Sunday, April 7, 2013

13 Things I Learned at the 2013 CIBER Business Languages Conference

At the Indiana University´s Union there are paintings of their female trustees through the years. Darcy Lear and I took several ¨selfies¨ with them.
by Ann Abbott

I just returned from the 2013 CIBER Business Languages Conference at Indiana University. Here are some things I learned.

1. T. Bruce Fryer's (U of South Carolina-Beaufort) presentation of a "minicaso" on "La logística de la piratería" changed the way I think about contemporary piracy because I had never considered its effects on Latin American businesses. He focused on Chile, which has "a high level of piracy... because of the extended coastline." The economic losses are huge, and in Chile alone, "62% of software running is illegal."

2. "Tiburón, de villano a víctima," presented by Dr. Michael Scott Doyle (U of North Carolina at Charlotte), made me think about shark finning (el aleteo) as something very important for our planet. I never imagined how bad the problem actually is: around 100,000,000 sharks are killed each year. They cut off their fins then throw them back into the water alive, where they drown because they can no longer swim. The "minicaso" Mike presented centers on "human predators in Colombia...who have been severely reducing the shark population off the Colombian coast in order to extract the fins for trade with China and Japan." The price for shark fins is so high, that of course people practice this illegal trade. (Students should also examine their own cultural practices of consumption that lead to the extinctions of species or permanent damage to the environment.)

3. The sixth edition of "Exito Comercial" will come out in February 2014. The authors, Bruce Fryer and Mike Doyle, have added a new feature to the "minicasos" in each chapter. After the reading, students move through different stages of questions: preguntas de comprensión, preguntas éticas, preguntas culturo-éticas y de liderazgo and finally actividades de liderazgo.

4. The University of Florida has a very interesting FLAC (foreign languages across the curriculum) program. Prof. Greg Moreland gave one very interesting example: a one-hour course entitled "World Cup 2014: Business, Culture and Sport." One of Greg's most interesting takes on the issue is the music of the World Cup; in the session we analyzed three music videos and talked about the branding of soccer as something that "brings everyone together" (despite the racism and violence within the soccer world), gender issues, corporate sponsorships, etc. Greg also teaches a full three-credit course on sports in the Spanish-speaking world. This is a topic that can be explored through so many critical lenses and yet at the same time really attract more students to our languages.

5. From Dr. Tony Houston (Bryant University) I learned how much more I need to learn! He brought a fresh perspective to the conference because of his strong grounding in second language acquisition theories. In particular, I want to follow up with him about the differences between teaching "skills" versus "competencies," the application of "mindful learning" to business language instruction, and his model of student assessment. (I also learned what a smooth singing voice he has, but that's another story...)

6. Why do we ask students to format their academic writing with one-inch margins, double spaced and in 12 point Times New Roman font? As Dr. Félix S. Vásquez (College of Charleston) pointed out, business writing is formatted differently, communicating through strategic white spaces, varying font sizes and the connections between text and images. He suggested a number of ways in which we need to delve deeper into the particularities of business writing with our students.

7. A few years make a big difference. I first presented on social media marketing at the 2010 CIBER Business Languages Conference at the University of Pennsylvannia. The audience was small and the interest-level was pretty low. This year I presented on social media marketing using examples from Interest was much higher and the audience's own awareness and use of social media was higher. I see this as an important direction for business languages.

8. Integrating languages for specific purposes across the curriculum is an alternative to building separate certificates, minors and majors. Dr. Darcy Lear showed the "Profiles for Success" that her service-learning and internship students did for Acción Emprendedora in North Carolina. However, her experiences with a minor have led her to believe that we cannot accomplish everything in just a few courses.

9. It is important to make bold statements in your presentation. "I want to challenge the notion of expertise," Dr. Diana Ruggiero (U of Memphis) stated at the beginning of her talk. She did that in the following contexts: the expertise of LSP professionals within departments of more prestigious areas of expertise; using the expertise of the heritage language learners in your classrooms; benefiting from the expertise of community members and partners.

10. The world isn't completely flat yet. Dr. Lily Martínez (Frostburg State University) challenged the audience as she detailed the Appalachian environment in which she teaches. Her attempts to engage both her students and the community have to take a very different path than those of us who work in areas unaffected (directly) by rural poverty.

11. Although 2012 was a very good year for LSP publications and conferences, our challenges are real. Of the six obstacles Dr. Juanita Villena-Alvarez (U of South Carolina Beaufort) outlined, I think these stand out: 1) LSP faculty's lack of interest in the MLA 9 (not viceversa), 2) lack of response to MLA's calls to incorporate student needs in our curricula (we still do not have a comprehensive study of what those student needs are), and 30 the demise of current training in LSP (since it's not incorporated into graduate student training, how will new people be trained in the field if CIBER's support wanes).

12. As a group, we are highly committed to adding this important dimension to the curricula of language departments and to the intellectual work of our departments' research. At our conference, you will find a friendly, supportive environment that welcomes new people and new ideas yet carries a sense of camaraderie from year to year. Next year's conference will be at Canyons Resort, Park City, Utah from April 24-26.

13. Indiana University has a beautiful campus. Although the conference this year was smaller than usual, the IU CIBER did a lovely job bringing us all together to learn from each other and to encourage us to continue bringing business language studies (Mike Doyle's term) to our students. Gracias.

1 comment:

  1. I went back to my source for a better example of skill vs. acquisition. VanPatten (2002) uses "wanna" as an example of a form that occurs only in rapid speech. Only a fluent (skilled) learner will use it, but that doesn't mean it isn't in the system. Also, you need to acquire syntactic restrictions on its use ("want" and "to" have to be in the same phrase) *Who do you wanna go to the store. Another example is(kook/cook). A non-native might recognize the difference acoustically but not be able to produce it. It's clearly acquired, but skills distort the picture.