Discourse strategies in ELF: Project-based learning in Transylvania

Tokyo Chapter

Date and Time: 
Friday, 14 October 2016 - 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Hiromasa Tanaka, Meisei University

Brief summary
This study discusses the relevance of project-based learning (PBL) in the learner’s acquisition of discourse strategies. Video-recorded data of real-world-co-project interactions between Japanese and Romanian Business communication students were analyzed. The presenter documents the effect of project-based learning with explicit preparation on the learners’ discourse strategy acquisition.

Strategic competence is argued to be critical in practical communication, and communication or discourse strategies are viewed as important components of strategic competence (Ellis, 2003). Recent research examining empirical business discourse data also highlights the importance of discourse strategies, not only for meaning negotiation or compensation in communications break-down, but also for embracing leadership, solidarity, and polite business intercourse (Handford, 2010). Furthermore, when English is used as lingua franca in business settings, discourse strategies can potentially influence the overall results (Du-Babcock and Tanaka, 2013). However, past SLA research indicates that while such strategies are important, such strong emphasis on strategies entails the danger that learners may develop fluency at the expense of accuracy (Ellis, 2003). And the teachability or trainability of discourse strategies for business communication is still unclear.

The present study discusses the relevance of project-based learning (PBL) in terms of the learner’s acquisition of discourse strategies. Although PBL shares many aspects with TBL, the PBL approach considers higher level learner-centredness in real-world/out-of-the-classroom action settings. Learners are directed to reflect on the link between theory and practice (De Fillippi and Wankel, 2004). The project, at Transilvania Creative Camp, had a pre-specified objective - to create a promotion video of Lapus Land, Romania for the Asian market. Business communication students from Japan and public communication students from Romania worked on this shared objective for 15 days. During the project, English is used as lingua franca Instruction for awareness raising. Training in communication strategies was offered to Japanese learners in the pre-teaching period, and data from their communication with Romanian students were video and audio recorded. Taking a qualitative and interpretive approach, the presenter documents the effect of project-based learning with explicit pre-teaching to the learners’ discourse strategy acquisition.

Bio: Hiromasa Tanaka is a professor at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Meisei University in Tokyo. He received his Ed. D. in Curriculum, Instruction and Technology in Education from Temple University. His research interest are in the area of business discourse and critical pedagogy with a special focus on human resource development in multi-national business corporations. Hiromasa was a managing consultant of SNNO Institute of Management. As a consultant, he participated in several corporate change initiatives and training-curriculum development projects in Japan, Korea, and the United States. He worked for Japanese business corporations including Dentsu, Renault-Nissan Purchasing Organization, Japan Gasoline Corporation, and Isuzu Motors as well as non-Japanese organizations such as Citi Corp, Saudi Aramco, and Uzbek Neftegaz. He has published 78 books and articles in the field of business discourse and human resource development both in Japanese and English.

NYU School of Professional Studies (ALI) Tokyo Center
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