English for 5 years.

The vast majority (80%) plan to continue learning English after the end of the university course.

The conclusion is that the students are satisfied with the status quo, some of them might be interested in following an extended programme of English. Decreasing the number of hours of English instruction might negatively affect the level of students’ satisfaction with their studies curriculum.

Analiza potrzeb studentów a rozwój zawodowy nauczycieli

Zawsze uważałam, że nauczyciele rozwijają się zawodowo, tylko jeśli sami podejmują taką decyzję. Czasami jednak okoliczności nie dają nauczycielom innego wyboru, jak tylko się rozwijać. Badania przeprowadzone przeze mnie w 2012 roku na temat rozwoju zawodowego nauczycieli w kontekście prawniczego języka angielskiego wykazały, że lektorzy rzadko sami wybierali ścieżkę kariery nauczyciela prawniczego języka angielskiego i zazwyczaj byli w jakiś sposób zmuszani poprzez okoliczności do podjęcia się nauczania języka angielskiego (2012: 122). Pytani przeze mnie o to, jak się czuli na początku swojej kariery lektora prawniczego języka angielskiego, używali słów takich jak: panika, zażenowanie, stres, niepewność, utrata bezpieczeństwa i pewności siebie. Ankieta ta pokazała jednak, że większość nauczycieli podjęła wyzwanie i z odwagą, otwartością i zapałem stawiła czoła nowemu przedsięwzięciu. Ich narracje potwierdziły strategię zalecaną przez Nunana (2001: 3), że to nauczyciele (sami) wybierają obszar, który chcą doskonalić, i to staje się motorem ich rozwoju zawodowego. Wszystkie osoby potwierdzały, że pogłębiały wiedzy z zakresu prawa poprzez m.in.: czytanie książek prawniczych, podręczników akademickich, stron internetowych, dwujęzycznych kodeksów i ustaw, powieści Grishama, tłumaczenie tekstów oraz tworzenie list słownictwa.

Moim celem było zbadanie pozytywnego wpływu analizy potrzeb językowych słuchaczy na rozwój zawodowy nauczycieli. Oczywistym jest, że im większa wiedza nauczyciela o uczącym się i jego potrzebach, tym lepiej dopasowane kursy są modelowane. Potrzeby językowe prawników są jednak na tyle duże, że aby je zaspokoić nauczyciele muszą podejmować różnorodne działania, aby rozwijać swoje kompetencje, tj. wiedzę i umiejętności. W rezultacie z przeprowadzenia analizy potrzeb skorzystają nie tylko uczestnicy kursu, ale również nauczyciele, ponieważ będą podejmowali on rozwój zawodowy.

W kontekście kursów prawniczego języka angielskiego nawet lektorzy doświadczeni w nauczaniu innych rodzajów języka angielskiego, po raz kolejny musieli podejść do swojej pracy jako debiutanci i wypracowywać własne know-how, a przede wszystkim zdobyć i poszerzyć wiedzę z zakresu prawa. Dla wielu z nich był to punkt zwrotny w ich karierze zawodowej i szansa zarówno na rozwój, jak i utrzymanie zatrudnienia.

Sytuacja ta jest doskonałą ilustracją opinii wielu lingwistów, którzy twierdzą, że praca nauczycieli języków specjalistycznych to coś więcej niż tylko nauczanie. Z tego powodu preferują oni termin „specjalista” (ang. practitioner) (Robinson, 1991; Dudley Evans & St. John, 1991), gdyż ten termin lepiej podsumowuje zakres obowiązków nauczycieli ESP i docenia różne role, jakie oni wypełniają w trakcie kursów. A mogą się one być następujące:

  • Praktyk ESP (English for Specific Purposes) jako nauczyciel, który zarówno naucza języka, odpowiednich umiejętności językowych jak i mikro-umiejętności (np. gramatyki, słownictwa, gatunków tekstów, z których uczący się będą mieli styczność). Odwieczne pytanie dotyczy tego, ile wiedzy merytorycznej z zakresu prawa powinni posiadać nauczyciele, zwłaszcza lektorzy prawniczego języka angielskiego, którzy zazwyczaj nie posiadają wykształcenia prawniczego, oraz ile powinni się zaangażować w nauczanie treści sensu stricto prawnych, tj. kto jest „ekspertem” w zakresie prawa na zajęciach. Jak zasugerowała Northcott (2008:40), na to, w jakim stopniu nauczyciel ELP musi bezpośrednio zaangażować się w wyjaśnianie kwestii prawnych, będzie miał wpływ poziom wiedzy prawniczej uczniów. Na kursach języka obcego dla celów specjalistycznych nauczyciele mają możliwość polegania na wiedzy merytorycznej słuchaczy, a sami powinni pozostać ekspertami w zakresie języka obcego.
  • Praktyk ESP jako „partner/kolaborant” który współpracuje z różnymi grupami specjalistów na różnych etapach projektowania i podczas trwania kursu. Mogą to być uczący się, którzy wnoszą swoją specjalistyczną wiedzę do klasy, lub eksperci z poszczególnych dziedzin, którzy pełnią rolę konsultantów w zakresie treści, typów zadań lub umiejętności, które powinny pojawić się na zajęciach, lub inni nauczyciele-specjaliści w zakresie ESP, z którymi mogą dzielić się doświadczeniami, materiałami i uczyć się od siebie nawzajem.
  • Nauczyciel-specjalista ESP jako tester, który jest podejmuje różnego rodzaju działania ewaluacyjne, np. ocenę wyników uczniów za pomocą testów kwalifikacyjnych, testów diagnostycznych, egzaminów certyfikacyjnych (np. TOLES, LCCI, IELTS), ewaluację kursów, materiałów dydaktycznych itp.
  • Nauczyciel-specjalista ESP jako projektant kursów i twórca materiałów – tradycyjnymi rolami opisywanymi w literaturze, gdyż w przypadku kursów bardzo specjalistycznych często nie jest możliwe korzystanie z samego podręcznika bez dodatkowych materiałów. W przypadku kursów prawniczego języka angielskiego sytuacja poprawiła się znacznie w ciągu ostatniej dekady, kiedy to opublikowano wiele nowych podręczników. Nauczyciele prawniczego języka angielskiego wciąż często nadal piszą swoje materiały, ale ich praca częściej koncentruje się na selekcji i adaptacji istniejących, publikowanych materiałów, co jest zgodne z nowym trendem w edukacji, który zaleca „opiekowanie się treścią” (ang. content curation), polegając na wyszukiwaniu, filtrowaniu, organizowaniu i udostępnianiu istniejących materiałów, a nie tworzeniu własnych materiałów od podstaw.
  • Nauczyciel-specjalista ESP jako badacz to rola nakładającą na nauczycieli potrzebę nadążania za rosnącą ilością publikowanych badań, np. nad analizą potrzeb, nowymi trendami w ESP, metodologią nauczania, itp. Rola badacza jest również tą, którą nauczyciele przyjmują na różnych etapach procesu projektowania kursu. Może ona na przykład polegać na przeprowadzeniu analizy potrzeb uczniów lub ewaluacji kursów, które mogą pomóc lektorom lepiej zrozumieć potrzeby i preferencje ich studentów, a także zaprojektować kursy, które pełniej zaspokoją potrzeby studentów. Badania mogą również pomóc nauczycielom stać się ekspertami w swoich dyscyplinach, a w rezultacie trenerami nauczycieli, prelegentami na konferencji, autorami artykułów lub pracownikami naukowymi pracującymi nad kolejnym stopniem naukowym.

Zrozumienie złożoności różnych ról, jakie pełnią nauczyciele/specjaliści w ramach ESP, może pomóc im w zrozumieniu, w jaki sposób mogą sami rozwijać się zawodowo. Ponieważ proces ten jest bardzo często działaniem typu „zrób to sam”, nauczyciele muszą wiedzieć, że aby stać się doświadczonym nauczycielem lub powinni rozwijać swoje różne role, które są im przydzielane w sali zajęciowej i poza nią.

Bailey, K., Curtis, A. and Nunan, D. 2001. Pursuing Professional Development: The Self as Source. Boston, Massachusetts: Heinle and Heinle.

Dudley-Evans, T. and St. John, M. J. 1998. Developments in English for Specific Purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Łuczak, A. 2012. ‘Learning to teach legal English. Teacher’s professional development in ELP context’. Scientific Bulletin. Education Sciences Series, 114-142. Pitesti: University of Pitesti Publishing House: Year IX, no. 2.

Northcott, J. 2008. ‘Language education for law professionals’ in J. Gibbons and M.T. Turell (eds.) Dimensions of Forensic Linguistics,27-45. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. 

Robinson, P. 1991. ESP Today: A Practitioner’s Guide. Prentice Hall International Language Teaching.

Empty Page and You

“Sometimes empty page presents most possibilities”

Paterson (a movie)

Sometimes empty page presents most possibilities but you have to be brave to start writing on it.

You may need to change the venue where you write. Go out to a café or library. Sometimes the change of the chair you usually sit in may be enough. Change the view you see form where you are sitting. Face the window you normally have at your back. Change the keyboard. Perhaps the one you are using is not pleasant or comfortable to type on.

Perhaps you should start writing by hand and only after a while switch to typing. But, do something to start writing on your empty page. If you only think without putting your ideas on paper or screen, the ideas will disappear, vanish in your memory. They will not conceive the new ones. Ideas have the wonderful quality of gemmating.

Only when you start developing a new idea in writing or in any other area, the new ideas will start to pop up. Only because you are growing as an author or creator. You gain experience, you become an expert, you are brave to experiment, whatever you do starts to inspire you to do even more.

When you publish your texts, people start to interact with it and you. These interactions become inspirational as well. Be brave to face them. If you publish for professionals, the interactions will probably be of high standard and eye-opening. Talking to people is very often the most beneficial for your development.

You only have to start. You may start with an empty page.

How to Anonymize Students

At the end of May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) a regulation on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union came into force. More or less around that time I was informed by the authorities of my university that now my students cannot use their names and surnames or even their student numbers when they do tests online in e.g. my testing software pustulka.edu.pl.

Some teachers consider it as a nuisance and are afraid to start doing that because they say it takes time and is messy. Dear teachers, don’t be so easily discouraged.

Below I would like to show a few possible ways of anonymizing students for tests.

  1. You can generate students’ IDs online as there are numerous websites generating nicks, logins, e.g. http://www.name-generator.org/. After generating them, distribute them among your students, tell them to remember them and use each time they enroll at the test.
  2. You can ask your students to create their IDs themselves. You can tell them that you want these to be e.g. adjectives beginning with a specific letter. In this way you will distinguish between your groups quickly by letters. You may wish students to add a year in which they began their studies to the word or some other numbers indicating the group number or the year of studies, anything that will let you quickly identify which group the person belongs to, e.g. assymetric2019 or asleep1/2018. There are websites which can help you and your students generate adjectives beginning with a specific letter, e.g. http://adjectivesstarting.com/with-a/
  3. You can ask your students to create their IDs themselves but according to a special pattern: two first letters of their surname + two first letters of their name + year in which they began their studies = e.g. lual2018 (for Aleksandra Łuczak). This solution is practical as the students’ ids will be grouped alphabetically in the same, or almost the same, order the surnames.

My suggestion is to generate or create the IDs once and use the same ones throughout the course. You will quickly learn them by heart and some of them can really become nice nicks of you students.

Why I go walking…

I go walking or trekking when I am short of new ideas for my writing. I go to the forest to clear my mind.

I remember when two years ago I came up with a brilliant idea for research when trekking in the Bieszczady. Professor Jarosław Krajka had invited me to write a chapter for a book edited by him and professor Magdalena Sowa – an opportunity that you do not reject. First, I had to submit an abstract and for the abstract I needed an interesting topic and a research proposal which would motivate me to design it, conduct it and then write about it.

I went trekking to the Wetlińska Mountain Pasture in late December when the sun sets around 3.30pm, the day is short and the trails are empty. The silence around and perhaps only the sound of wind let me concentrate on my moves first, the feeling of the ground under my boots, slow steps to avoid getting tired too quickly, the view of blue sky above the tops of the trees…

And then the idea came to contact my former students and ask them how their English skills were tested during their first job interviews. I was interested to know whether I was teaching them the right skills to help them succeed in getting their entry jobs.

I did as I thought and collected over 20 interviews and managed to write a chapter “Increasing Law Students’ Employability Skills in the English for Legal Purposes (ELP) Classroom” published in: Magdalena Sowa, Jarosław Krajka (eds.), Innovations in Languages for Specific Purposes – Present Challenges and Future Promises (pp. 131-147). Frankurt am Main: Peter Lang. https://doi.org/10.3726/b10915

Later that year I presented the paper on “What Shall We Teach in the Legal English Classroom? The Students’ Perspective” at a conference “Specialized Languages in Teaching and Translation: Theory and Practice organized by Institute of Applied Linguistics at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań in November 2017.

Today I am sharing the slides from that conference here.

Yesterday I went to the forest again and came back with a new idea for a presentation that I am going to submit soon.

To be continued…

How I inspire my students

I believe that teachers inspire their students when they are enthusiastic about their work.

When I started teaching legal English 15 years ago, I was a fresher, although I had been teaching for another 15 years so far. I had to learn this complex variety of English myself and now I manage to prepare my students to sit (successfully) advanced level of legal English exams. 15 years ago I showed bravery and thanks to this I developed professionally.

Now I help my students develop linguistically and help them prepare enter their professional careers.

My recent greatest achievement was creating software for language testing. Initially the software was aimed at teachers and speeding up their work by saving the time teachers spend on grading tests. However, apart from the testing component, the apps has also a collection of public exercises which I create pro bono.

Public exercises are available for free to anyone who has a link. Students can use these exercises to revise and expand their knowledge of business and legal English.

Since last summer I have been running a OEAD (one exercise a day) project in which I create one public exercise a day (or almost every day). In this way, I encourage students to learn every day. The collection of public exercises comprises now about 160 exercises and is still growing.

This project teaches me systematic work with which I am trying to infect my students. It develops our media competence and proves that sharing is caring.

It shows the power of collaboration and how great value it constitutes. Collaboration – because the software was created in cooperation with my husband, an IT developer. Collaboration – also because other teachers can use my exercises for their purposes.

My students like the apps very much. My survey showed that over 90% of them had positive attitude to it. They appreciate innovations in the classroom and are aware that they get free high quality specialist content which is really scarce online.

Come and check out on your own: pustulka.edu.pl

Artificial Intelligence in Legal Profession

Check out these links to learn more about AI in legal profession

1. The In-house Guide to Legal Document Automation
https://radiantlaw.com/guide-to-legal-document-automation?utm_source=LI&utm_medium=A&utm_campaign=dagg

2. The Survey Results on Legal Tech Knowledge Among Lawyers
https://www.artificiallawyer.com/2018/07/20/us-survey-finds-big-legal-tech-knowledge-gap-among-lawyers/

3. UK Law Firms Failing to Meet Customers’ Demands
https://www.artificiallawyer.com/2018/07/20/us-survey-finds-big-legal-tech-knowledge-gap-among-lawyers/

4. PwC report on Estimated job displacement and creation from AI
https://www.legaltechnology.com/latest-news/ai-will-create-more-jobs-than-it-displaces-in-the-professional-sector-says-wide-ranging-pwc-report/

5. FT article on how AI will make legal work redundant
https://www.ft.com/content/30cf0cf2-7092-11e8-92d3-6c13e5c92914

6. Barriers to tech adoption in the legal profession
https://remakinglawfirms.com/barriers-to-tech-adoption-in-biglaw/

Interview on studylegalenglish.com

During my stay in Split for the EULETA (European Union Legal English Teachers Association) in September I was interviewed by Louise Kulbicki from Study Legal English Podcasts about the use of technologies in legal English teaching and learning.

Surrounded by the beautiful architechture of the Split Old Town and over delicious octopus carpaccio we had a conversation which Louise has put on her website this week.

I hope you will find it informative and inspiring. Enjoy!

The Pustulka Project. Developing Online Testing Software for English for Specific Purposes.

On 21 April 2018, the third day of IABL 2018 World Conference I had a pleasure to present PUSTULKA (pustulka.edu.pl/) – a new web-based testing software, developed specially for the ESP context, and created by me  – an ESP teacher, together with a software developer. It emerged when the quest for ideal testing software for FLT turned out to be unsuccessful.

With PUSTULKA teachers can create a variety of exercises (including cloze texts, multiple choice, drop-down lists, checkboxes, short and long answers), build tests out of the exercises, assign them online or print as WORD documents. Exercises are easily and quickly parsed (i.e. transferred) from plain text editors (e.g. Word or notepad) to PUSTULKA and the teachers do not need to have the knowledge of html or programming to manage.

PUSTULKA works in all browsers and on all devices and students do not need to create accounts to do the tests. They can view their score and answers immediately after submission. They can also e-learn with PUSTULKA by doing the exercises which teachers make public. There is already a collection of public exercises for you to test on: pustulka.edu.pl/PublicExercise/PublicExercisesList

Students’ satisfaction survey proved that PUSTULKA fulfilled its task of developing a user-friendly application. 91% of users had definitely or rather positive experience with this application.

The hidden agenda of the Project is to build a teachers’ Community of Practice[1] by inducing collaboration among them. Ideally, teachers will contribute high quality content to the application and share some of their exercises with other contributors. Teachers can comment on other teacher’s exercises, indicate the possibilities of modification or correct mistakes, etc. In this way teachers will benefit from the growing database of exercises, simplify their own and one another’s work, save time on designing and evaluating tests as well as develop their digital competence.

If you are interested in learning more about how to create exercises, assign tests, see a sample test or set up a free trial account, go to PUSTULKA Help section on: pustulka.edu.pl/Home/Help

We will be happy to hear your feedback. You can contact us via PUSTULKA web page or directly on info@pustulka.edu.pl

[1] Communities of Practice (CoPs) refer to groups of people who genuinely care about the same real-life problems or hot topics, and who on that basis interact regularly to learn together and from each other.

How to Exploit a Sample Clause in Class

The clause is, for example, a standard indemnity clause like this one below:

Licensee shall indemnify and hold harmless the Licensor, its affiliates and their respective officers, directors and employees from and against all costs, expenses, damages, claims, obligations and liabilities whatsoever from facts or circumstances not attributable to the Licensor including, but not limited to, all costs arising out of the acts or defaults, whether negligent or not, of the Licensee, Licensee’s agents, sub-contractors and employees.

A sample of an authentic clause can be exploited to practise various skills. The first stage may be the selection the terms of art and other legalese words for paraphrasing. This can be done by the teacher or by the students themselves to raise their awareness of the essential features of legal texts. I have bolded the terms of art, examples of legalese and words typical of the language of contracts which I consider significant in the clause above.

Next, the students can be asked to translate the text into their native language to make sure they understand what the clause deals with and really means.

Afterwards, the students write a paraphrase or a summary of the clause using plain English and their own words. Here attention is drawn to the features of plain language, i.e. word order, the length of the sentences, the use of tabulation, linking words, correct punctuation, eliminating nominalisations and the abuse of the passive voice, accuracy, etc.

The paraphrase or the summary can be prepared in a form of an email/letter sent to a client, who needs the clarification of the said clause.

In order to improve speaking the clause can be paraphrased orally in a form of a simulated lawyer-client interview.

Additionally, students can think of potential problems the clause may give rise to when the obligations it contains are or are not carried out.

There are many websites where sample contract clauses may be found, e.g. http://agreementforms.org/.