USIA English Language Programs

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs


Report on Academic Specialist Visit to Honduras:
July 1 - August 14, 1999

By Diana Pascoe Chavez, Webster College
and St. Louis Community College

About the Specialist

Diana Pascoe Chavez is an ESL instructor at Webster University and at the St. Louis Community College in St. Louis, Missouri. For the last five years, she has worked with the immigrant and refugee population, teaching basic English and workplace survival skills as well as in academic graduate and undergraduate programs which focus on academic survival skills. Before coming to St. Louis, she worked in Honduras for many years as a teacher trainer, program coordinator and TESOL-Honduras president. She has a BA degree in Art History from Carbondale, Illinois and a MA in TESOL from Southeast Missouri State University. She has also studied in graduate programs in Mexico and Honduras. She is currently working on a Ph.D. in American Studies at St. Louis University. She has presented at international and regional TESOL conferences in the areas of pronunciation, workplace ESL and contrastive rhetoric.


Areas of Specialization

Her areas of specialty are training teachers in contrastive studies of pronunciation, writing styles and culture as well as cross-cultural communication skills, with a special interest in working with Latin American ESL/EFL teachers. She is interested in integrating "translational thinking" skills into ESL and bilingual study programs.


Trip Report

Sites: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras (UNAH) and the Instituto Hondureno de Cultura Interamericana (IHCI)

My activities at the UNAH had two main objectives: the revision and development of the:

  1. curriculum and syllabi of the translation classes and translation specialization program, and
  2. the reading/writing component of the English as a Second Language degree program.

The Translation program:

The translation classes and translation orientation within the language program needed to be revised in light of the new needs of the university program and the national job market. I helped change the foundation courses- Gramatica Contrastiva, Linguistica and Intro. to Translation so that they would both be useful for the general language students and for any students interested in specializing in translation in the fourth year seminar courses.

Of special interest were the workshops given to and by 12 of the teachers in the related fields of psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, intercultural communication and contrastive rhetoric. We worked on readings, course materials and practical exercises to be used in classes. The outcome was a revision of the proposed licenciatura program in translation that is being developed, as well as guidelines for further research. It was especially rewarding to work with the teachers, many of whom were professional writers and translators, on developing an awareness and appreciation of their bicultural/bilingual thinking skills. We learned many things about our own cultures and languages in the process. The importance of rethinking the objectives and topics of culture course so as to make them more relevant to the programs was also stressed, especially in terms of cross-cultural studies.

The Reading/Writing Component:

The composition teachers and I worked on a revision of the new Advanced Composition course, and then, based on a survey and sampling of students taking courses during this month, we worked on recommendations for the other writing classes and the reading/writing skill development in general. I gave two workshops meant to help the teachers and the academic committee see the difference between personal essay writing skills and academic, source-based writing. I recommended that the reading and writing "talleres" be combined so that the writing be more meaningful, based on academic readings and real tasks assigned in the content area classes. I also recommended less literature-based readings and more readings in the areas of business, the sciences, diplomacy and general real world fields that would both prepare the students for bilingual jobs in the commercial fields as well as lay the basis for the translation program.

My final recommendation was to incorporate academic and creative writing based on readings starting in English I in a more systematic way, as part of the syllabus and course objectives, and as a way to bolster language acquisition. Up to now, the first levels of English were mainly focused on oral skills and fluency. Based on recent research and the fact that the UNAH students are not just language students, but also future language teachers and bilingual professionals, we worked on strengthening the theoretical and methodological framework for the integration of writing and reading skills in all the courses. The pilot Advanced Composition course was designed using readings about the teaching of writing and the reading/writing connection in language learning and for academic cognitive skills in general. The course will be both a language acquisition objective as well as a content area focus: they are working on their report and academic essay writing skills, and they are taking a methods course in teaching composition at the same time.

At the IHCI, I gave two workshops on "Teaching Intercultural Communication Skills in the Business Environment" , and "Teaching and Using Translation" to 23 teachers. I also looked at the Business English project and some of the programs for the bilingual secretarial program. I also had the opportunity to talk to teachers and directors of bilingual school English programs and to discuss the type of teacher and professionals they were interested in hiring.

Conclusion and recommendations:

By the end of the visit, we agreed on the need to study the unique nature of "bilingual education" in Latin American cultures and the need to integrate the two programs: both English and Spanish in a way that would help the students appreciate their bicultural identity and more efficiently develop their language skills in both languages. The growing need for cross-cultural communication skill training for the teachers is apparent since most do not know what to do with this kind of material when they find it in their text books, nor how to tailor it to their classes' specific needs.

Translation, as a profession and as a teaching tool, is a rapidly growing area of interest since it is increasingly seen as an interdisciplinary field with relevance and application in language and cultural studies programs both inside and outside the U.S. Some of the observations of the teachers were the need to study this area more and to redefine the objectives of these kinds of classes.

In all the programs that I visited, there was a growing awareness of the need to integrate the Internet as a source of information and language practice in the academic programs. Both the UHAH and the IHCI have the infrastructure to begin to train teachers and devise programs that could be offered to the public and used in the language programs. The need for better trained translators for both written and oral material in professional fields was also apparent, especially if the use of the Internet in English becomes more generalized. The amount of information available for students in these virtual libraries opens the possibilities for being able to compete academically with any research program in the rest of the world. However, the teachers need to be trained to feel comfortable using these resources first, and then shown how to integrate them into existing programs.



Suggested Bibliography

Hall, Edward T. The Silent Language. New York: Doubleday, 1990.

Kramsch, Claire. Context and Culture in Language Teaching. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Paz, Octavio. "Translation: Literature and Letters". In Theories of Translation, Schulte, R. ed., Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Pusch, Margaret D. Multicultural Education: A Cross Cultural Training Approach. New York: Intercultural Press, 1980.

Samovar, Larry, and Porter, Richard. Intercultural Communication: A Reader. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1997.

Seelye, H. Ned. Teaching Culture: Strategies for Intercultural Communication. Chicago: National Textbook Co., 1994.

Stewardt, Edward, and Milron J. Bennett. American Cultural Patterns: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Yarmouth, MA: Intercultural Press, 1991.

Storti, Craig. The Art of Crossing Cultures. Yarmouth, MA: Intercultural Press, 1990.

Vasquez-Ayora, Gerardo. "La Estilistica" and "Anglicismos de Frequencia", in Introduccion a la Traductologia, Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1977.



Recommended Links

Robert Kaplan's bibliography for Contrastive Rhetoric:

Schmidt, Helen. The Internet Minicourse for International Students. (from TESOL 99)

Webster University

St. Louis Community College ESL Program



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