Monday, March 28, 2011

2011 CIBER Business Languages Conference, Day 2

by Ann Abbott

At some conferences, the quality of the sessions is really hit or miss. At this year's CIBER Business Languages conference, I didn't attend one single session in which I didn't learn something or get an idea for something I can incorporate into my teaching and/or programming.

Here are the sessions I attended and just a few of the highlights.
  • Christine Uber Grosse. The link I provided here shows many of the articles that Chris has published, but certainly not all of them, especially not the latest. She has been and continues to be a leader in business languages, especially because of her publication record in top journals. Her morning keynote talk was titled, "The Continuing Evolution of Languages for Specific Purposes" and was based on her article that will appear in the Modern Language Journal special issue on LSP. She gave a very interesting retrospective on the field, highlighting key professors, and her article will be a qualitative study based on in-depth interviews with leaders in the field. Since her article will soon be available for all to read, I'll just give one quote that I jotted down: "The irony is that the greatest opposition to LSP comes from Modern Languages faculty." Her talk generated a terrific question and answer period. Several people gave wonderful advice for raising the field's profile. Mary Long (University of Colorado, Boulder) said we should retool the language with which we speak of business languages (e.g., express it in humanist and linguistics terms, the "languages" spoken in most language programs), stop asking for "permission" with our body language and to never be apologetic about what we do. Maida Watson said to show the deans that you are bringing in resources through grants and other sources. Chris said that we need to publish in the *best* journals. And Barbara Lafford followed up by saying we should use the same theoretical frameworks as the more established fields. There is more to say on this topic, of course, and I look forward to reading many of the articles in the upcoming MLJ special issue.
  • Margrit Zinggeler and Coral Lopez-Gomez. Margrit and Coral both talked about an internship program that they have established with Eastern Michigan students who work with Consulates. Coral is an Honorary Consul of Spain, and she explained the differences between career consuls and honorary consuls, as well as the duties they carry out for their citizens, the host country's citizens and the business community. She suggested contacting your nearest Consulate Corps to begin an internship program. Margrit then followed up with a presentation about the academic structure of the internship. Eastern Michigan holds an important place within LSP studies, so it was great to see the latest from there.
  • Juanita Villena-Alvarez. First of all, I would like to congratulate Juanita on her very prestigious award: South Carolina Governor's Professor of the Year. (Whatever you think about recent South Carolina governors, the recognition for Juanita's work is wonderful.) Secondly, I'd like to thank her for the information she shared with us about trends in the research and practice of Spanish for the healthcare professions. The main take-away for me from Juanita's talk is that we need to establish some common criteria and standards to combat the mish-mash of programs and approaches that we have now. I'd like to see a core curriculum in translingual communication strategies and transcultural competence that is applicable in any profession. To that, we can add profession-specific topics.
  • Mary K. Long. Mary explained the benefits of the CIBER faculty development trips abroad (FDIB) to business language faculty. Although Mary teaches Spanish, she explained how the trips to Asia and Eastern Europe have informed her thinking and teaching of Business Spanish. What impressed me most was the way that Mary showed such a macro-view of understanding the connections among business, culture, ethics, power structures and global policies. I loved the slides in which she would juxtapose a business practice with a contradictory cultural practice. Mary is a wonderful example of how faculty with strong grounding in the humanities enrich the teaching and research on business languages.
  • The lunchtime keynote talk was given by two representatives from the Defense Language Institute/Foreign Language Center, Presidio of Monterrey, CA.  No comment.
  • Greg Moreland and two University of Florida students. It is always eye-opening to listen to students talk about their learning experiences in our classes and in study-abroad. I was especially struck by how different the experiences are for heritage speakers and non-heritage speakers. It would be interesting to have a panel of students who have taken a business language class abroad, studied business in the host institution or had an internship abroad.
  • Michael Doyle and Mary K. Long. Mike and Mary both presented on translation studies within a business language curriculum. Mike's presentation focused on the American Translators Association's certification exam and argued that when we grade our business language students' translation work, we should at least make them aware of the ATA's grading criteria so that they understand the professional practices and ethics of translation. Mike also said something that merits, I think, an entire session: "biliteracy is necessary for translating, not just being bilingual and bicultural." Both Michael and Mary have translation courses within their business language programs, so it was wonderful to get their in-depth insights. Mary's talk, "'Real World' Documents as Linguistic and Cultural Artifact in the Spanish for Business Translation Class," was especially interesting for me because of the translations students do for community entities. She trains her students not just in "how to translate," but, perhaps most importantly, because they will not come out of her course ready to be professional translators, she teaches them when to say no, that they cannot translate something. In fact, she goes so far as to teach students how to say, "I cannot translate this, but I can help you find someone who can," because after her class they also know how to identify qualified translators. Mary also provided this valuable nugget: a report on "What Business Wants: Language Needs in the 21st Century."
  • After a busy day, we spent the evening at a wonderful outdoor reception--although it was quite chilly--and a dinner at the Riviera Theater, a beautiful, art-deco movie theater.
What a successful conference. I'm looking forward to next year's conference at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

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