Blog IELTS English Communication needs of Engineering Students

English Communication needs of Engineering Students

Theoretical Orientation According to Johnson and Swain [13], the main principle of immersion education is that the target language is used as the medium of instruction so that students receive comprehensible input before making comprehensible output, thus achieving proficiency in the language. Language proficiency is more important in late immersion than in early immersion, for one’s (foreign) language skills usually fall behind his or her conceptual levels in late immersion, while language and concept develop together in early immersion. Children in early immersion programs can function well in classes conducted in the target language by the second year of their studies. However, in late immersion programs, the use of students’ first language is necessary; hence, bridge courses are required and bilingual teachers are helpful. ·   Furthermore, as late immersion students need to first develop the threshold level of proficiency where they can start using the target language actively, intense language training must be provided across the curriculum.

Offering Education on English Communication at the Graduate Level The first theme in the literature explores the issues surrounding education on English communication at the graduate level in engineering contexts. The next several subsections explore specific issues in this area, including the engineering students’ needs to publish internationally and their needs for English after graduation and for EMI. English Needs for International Publications: Starke-Meyerring et al. [14] report that the recent growth in global partnerships has involved more students and faculty in “shared learning environments” and collaborative research projects, where the participants “can learn from each other and benefit from their engagement.” Moreover, many Asian universities have urged their faculty to publish in international publications, especially in American and British academic journals, in their attempts to bolster the process of internationalization and performance in university rankings [15]. Faculties in Hong Kong universities are pressured to “publish or perish” in international journals such as those indexed in the social sciences citation index (SSCI) and the science citation index (SCI), databases that include the world’s leading journals in relevant areas. Academics in Taiwan too are faced with burdens for international publications as they are evaluated and promoted on the basis of their publication records [3]. The Korean government has taken assertive measures as well such as the Brain Korea 21 Project (1999–2012), which provides financial support for the academic staff’s publication in international journals with a goal to elevate some of the Korean institutions into the world’s top notch research institutions [6]. Korean faculties’ needs to publish in international journals have been further emphasized by engineering schools, and this has consequently underlined the importance of developing the writing ability of graduate engineering students, who are often engaged in collaborative research work with professors. A study surveyed graduate students and faculty members at POSTECH’s graduate school to determine the needs regarding English science journal paper writing [16]. The results showed that 74% of the graduate students expressed difficulty due to English problems; 92% of the graduate students felt they were at a disadvantage to native English speakers when writing and publishing papers in English; 98% of the professors saw English as vital to the students’ future careers; yet, the students’ level of English was considered to be generally low (with a mean of 2.78 on a 7-point scale, where 1 was “very poor,” and 7 was “excellent”). The researchers concluded that journal paper writing needs to be taught to nonnative speaking graduate students in the science and engineering fields, implying a need for writing classes, writing clinics, and proofreading services for graduate science students. Kim, et al. [17] proposed a technical writing course for Korean graduate engineering students based on reviews of student writing samples and student responses to a self-assessment questionnaire conducted at a Korean university. Their assessment demonstrated that the students possessed widely different levels of English and their understanding of their own writing ability also widely varied. English Needs After Graduation: Engineers’ English communication needs in professional environments reveal that appropriate English communication training should be part of graduate studies. As Ostheimer, et al. [18] pointed out, industry has complaints that graduates are not adequately prepared for work, and they particularly lack “the ability to communicate orally and in writing” and “to work as a team with others of similar and different backgrounds.” Similarly, Keane and Gibson [19] found that most of the engineers that they surveyed were engaged in work with others and carried out daily writing tasks, including writing letters, memos, reports and proposals, and many mentioned the difficulties of communicating with nonnative speakers of English and of presenting technical material clearly. Yu [20] argues that import and export businesses in China have experienced rapid growth and, thus, the Chinese government has shown a strong interest in attracting foreign investors. He further observes: Because English has become the international lingua franca, English rather than Chinese is often the working language in these import-export businesses and foreign-invested enterprises. According to Park [21], Korean engineers working in corporations, such as Samsung, had the needs to communicate with non-Korean engineers within and outside their companies for the purposes of product development and distribution. They needed to use English for explanations of products and technology, emailing and faxing people in foreign companies, and communication with foreigners within their offices. English Needs for EMI Classes: Kang and Park [22] carried out a survey study with a goal to develop a better understanding of the language use and interaction patterns used in EMI courses in a Korean college setting. The survey results showed that: (1) both English and Korean were used in the EMI courses—Korean for discussions and small group activities and English for lectures and presentations; (2) the instructors rarely paid attention to language form and instead concentrated on delivering their messages; thus, they did not provide feedback on grammatical errors; and (3) students’ English proficiency was strongly related to their performances in class. The researchers concluded that the EMI courses at the university had unsatisfactory results mainly because of the students’ lack of English communication skills; therefore, English communication training must be provided to help students adjust to content-focused EMI courses at the college level. Park [23] analyzed students’ evaluations of EMI courses and interviewed undergraduate and graduate students in engineering at a Korean university. The students showed higher levels of satisfaction over EMI courses than courses offered in Korean. Also, first- and second-year students had much more difficulty in EMI courses than older students did, particularly when they lacked background knowledge of the subject. The researcher suggested that the school offer basic courses in major areas in the Korean language so that students could build background knowledge before taking EMI courses. In a questionnaire survey, Lee [24] attempted to investigate effective EMI methods for Korean engineering students at a regional university, where students tend to have low English communication skills. Regarding the question of whether the school must adopt an EMI policy, 57.3% of the 164 respondents said it should be done after consideration of students’ English communication ability, and 38.4% said that it should be adopted regardless. Concerning the mixed use of English and Korean in EMI courses, 78% favored a mixture of the two languages. The researcher concluded that for students with low English proficiency, EMI classes must fulfill two roles, delivering required knowledge of the subject as well as basic knowledge of English. In order to achieve this goal, class must be delivered in Korean and English, she contended. In his study of questionnaire and interview surveys for the faculty and students at POSTECH, Cho [12] reported that EMI classes were not as effective as classes of Korean-medium instruction mainly due to the inadequate English proficiency of instructors and students; also, both instructors and students were more satisfied by EMI classes when EMI was recommended than when it was required by the school. Another researcher, Cho, [25] argues and observes that in EMI classes, English functions as a “class marker”; that is, students with lower English proficiency sit silently, while a handful of those with English fluency actively participate in class. In addition, Cho points out that the problem of unsatisfactory quality of EMI classes is attributed to the instructors’ insufficient English ability. This literature review shows that a major problem with EMI in Korean engineering schools is insufficient English proficiency on the parts of students and instructors.

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