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Literary works and language as a source to tailor and enhance ESP courses for economic universities / Литературные произведения и язык как источник для разработки и обогащения курсов ESP в экономических вузах
Маслова Елизавета Геннадьевна

кандидат филологических наук

доцент, Российский экономический университет им. Г.В. Плеханова

117997, Россия, г. Москва, пер. Стремянный, 36

Maslova Elizaveta Gennad'evna

PhD in Philology

associate professor of the Department of Foreign Languages at Plekhanov Russian University of Economics

117997, Russia, Moscow, per. Stremyannyi, 36

maslovaliza@yandex.ru
Другие публикации этого автора
 

 
Минасян Ева Тиграновна

кандидат филологических наук

доцент, Российский экономический университет им. Г.В. Плеханова

117997, Россия, г. Москва, пер. Стремянный, 36

Minasyan Eva Tigranovna

PhD in Philology

Associate Professor at Plekhanov Russian University of Economics

117997, Russia, g. Moscow, per. Stremyannyi, 36

Minasyan.ET@rea.ru
Другие публикации этого автора
 

 

Аннотация.

Предметом исследования является изучение и раскрытие методов обучения деловому английскому языку на материале литературных произведений экономической направленности, отражающих социально-экономическое развитие страны изучаемого языка в определенную эпоху, непосредственно связанных с типовыми деловыми ситуациями и демонстрирующих примеры употребления бизнес лексики и терминологии. Целью исследования является развитие языковой компетенции студентов и совершенствование деловых навыков через использование художественных текстов актуальной тематики и социально-экономической проблематики, лежащих в основе профессии будущего специалиста. Авторы выносят на обсуждение ряд вопросов, связанных с ролью художественных текстов, которые могут значительно повысить уровень мотивации и усовершенствовать языковые навыки. В ходе исследования использовались следующие научные методы: анализ и обобщение методов личностно-ориентированного обучения, эксперимент, анкетирование, наблюдение, а также принципы системного подхода к явлениям литературы и культуры. В исследовании приняли участие 120 студентов 3 курса Российского экономического университета имение Г. В. Плеханова. Были разработаны практические задания для лингвистического анализа отрывков художественных произведений, наиболее эксплицитно отражающих особенности экономического дискурса. Основные выводы проведенного исследования заключаются в том, что студенты, сформировавшие необходимые общекультурные и профессиональные компетенции и достигшие уровня владения деловым английским языком не ниже порогового продвинутого, считают мотивирующим процесс познания и сравнения социально-экономической мысли разных поколений и культур. Таким образом, инкорпорирование литературных произведений в курс делового английского стимулирует не только интерес к литературе страны изучаемого языка, но и к гуманитарным знаниям в целом.

Ключевые слова: художественные произведения, экономика, Айн Рэнд, деловой английский, риторическая речь, бизнес-фикшн, социально-политический контекст, экономическая проблематика, свободный рынок, капитализм

DOI:

10.25136/1339-3057.2018.3.25546

Дата направления в редакцию:

23-02-2018


Дата рецензирования:

24-02-2018


Дата публикации:

28-07-2018


Abstract.

The subject of this research is to explore modes of teaching business English through literary works specifically related to typical business environment, vocabulary and terminology. The purpose of this article is to describe the role of literary arts aimed at improving students’ language competences by providing them with the opportunity to acquire language and business skills through exploring fictional situations and future profession-related topics. The research methods include analysis and generalization of learner-centered teaching approaches, observation, questionnaire survey and empirical studies based on the complex interconnection of culture and literature. This article presents results of the research that involved 120 students of the 3rd year of Plekhanov Russian University of Economics. The research involved a survey based on tailored literary extracts focusing on economic insights and linguistic features, which prove to be of the utmost importance and novelty of this study. The results of the research demonstrate positive effect of reading and analyzing literature works, which enhance language skills, develop critical and analytical thinking abilities to perceive economic thoughts of diverse generations and cultures. Authors conclude that students who have achieved a particular level in their professional sphere and mastered business English find it encouraging to not only be acquainted with the literary heritage, but also share increased level of commitment in studying humanities.

Keywords:

social and political context, business fiction, rethorical speech, business English, Ayn Rand, economics, literary works, economic issues, free market, capitalism

Introduction

Throughout the last two decades the area of Business English has expanded so swiftly and significantly that it has become the major and mostly demanded branch of English for Specific Purposes (ESP), thus surpassing other fields of English, like EAP (English for Academic Purposes), EPP/EVP (English for Professional/Vocational Purposes). However, there appears a constant lack of published materials or teaching resources offering assistance in ESP methodology, materials development and classroom management. As Hewings and Nickerson (1999) stated the most often quoted requirements were ‘to report good practice and share experience’, and the need for ‘more applied linguistic research into the use of English in business in order to inform teaching’ [1].

The subject matters as needs analysis, material choice and adaptation, course design and class management are profoundly studied, whereas the role of literature in teaching Business English has been little explored both in published textbooks and research. In published works on this theme there should be called Duaugsamosorn (1996) who argues that teaching literature ‘may improve the learners’ ability in effective business communication’ [2] and Vogt (1998) who recommends ‘using literature in ESP classroom can help students to understand other cultures better’ [3]. The successive research and experiment conducted by Peter (1999) suggests that incorporation of literature in the classroom ‘helps business students to enhance their English proficiency and communicative effectiveness in business writing’ [4].

Hence after long arguments whether literary works and language are separate from economic forces and conditions, or they are deeply interrelated in influencing public judgment and socio-cultural beliefs related to economic issues, it is proven that economic thoughts and concepts help to shape and lead both literature and language. A great number of writers describe economic notions rather accurately and analytically in forms of individual economic behavior, disagreement over policy and overall forms of social organization related to economic questions, thus depict social and cultural era from all angles. Many of them have expressed activist outlooks to political economy of their eras which seem rather interesting and progressive for economists, as in The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, who has criticized monopoly power, employment practices and income distribution. Moreover, socio-economic and cultural issues are quite dominant in the works of other authors of the previous century, such as J. Steinbeck, F. Norris, W. Faulkner, and A. Rand. Although it is customary to consider that political economy is expressed implicitly in modern literature, Ayn Rand’s work shows that an activist and conservative political economy may be developed through literary pieces.

With respect to the history of economic thought, the works of J. Swift, T. De Quincy, R. Southey, T. L. Peacock, Ch. Dickens, S. T. Coleridge, W. Cobbett, T. Carlyle and others, have received due attention in a number of scholarly publication. It is also common to find some passages from novels, poems and plays brought forth as evidence of some particular industrial practice, changing life standards and socio-cultural trends in literary works of another group of writers, like Ralph Emerson, Benjamin Franklin and Horatio Alger, who have presented mostly traditional and conservative standpoints on economic issues.

A noteworthy fact is the ongoing process of integrating literary passages and films with considerable economic content in university course design. This approach pursues the following objectives: attract mostly learners with high level language competences, who consider economics uninteresting and distasteful [5]; provide motivating and complementary materials to enhance coursebooks with relevant linguistics units and business themes [6]; supplement the language store of learners’ with literary examples, stories and allusions targeting related to definite social, cultural and economic aspects of the foreign language country [7]. The efficiency and high-level accomplishment of applying literature in economic studies depend on the quality, quantity and relevance of materials.

Methods and Materials

“So you think that money is the root of all evil ?” said Francisco d’Aconia. “Have you ever asked what the root of money is?”

(An extract from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, p. 387)

In the fames of this research work what is referred to as literature or literary works is out of the traditional perception of being finest and aesthetic written discourses. Literature is best defined by McRae in his book (1991) ‘any text whose imaginative content will stimulate reaction and response in the receiver’ [8]. Hence, an attempt to integrate a piece of a literary work in the course design has several specifications: first, it is biased and open to many interpretations, secondly, it is implicit with some vague and hidden meaning, and finally, it evokes an aesthetic response in the reader and appeals to different emotional retorts.

Consequently, to engage the students of economic university, the literary work used in the research article contains both some extracts and audio materials such as Francisco’s speech from the film Atlas Shrugged and an excerpt from the novel. The incorporation of literature in this research is primarily a study of language in action , i.e. how it can be used for different purposes, rather than just focusing on the literary aspects of the work in case. The foremost important reasons are to give information, to demonstrate social and cultural aspects of the foreign language, explore economic insights of that era, express feelings and study different models by which language operates, such as irony, understatement, inversion, and rhetorics. The above illustrated example from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is used for developing rhetorical skills which is an utmost important capability for any business person. Therefore, a vast number of Business English courses cover linguistic resources meant to foster not only language competencies but as well professional skills. Other examples of the use of literature to assist in language instruction are found in Collie and Slater (1987), McRae (1991), Bassnett and Grundy (1993), Tomlinson (1994), etc.

The method which is implemented in integrating literary pieces in the ESP course design is experiential. This means that learners first experience and get engaged in the literary work, then continue to dig deeper and analyze critically. For example, in the lead-in stage students may be asked to refer to their experience and provide examples of literary works with economic implications, ideas, later they can be directed to the issue under discussion and read the extract.

The first teaching technique is based on theories of language acquisition which emphasize the importance of experiencing the language through authentic texts in order to perceive all socio-cultural notions related to the foreign language learnt. The second technique is inductive, where students are given diverse literary works with economic notions to analyze and discover particular concepts of that era, to compare and contrast by themselves linguistic features of both fictional and scientific discourse. As many scholars state ‘it is more profitable for the learners to discover things about language for themselves, rather than being told the rules’ [7, 8].

In case of Business English the emphasis lies on specific language usage, business related philosophy and particular type of communication in a specific context. In the frames of this research work, the materials were intended for unabridged, which would help to equip learners with socio-cultural visions of economic notions in the foreign language, improve linguistic skills and critical thinking.

Discussion

The depiction of a particular industry or socio-economic portrait of an epoch in general is one of the major issues treated by authors of literary works related to the field of economy. However, it is a common practice for the literary world, often unflattering in its representations of capitalism and businesspeople, to attack industries and corporations for their preoccupation with material well-being and to portray an entrepreneur with its share of hostile criticism. Still, there are examples of literary texts that depict a businessperson in a positive light. In this discussion, we dwell upon Ayn Rand’s monumental masterpiece Atlas Shrugged, the novel that raises an entrepreneur to the level of a hero, emphasizing honourable and noble status of a business profession. Considered controversial and confronted with stark criticism, the book is still an international bestseller, with an army of dedicated followers. Many successful entrepreneurs and managers such as P. Thiel, J. Wales and J. Allison refer to Rand’s ideas as a source of guidance and inspiration.

Atlas Shrugged , saturated with economic issues,is arguably the most “economically literate” novel of the 20th century and is widely taught in colleges and universities in a variety of interdisciplinary courses. Teachers who integrate Rand’s novels in their syllabus claim that they have proven to be a very effective tool in teaching economics, promoting better understanding of the social, economic, moral and ethical principles underlying business and capitalism. Edward W. Younkins, professor at Wheeling Jesuit University and author of the course “Business through Literature” argues how the novel could serve as an excellent base for teaching business, business ethics, economics, political and economic philosophy: “The use of Atlas Shrugged aids in moving between abstract principles and realistic business examples. The novel serves as a link between philosophical concepts and the practical aspects of business and illustrates that philosophy is accessible and important to people in general and to business people in particular” [9].

Rand’s opus magnum Atlas Shrugged was written in 1957. It is generally considered a capstone of her literary work as it manifests the philosophy of Objectivism, which was first introduced in Fountainhead (1943), in a dramatized form. The essence of Objectivist ethics can be summarized by the oath from the comprehensive speech of her character John Galt: ‘I swear – by my life and my love of it – that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine’ [10].

The chronotope of the novel lies in a dystopian America of the near future. The main emphasis of the work is on tough relations, struggle amongst community’s ‘parasites’, ‘looters’, ‘moochers’ and manufacturers, merchants. So, the author with the help of narrative discourse tries to transfer the apocalyptic insight of the world. Atlas Shrugged portrays a mounting crisis of government intervention and systematic failure in contrast with defense of a free market system. Through the whole novel, specifically in case of Galt’s strike, Ayn Rand makes an effort to prove that human mind is the core source and drive of prosperity and profits. This way she emphasizes the roles of inventiveness and individuality; i.e. curiosity and thoughtfulness can lead to create wealth, and only creative people are actually accountable for prosperity. On behalf of such capitalists, manufacturers and entrepreneurs as Hank Rearden, Ken Danagger, Ellis Wyatt, Midas Mulligan, and Dangy Taggart, we see pioneers in reshaping and affecting the market. Therefore, the individuals with prominent capabilities at the higher level of pyramid contribute more to success and wealth than people with average abilities and lower position.

In Atlas Shrugged , Rand emphasizes the idea that productiveness is a virtue. Shemakes a convincing case that the human mind is the root of the creation of wealth; the passionate producer is the primary mover in the market. In his speech “So you think that money is the root of all evil?” Francisco argues that money is made possible only by producers. This extract puts particular emphasis on the fact that it is production that initiates demand for other products and services. Atlas Shrugged thus interprets Law of markets, which states that supply creates its own demand.

The economic principles that Rand explicates in her novel cover a wide range of topics: rewards for productivity, innovation, the benefits of trade, government intervention in the economy, egalitarianism, socialism, etc. The detailed analysis of every aspect goes beyond the scope of this article. By the characters as Dagny Taggart, Hank Rearden and striking employees the author reveals the advantages of free market economy. Meanwhile, government policy, high-level taxation and rearrangement of mixed economy are portrayed by the images of ‘looters’ and ‘moochers’. Here as a market model of perfect competition and economically thriving area is presented John Galt’s Gulch, where money has greater worth, industrialists’ competition is based on better quality and value as opposed to ‘looters’, who by creating Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog Rule, argue that talent and abilities are more highly appreciated and valued than moral rights of ‘moochers’ and ‘leeches’. The following quote depicts the essence of war triggered by John Galt: “We are on strike against self-immolation. We are on strike against the creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties. We are on strike against the dogma, that the pursuit of one’s happiness is evil” [ibid., p. 937]. Subsequently, unrestrictive capitalism is exposed as being the only economic system which can initiate creativity, innovation and wealth, as this very system allows human’s mind to long for progress and well-being.

To summarize, the novel contains a large part of economic content and could partly be considered a treatise on economics in which social and philosophical issues laws, concepts, principles and issues are treated in a literary manner. What is more important in terms of TEFL methodology is that in her novel Ayn Rand teaches the lessons of economics in a far more memorable and engaging way than can be found in most textbooks and authentic articles.

Results

The prominence and urgency of integrating teacher tailored materials into the learning process has grown significantly, thus helping educators to implement learner-centred teaching approaches, to foster self-study models and increase learners’ engagement. Integrating fictional ideas and authentic language into the ESP course design help to promote better perception of the economic, moral and philosophical issues of the current business environment by way of comparing and contrasting with the ones occurred some decades ago.

In this case the research survey was based on introducing some extracts from Ayn Rand’s famous literary work Atlas Shrugged into the course frame for 3rd year learners of economic university, PREU, with upper-intermediate - advanced level of business language. The extracts were designed and supplemented with diverse assignments targeting all language skills: Speaking supported by such activities as Lead-in, Back-up, Comprehension & Discussion, Reading with vocabulary tasks, Writing - presenting one’s response to Francisco’s speech on Money , and Listening, where the reading materials were complimented by a video presenting Francisco’s oratorical skills. As a final step of the definite extract study the students’ were asked to write or act a small role by presenting their personal view on tackled economic matters. Of course, here the role of the educator was to coordinate, facilitate and supervise their work, acting mostly as a facilitator and guide. Due attention was driven on linguistic items, stylistic features of the literary discourse, and relevant economic lexis.

What refers to the empirical analysis of learners’ responses, it could be concluded that they were quite successfully and professionally written, e.g. ‘…ever since certain states can print money without supporting them with any goods and later using them as the worldwide exchange tool, any economic theory is inapplicable to money…’, or another student stated ‘…money is the tool that economies use in order to be able to function... money is a store of value, a reward for the work done…’ So, this kind of customized learning resource helped to reveal learners’ own perception of economic and political issues, comparing and contrasting business insights of various eras and providing their personal understanding of them.

To conclude, it should be stated that Atlas Shrugged as a heroic epic story contains a significant portion of economic content. Through her compelling narrative Rand provides a description of economic institutions and explains the principles of a free market. Clearly, introducing students to such a divisive figure as Rand requires some pedagogical risk-taking. As far as challenging it may seem, teaching Atlas Shrugged and other novels could prove to be rewarding. The novel could appeal strongly to soon-to-be managers and entrepreneurs, future “atlases” of our planet who might deepen their understanding of what takes to achieve authentic business success.

Conclusion

During the last decades the significance of economic education is surging being an important area of science which helps to form and lead socio-cultural and economic life of the whole country. A case to integrate literary works in ESP course design would need a longer time span for implementation and exploration to achieve quality objectives and more conclusive results. The response of the students to the materials as seen from their answers is a sign that they are highly motivated and interested to explore fictional extracts with economic implications via the foreign language. It appears that materials with literary content boost lesson engagement level, improve language competences and enlarge learners’ knowledge on various economic issues through diverse centuries.

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Rand A., Atlas Shrugged // New York: Dutton. (35th anniversary ed.). 1992. 1168 p.
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McRae, J. (1991). Literature with a small l . London: Macmillan.
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Younkins E. W. Capitalism and Commerce in Imaginative Literature: Perspectives on Business from Novels and Plays. Lexington Books, Mar 7, 2016. 468 p.
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Ingrao B., Economics and literature // Routledge, 2009. 18 p.
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Peter, W. (1999). A study on the effect of using an experiential approach to literature on the language proficiency of the business English students at a polytechnic. Unpublished MA thesis, National University of Singapore.
8.
Vogt, E. (1998). A fast track to cultural understanding: Literature in translation. The Journal of Language for International Business, 9(1). P. 10-28.
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Duangsamosorn, S. (1996). The importance of literature in the teaching of business English. The English Teacher, 2 (1). P. 18-25.
10.
Hewings, M., & Nickerson, C. (Eds.). (1999). Business English: Research into practice. Harlow, Essex: Longman