The Training of Business Professionals in ELT Materials: a Focus on Email Writing
Keywords:BELF, corpus linguistics, linguistics
Nowadays, business organizations are faced with the challenge of operating in a global, informational, and highly networked context. The globalization of business and the fast growth in digital technology are having a massive impact both on business structures, with a proliferation of international mergers and acquisitions, and on corporate communication, as most business transactions are being carried out via digital media.
In this context, professional communication needs are rapidly changing too: not only is a common working language required, but there is also the necessity for business professionals to acquire the communicative competence that will enable them to communicate efficiently, effectively, and rapidly. As for the language, although “[i]t is undeniable that English […] has now come to represent the main common contact language and lingua franca in an interconnected globalized world” (Vettorel 2014, 1), a more encompassing conceptualization of the language of business is necessary in order to cater to the ‘super-diversity’ (Cogo 2012) of today’s business contexts. On the communicative competence side, professionals need to acquire the ability to adjust quickly to the immediacy of the communicative event and to the dynamic nature of intercultural negotiations. This requires a vast array of pragmatic and interactional skills which have mainly been investigated in spoken interactions (e.g. Firth 1996; Björkman 2011, 2014). In business contexts, however, transactions are often conducted via non-face-to-face media, where the lack of contextual cues may pose a barrier to effective communication (Soucek and Moser 2010).
This diachronic study of a set of ten Business-English (email)-writing texts published between 2000 and 2016 focuses on the tasks and guidelines provided for the development of email writing skills. Drawing on Louhiala-Salminen and Kankaanranta’s (2011) notion of “Global Communicative Competence,” the analysis tries to establish whether there has been a change in the way the English language is presented in business ELT materials and whether provisions are made for the development of those pragmatic and interactional skills which can be of use to business professionals in the workplace.
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