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Virginia J Allum

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Why I'm a fan of LSP
6/23/2012 12:18:11 AM

LSP offers the opportunity to teach the specific language practitioners in particular professions need to use to be not only work-ready but also safe workers in professions where safety is essential.

I recently received an email inviting proposals to speak at The International Language Conference on ‘The Importance of Learning Professional Foreign Languages for Communication between Cultures’ at The Faculty of Logistics, University of Maribor, Celje, Slovenia. After first checking where Celje is and whether I could actually get there or not, I had a look at the suggested topics. Some of the topics include:
1. The role of languages for specific purposes in the 21st century,
2. Modern methods/approaches used in teaching LSP,
3. The impact of information and communications technology on teaching/learning LSP,
4. The Bologna process in an LSP course,
5. Developing language skills in an LSP course,
6. Preparation of glossaries of professional terminology for LSP teaching
The thing which caught my eye was the expression ‘LSP’. Surely they meant ESP (English for Specific Purposes not psychic perception!). As I researched the acronym and discovered that it means ‘Learning (any language) for Specific Purposes’ I started to think whether this was the area I am involved in rather than ESP which is where I thought my EMP (English for Medical Purposes) skills lay.
The more I looked at it, the more I liked LSP. Learning the language a doctor or nurse needs to function in the healthcare system requires an understanding of very specific vocabulary like medical terms and doctor/ nurse jargon. This is the vocabulary I include in the books I write now in the EMP area. I can do this because I am a dual professional; a practising RN as well as a TESOL teacher/author. I have also been involved in the presentation of EMP Teacher Training seminars with Marie McCullagh and Ros Wright (both co-authors of Medical English books). The seminars were presented to demystify or ‘debunk’ medical English to ESP teachers who were thinking of moving into EMP teaching or who were already there. During each seminar (Wimbledon, Oxford and Cambridge) the inevitable question arose, ‘I don’t have a medical background. How can I teach medical English?’
The answer is that it is possible to teach medical English without a medical background as the communication skills in medical English are the same communication skills as are found in any other English course. The trick is putting the conversations into a healthcare context. This is where I now realise that LSP should take over. There is a need to have a solid grounding in the basics , however, sooner or later there will also be a need to learn the specific terms used ‘on the job’.
It’s not just about communication with patients. It’s about communicating with colleagues, participating in Continuing Professional Development (which is compulsory) and Mandatory Training (also compulsory). Without knowledge of the specific terms used in a particular profession communication is at best, stilted or at worst, dangerous. I remember working with a nurse, ironically from Slovenia, who was very experienced in her own country. She had recently started working in the UK. I found her looking for something very intently one day and asked if I could help. ‘I need a vase’, she said. I showed her where the vases were kept but it wasn’t what she wanted. She wanted a urinal (a urine bottle) – well they are shaped like vases - but didn’t know the term to use so used the closest term she knew.
LSP seems to confront the need of having a course which is heavily content-based in a way which I like. For a long time, ESOL teachers have denied the need to teach large amounts of vocabulary and pronunciation for that matter because it was seen as stifling communication skills. Despite this, students or graduates in professions such as Medicine, Aviation, Oil and Gas Exploration are voting for language courses which do include both relevant vocabulary and pronunciation practice because these are safety issues. My ‘vase’ example is an amusing example of a simple misunderstanding , however, an example of the misunderstanding of the numbers ‘14’ and ‘40’ in medication administration would not be as amusing.

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More Blogs by Virginia J Allum
• Communication breakdowns in healthcare can be fatal - Monday, July 16, 2012
•  Why I'm a fan of LSP  - Saturday, June 23, 2012  

• First blog on Authorsden - Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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