Discourse-Based Approach to Practicing L2 Prosody in a Workplace Communication Course: A Review of Recent Research and Instruction

Discourse-Based Approach to Practicing L2 Prosody in a Workplace Communication Course: A Review of Recent Research and Instruction

Elena Tareva, Tatiana Polushkina
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3266-9.ch013
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This chapter looks at the current communicative needs of a modern engineer engaged in professional intercultural communication. To describe professional context, the analysis of the present-day engineering discourse was conducted. It was found that spoken communication is gaining more momentum in engineering practice. Therefore, more focus in language teaching should be placed on prosody skills. Since L2 prosody practicing has long been beyond the scope of ESP curriculum, it is hypothesized that a tailor-made teaching solution is called for. The prosodic profile of an engineering specialist served as a reference point for selecting content to teach prosody. In a verifying experiment, post-teaching scores of 80 Russian engineering students were assessed. The study reveals a correlation between the implemented teaching practice and the raise of students' L2 prosody skills and the effectiveness of the suggested instructional treatment. The methods discussed have implications for other professional contexts and aspects of language use.
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Due to the fundamental socioeconomical shifts that transform the engineering profession, there is an urgent need to revisit the status of an engineering specialist in terms of the competencies required for efficient workplace interactions. Among the key processes of redefining engineering profession is the arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Raman & Rathakrishnan, 2019) which marked the new work order. Previously, engineering practice was seen as the “use of knowledge in research, development, design or manufacturing to create products, systems, processes or deliver services of technical nature” (Engineering in Society, 1985, p. 7). As the Fourth Industrial Revolution unfolds, engineering profession changes in response to industry and society demands. Advances in digital technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things big data analysis and robotics have substantially modified the professional space of engineering specialists. In addition to solid theoretical knowledge and practical skills, an engineer of the twenty first century should be able to collaborate and use entrepreneurial skills to enhance innovation (Tryggvason & Apelian, 2012; Crawley, Malmqvist, Östlund, Brodeur, & Edstrom, 2014; Educating the engineer of 2020, 2005). The change in image has important implications for the practice of engineering. Due to the complex multidisciplinary nature of engineering activity, it is becoming less local and individualized and more global and team-based. This necessarily led to the widening of engineers’ professional network, increasing their opportunities to interact at both interprofessional and extraprofessional levels within home country and with foreign counterparts (van Dijk, 1997; Kong, 2014; IEA, 2018).

The new image of an engineering specialist has inevitably brought about new approaches to engineering education that should enable graduates to meet the requirements of the professional world they enter. Due to the diverse and intense character of engineers’ professional interactions, communicative competence is perceived as a key qualification which is pivotal to the job prospects and corporate career success of engineering specialists. According to the world-renowned engineering education standards and guidelines providing comprehensive educational frameworks (CDIO, ABET, IEA), communication permeates all stages of engineering practice from the concept to operation and maintenance. Along with building proficiency in reading and writing, these standards emphasize the development of students' skills in oral communication, especially in a number of speech acts critical for interacting at the interprofessional level, such as exposition, description and discussion. At the extraprofessional level, oral performance is of no less importance. As Klaus Schwab (2018) points out, since every aspect of product design is connected with certain values that may face societal resistance or come into conflict with investors and stakeholders, abilities to inform, consult, negotiate and discuss play a strong role in conflict prevention and resolution (Schwab, 2018)

As for the Russian education policy, the Federal State Education Standards of Higher Education (2018) bring forward a wide definition of graduates’ communicative competence. According to the competency profile of a Russian-speaking engineering graduate, he/she should be able to communicate in professional and academic contexts both orally and in writing using Russian and foreign language/languages. Although this view is rather broad, it resonates with global educational setups. Considering the ever-increasing share of oral communicative practices throughout the world, it can be concluded that developing speaking proficiency in work-related situations will be the primary concern for Russian LSP curriculum designers as well.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Accentedness: Degree of difference between speech and a local or reference accent.

Engineering Discourse: Language used in engineering context to conceive, design, implement and operate with complex products, systems and services.

Intelligibility: The extent to which a speaker is understandable and whether the words used by the speaker are successfully decoded.

Prosodic Error: Error affecting the prosodic aspects of speech related to intonation, rate of speaking, phrasing and pausing, rhythm, stress and voice quality.

Prosodic Competence: The ability to use prosodic features and patterns in oral communication.

Professional Discourse: Intertwinement of text and talk in professional contexts and for professional purposes.

Comprehensibility: The amount of work that listeners need to do in understanding a speaker.

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