USIA English Language Programs

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
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Report on Academic Specialist Visit to Thailand
June 26 - July 11, 1999

By Kay Westerfield, University of Oregon

 


About the Specialist

Kay Westerfield is a specialist in International Business Communication and an international consultant in English for Specific Purposes (ESP). Ms. Westerfield coordinates and teaches in the International Business Communication program in the Charles H. Lundquist College of Business at the University of Oregon. She is also the Business Programs Coordinator at the American English Institute, University of Oregon, where she directs the Institute's ESP-Business programs, which include Business English training in the intensive English program, Corporate Language Training, and the International Pre-MBA Training Program.

Ms. Westerfield holds a Masters of Education degree from Boston University. She has published a reading textbook and numerous articles on language teaching. Her work as an international ESP consultant and teacher trainer has taken her to Europe, Latin America, Northern Africa, the Middle East, and South East Asia. Ms. Westerfield was the founding chair of the English for Specific Purposes Interest Section within the international organization for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). She now co-chairs the TESOL Task Force to develop standards documents for Best Practices in Workplace Language Training.

Contact Information:

Kay Westerfield
International Business Communication Program Coordinator
Charles H. Lundquist College of Business, University of Oregon

Business Programs Coordinator
American English Institute, University of Oregon

5212-University of Oregon
Eugene, Oregon 97403-5212
Telephone: 541-346-1094
Fax: 541-346-3917


 

Areas of Specialization

English for Specific Purposes (ESP), International Business Communication, Content-Based Language Instruction (CBI), Second Language Reading.

 

Trip Report

I gave a series of workshops in a number of venues in Thailand on topics related to international business communication and teaching English for business, i.e. English for International Negotiation; Effective Business Presentations; and Internet-Based Projects for Business: "Networking". My workshops in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Mahasarakam, which were attended by over 300 participants, were hosted by University faculties of Business and Economics as well as English.

I would like to share the following observations from my visit.

First, there is heightened need and corresponding demand for training in Business English and international business communication in Thailand as well as in other countries in southeast Asia due to the continuing effects of the economic crisis.

The Chair of the English for Business department at a leading Thai university reports that "English and business communication skills are increasingly in demand. Due to the economic conditions and the IMF bailout measures, foreign investors have taken over many businesses in Thailand so the demand for English in the workplace has become more urgent. The Thais now have to work more closely with foreigners. They need to be trained in effective communication in the workplace - making presentations, attending meetings and handling negotiations. My division as well as departments in other universities have started to revamp the curriculum putting more stress on communication in the workplace, but most teachers still find themselves at a loss, not knowing how to proceed with this."

At this point in time, English is undisputedly the lingua franca of international business. Improving the ability of business people to communicate in English across cultural boundaries contributes to national as well as global economic growth; people are better able to access new markets and develop existing ones more successfully.

A second observation which is related to this increased need for training in English for business, is the great interest in how to combine training in Internet skills with business communication skills. Knowing how to access information on the WWW is critical both for students doing research for their business classes, as well as for managers who need to make informed decisions in the workplace. My workshop in Bangkok which provided practical suggestions on how to exploit Internet technology for business English training was "standing room only". Many other universities requested this workshop, too, but we were unable to fit it into the schedule this time.

(An aside related to this Internet workshop: several of the tasks in the workshop highlighted web sites of a number of US corporations and educational institutions. These web sites, such as the site for Ben & Jerry's, for example, were particularly interesting to business communication trainers from a cross-cultural perspective due to the cultural values reflected on the sites, e.g. the strong commitment to social responsibility.)

A third impression I had was that these business English workshops offered outreach and networking opportunities into the outlying areas of Thailand, e.g. the Northeast, not only for USIS but also for Thai institutions, such as ThaiTESOL, the national affiliate of TESOL (the international organization for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).

Teachers from a number of universities could meet and exchange ideas, building the foundation for continued professional collaboration. The teachers in the northeastern countryside were so hungry for professional development opportunities that many of them drove for 4 hours to attend one day of my workshops in Mahasarakam. After participating in these workshops, each of the teachers returned to their university and classroom to share the information gained with their colleagues and students.


Recommendations for follow-up:

As mentioned above, there is an increased need for training in English for Business in tertiary education contexts as well as on-site at corporations themselves; however, language teachers/trainers are often at a loss for how to provide this training most effectively.

As a result, representatives from various educational institutions, namely the Chulalongkorn University Language Institute, National Institute of Development and Administration (NIDA) , King Monkut Institute of Technology, Chiangmai and Mahasarakam, hope that the ThailandTESOL organization can collaborate with USIS to organize workshops for an extended period --focussing on the teaching of best practices in Business English training, from needs analysis to curriculum and training program design to practical applications in the classroom.

 

 

Recommended Links

"Internet-Based Projects for Business: Networking". Westerfield, Kay and Leslie Opp-Beckman.
Guidelines for how to blend Internet technology with business communication training. Tasks, hotlinks, & other resource suggestions. http://babel.uoregon.edu/aei/esp/tcis_biblio.html

TESOL ESP Interest Section.
The official English for Specific Purposes (ESP) site sponsored by the ESP Interest Section in TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages). Contains announcements of upcoming conferences, drafts of Best Practices in workplace language training, links to valuable ESP resource sites, including the International Directory of Professionals in ESP, and more.
http://www.u-aizu.ac.jp/~t-orr/tesol/AAA.html

The University of Oregon Library.
A great source of business resources, many available to people outside the University community.
http://axe.uoregon.edu/janus.html

The American English Institute, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon. http://babel.uoregon.edu/aei/aei.html



 

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