Attitudes of Computer Engineering Department Students towards ESP Courses Integrated to Foreign Language Courses: Tunceli University Case

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Attitudes of Computer Engineering Department Students towards

ESP Courses Integrated to Foreign Language Courses: Tunceli

University Case

Erkan YÜCE*, Aslı Özlem TARAKÇIOĞLU**

Abstract

This study aims to find out the attitudes of engineering faculty students towards ESP integrated to foreign language courses in terms of language skills, vocabulary learning and motivation. To achieve this aim, ESP was integrated to the foreign language courses in the SpringTerm of 2012−2013 Academic Year. The courses were given to the first year students of Computer Engineering Department at Tunceli University. The department was randomly selected at the engineering faculty and application process lasted for ten weeks. Students were required to answer a questionnaire and the results were reported at the end of the application. The study showed that students of computer engineering department have positive attitudes towards ESP integrated to foreign language courses at the engineering faculty.

Key words: ESP, foreign language courses, engineering faculty

Bilgisayar Mühendisliği Bölümü Öğrencilerinin Özel Amaçlı İngilizce Dersleriyle Bütünleştirilmiş Yabancı Dil Derslerine Karşı Tutumları: Tunceli Üniversitesi Örneği

Özet

Bu çalışma mühendislik fakültesi öğrencilerinin özel amaçlı İngilizce dersleriyle bütünleştirilmiş yabancı dil derslerine karşı dil becerileri, kelime öğrenimi ve isteklendirme bakımından tutumlarını belirlemeyi amaçlamaktadır. Bu çerçevede, 2012−2013 Akademik Yılı Bahar Dönemi’nde, özel amaçlı dil dersleri yabancı dil derslerine eklenmiştir. Dersler Tunceli Üniversitesi, Bilgisayar Mühendisliği Bölümü birinci sınıf öğrencileriyle işlenmiştir. Bölüm fakültedeki diğer bölümler arasından rastgele seçilmiş ve uygulama on hafta sürmüştür. Uygulama sonunda öğrencilerden hazırlanan ankete cevap vermeleri istenmiş ve elde edilen veriler rapor edilmiştir.

* Graduate student, Gazi University, Education Faculty, Division of English Language Teaching, e-mail: erkanyuce03@gmail.com

** Assist. Prof. Gazi University, Education Faculty, Division of English Language Teaching e-mail: aslioz@gazi.edu.tr

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Çalışma, bilgisayar mühendisliği bölümü öğrencilerinin mühendislik fakültesinde özel amaçlı İngilizce dersleriyle bütünleştirilmiş yabancı dil derslerine karşı tutumlarının olumlu olduğunu göstermiştir.

Anahtar Kelimeler: Özel amaçlı İngilizce, yabancı dil dersleri, mühendislik fakültesi

1. Introduction

The increasing number of demand in the qualified graduates who are equipped with international communication skills and technical knowledge caused many academicians, students and businessmen to review their careers. The developments necessitate foreign language learners’ expertise on subject−matters with specific features of foreign language. As the technology is evolving rapidly and new developments blooming around us every other day, the situation becomes more critical for the engineers. An engineer needs to have a good command of foreign language in order to be successful in the workplace and to follow the developments in time. As a consequence, the situation highlights the critical value of foreign language courses at the engineering faculties for the students who want to become prosperous engineers in the career. Integrating English for Specific Purposes (ESP) to the foreign language courses not only makes the courses meaningful for students at the engineering faculties but it also equips them with the terminology in the foreign language to understand and use in the workplace.

Within this coverage, this study was carried out at the Computer Engineering Department of Engineering Faculty in Tunceli University in the Spring Term of 2012−2013 Academic Year to have the maximum benefit from the courses for all the mentioned reasons above. Specifically, this study aims to determine whether the integration of ESP to foreign language courses in the department of computer engineering affects students’ attitudes towards foreign language courses. The sub research questions can be sequenced as:

1. Is there any positive effect of ESP integrated to foreign language courses on language skills of computer engineering students?

2. Is there any positive effect of ESP integrated to foreign language courses on computer engineering students’ vocabulary learning?

3. Is there any positive effect of ESP integrated to foreign language courses on computer engineering students’ motivation?

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4. Is there any positive effect of ESP integrated to foreign language courses on computer engineering students’ content knowledge?

5. Is there any positive effect of ESP integrated to foreign language courses on computer engineering students’ career, and international studies?

The department was randomly selected among the other departments at the faculty and there were 55 students enrolled to the department. After ten weeks of ESP integration to the foreign language courses, a questionnaire which was prepared in Turkish with 15 questions and with the options of agree, undecided and disagree was given. The results of the questionnaire were calculated in percentage and results were reported at the end.

Thus, this article is organized as follows. After the introduction part, the second section reviews the related literature about the definitions, history, importance and studies from various contexts for different purposes. The third section describes the participants, methodology, validity and reliability used in the research. The fourth section presents the results obtained from the study. The final section discusses the results and their implications in the foreign language teaching and learning environment.

2. Review of Literature

English for Specific Purposes (ESP) refers to a particular field of English Language Teaching (ELT). Johns and Dudly−Evans clearly defines ESP as “the careful research and design of pedagogical materials and activities for an identifiable group of adult learners within a specific learning context” (1991:208).Hutchinson and Waters (2002) define it as a branch of the English language teaching (ELT) tree whose roots are nourished by communication and learning. Wright (1992) extends the definition of English for Specific Purposes by stating that “ESP is, basically, language learning which has its focus on all aspects of language pertaining to a particular field of human activity, while taking into account the time constraints imposed by learners”.

It is doubtless that English Language is used as a lingua franca in the context of international business and science and it is confirmed by various studies that English language is a part of multinational settings and business life (Nickerson,2005). The professions which share common features, such as specific

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requirements, technical vocabulary, text, communication or interaction knowledge and distinguishable working environment caused the need for ESP (Harding, 2007: 6). The developments necessitate foreign language learners’ expertise on subject−matters with specific features of foreign language. As a result of the curriculum of the universities, general English courses are focused on rather than ESP courses by the EFL lecturers. After graduating from the university, students are mostly disappointed with their background knowledge in the workplace by facing their insufficient ESP. The situation clearly requires a different perspective to the traditional language courses at the beginning of the university education. The integration of ESP to the foreign language courses seems an innovative way to bridge the gap that the general language course books cannot fill and satisfy the expectations of the students.

The history of the studies in the field of ESP can be traced back to the end of 1940s.Hutchinson and Waters (1987) mention the two periods which are historically important in the development of ESP. Second World War is the first period which caused “an age of enormous and unprecedented expansion in scientific, technical and economic activity on an international scale (Hutchinson & Waters, 1987,p:6). The Oil Crisis occurred in the early of 1970s is the second period which caused the flow of money and knowledge of Western countries into countries rich in oil. In order to distribute the goods, it was necessary to have a foreign language knowledge which was evidently English. English gained an importance to express the hopes, desires and requirements of people (Hutchinson & Waters, 1987,p:7).

Many studies have been reported in different contexts for various purposes related to ESP over the years. For example, Szandroi (2010) reported a study from Hungary context which investigates the teacher talk in the ESP classroom. The study indicated that the amount of teacher and student talk in the ESP classroom is not different from the data obtained in L2 EFL settings. Hüther, Smit, Larcher (2009) reported a study from Austria context which indicates the professional needs of future ESP teachers and at the end of the research mediated corpus−based genre analysis was presented and discussed at the end of the study. Kareva (2012) reported a study from Macedonia context which was originated from the recommendations about communicative orientation of ESP courses. A new model of syllabus was developed in order to satisfy the needs of students which was proved to be effective according to the final achievement test.

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Tunceli University is a state university which was founded 2008 and located in Tunceli, a small city in the eastern part of Turkey. The university accepted students to Computer Engineering Department for the first time in the Fall Term of 2012−2013 Academic Years. The students were dissatisfied with the general foreign language courses because most of the materials they use in the subject area courses include the terms and definitions in English. They had difficulties in understanding the terminology of computer engineering department. For this reason it was necessary to integrate ESP into the foreign language courses at the department. Extra work load was an important limitation for the lecturer who was accustomed to traditional language courses because the lecturer was unfamiliar to the terminology of computer engineering department. Furthermore, choosing and designing courses according to the students’ levels took extra time for the lecturer. It was clear towards to the end of spring the term that most of the students can understand and use the subject area terminology for various purposes from reading to speaking in the target language in a simple way. This application clearly showed that integrating ESP to foreign language courses would be very practical for the other departments at the engineering faculty. It is hoped that the results of this study will contribute to the existing studies and shed light to the new studies in the area.

3. Participants, Methodology, Validity And Reliability

The participants of this study were the first year students of Computer Engineering Department at Engineering Faculty of Tunceli University. There were two groups and 55 students in total. The students studied at the department aged between 18 and 20.Students were accepted to the department according to their university entrance exam results. The students were required to answer math and science questions at the exam, as a rule for acceptance to these kinds of departments. Furthermore, it is supposed that their learning and proficiency levels of English are similar as their foreign language courses in curriculum of the high school prior to the university were designed according to the A1−A2 levels of Common European Framework of References for Languages which means that they were basic user of English.

The foreign language courses are compulsory courses of the curriculum covered at the engineering faculty and they are all in English. The courses are

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conducted by the language lecturers whose native languages are not English. In order to motivate the students towards learning a foreign language, English, ESP courses were integrated to the foreign language courses of these two groups at the computer engineering department in the spring term of 2012−2013 academic years. The application lasted ten weeks and the researcher gave importance to the teaching of four language skills separately. There were three hours of foreign language courses every week and a course hour was forty−five minutes. Different topics including programming languages, hard driver, World Wide Web, software, file transfer protocol, PowerPoint, internet, processing systems, central processing unit, Bluetooth were covered each week. Students were required to make a search on the topic every week and reading passages, videos, role−playing activities, true− false questions, matching activities, puzzles and writing activities were used in the courses. At the end of the application, a questionnaire which had three options as agree, undecided, disagree was applied to the students. There was not a questionnaire in the literature which was appropriate for this kind of a research so the researcher prepared a new questionnaire in Turkish. The questionnaire had 8 questions related language skills and 7 questions related to vocabulary and motivation, 15 questions in total. After the application of the questionnaire the results were reported.

The researcher consulted three experts in the area during the designing process of the research for validity and reliability of the research. All the research methods were discussed and it was decided that a questionnaire would be appropriate for this kind of research. After deciding upon the questionnaire, the experts decided that 15 questions would be enough for the research. The experts carefully prepared questions related to the language skills, vocabulary and motivation. After preparing the questions, the researcher consulted to three more experts to get their opinions in order to finalize the questionnaire. In conclusion, a questionnaire which includes 15 questions with 3 response options was carefully prepared by the researcher and experts.

3. Results

55 students, in total, participated to the questionnaire from the computer engineering department. After the ten weeks of ESP application in the foreign

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language courses at the computer engineering department, the results were reported as follows:

Graphic 1

According to the Graphic 1;

Question 1: While 63.6 % of the students agree that they can understand what they

read in the foreign language; 32.7 % of the students are undecided and 3.6% of the students disagree.

Question 2: While 67.2% of the students agree that they can understand what they

read about their areas in the foreign language; 25.4%of the students are undecided and 7.2%of the students disagree.

Question 3: While 49% of the students agree that they can talk about the daily events

in the foreign language; 29,9% of the students are undecided and 21.8 % of the students disagree.

Question 4: While 38.1 %of the students agree that they can talk about their areas in

the foreign language; 41.8% of the students are undecided and 20 % of the students disagree.

Question 5: While 41.8 % of the students agree that they can write about the daily

events in the foreign language; 20 % of the students are undecided and 38.1 % of the students disagree.

Question 6: While 32.7 % of the students agree that they can write about their areas

in the foreign language; 50.9 % of the students are undecided and 16.3 % of the students disagree.

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100

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Question 7: While 61.8 % of the students agree that they can understand what they

listen about daily events in the foreign language; 29 % of the students are undecided and 9 % of the students disagree.

Question 8: While 50.9 % of the students agree that they can understand what they

listen about their areas in the foreign language; 31.1 % of the students are undecided and 10.9 % of the students disagree.

Question 9: While 87.2% of the students agree that they learn new words related to

their areas in the foreign language; 10.9 % of the students are undecided and 1.8 % of the students disagree.

Question 10: While 60 % of the students agree that they can use the new words

related to the area in the other courses; 29% of the students are undecided and 10.9 % of the students disagree.

Question 11: While 54.5% of the students agree that they can use reading, writing,

listening and speaking skills which they acquired from the foreign language courses in the area courses; 29 % of the students are undecided and 16.3% of the students disagree.

Question 12: While 81.8% of the students agree that they are professionally

motivated with what they have learned; 14.5 % of the students are undecided and 3.6 % of the students disagree.

Question 13: While 85.4 %of the students agree that what they have learned in the

courses will positively affect their career; 9 % of the students are undecided and 5.4% of the students disagree.

Question 14: While 78.1 % of the students agree that the activities related to the area

contributed to the area knowledge; 18.1% of the students are undecided and3.6% of the students disagree.

Question 15: While 74.5 % of the students agree that the activities performed in the

courses related to the area will contribute to the international engineering studies; 16.3% of the students are undecided and 9% of the students disagree.

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4. Conclusion and Pedagogical Implications Conclusion

The results of the study showed that most of the students have positive attitudes towards ESP in terms of learning vocabulary, motivation, career, content knowledge and international studies. Firstly, most of the students think that they can learn new vocabulary items related to their areas from the ESP integrated to foreign language courses. Secondly, most of the students think that ESP integrated to foreign language courses will affect their career in the future. Thirdly, most of the students think that ESP integrated to foreign language courses motivated them. Fourthly, most of the students think that the activities in the ESP contribute to their success in the content area. Lastly, most of the students think that the ESP integrated to foreign language courses will be beneficial for the international studies.

However, the questionnaire showed that while the students have positive attitudes towards ESP integrated to foreign language courses in terms of receptive language skills (reading and listening), they have negative attitudes towards ESP integrated to foreign language courses when it comes to the productive language skills (speaking and writing). Most of the students do not think that they can write something about related to their areas after the ESP integrated to foreign language courses. Furthermore, they think that they cannot talk about their areas.

In conclusion, it is doubtless that integrating ESP to foreign language courses have both merits and drawbacks on students’ attitudes at computer engineering department and further studies on a larger scale which will be implemented in other departments of engineering faculty are needed to see the effects of ESP integrated foreign language courses at the engineering faculty.

Pedagogical Implications

There are three important pedagogical implications that the researcher experienced during the application process of this study. Firstly, in order not to discourage students, the researcher should use simple and clear texts which are interesting to the students in the ESP integrated to foreign language courses. If the lecturers simplified courses according to the students’ levels, the courses will

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become more meaningful for them and they will have enthusiasms to actively participate in the courses.

Secondly, lecturers may need extra preparation time as ESP has a different context from the traditional foreign language classroom. Many new words related to specific area in the context necessitate extra dictionary and paperwork and this may be discouraging for the lecturers who have an intensive curriculum. For this study, the researcher carefully analyzed the context and consulted to the specialists about main and common points in the area to overcome this obstacle.

Thirdly, timing is an important factor for such a study. The application process continued ten weeks, nearly one academic term. There were 3 hours of courses and each course was 45 minutes every week but it was not sufficient for the students whose levels were not good as others. For this reason, the researcher prepared extra courses to follow the curriculum on time.

Lastly, ESP integrated foreign language courses should be applied not only to the Computer Engineering Department but also to the other departments at the Engineering Faculty as well. A larger scale study may give better results as each department has its own limitations and requirements.

References

Johns, A.,& Dudly−Evans, T. (1991). English for Specific Purposes: International in scope, specific in purpose. TESOL Quarterly, 25, 297−314.

Harding, K. (2007). English for Specific Purposes. Oxford University Press.

Hutchinson, T., &Waters, A. (1987). English for specific purposes: A learning centre

dapproach. Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress.

Hutchinson T.,Waters A. (2002). English for Specific Purposes. Cambridge University Press, pp. 16−19.

Hütner, C.,Smit, U.,Larcher, B.M. (2009). ESP teacher education at the interface of theory and practice:Introducing a model of mediated corpus−based genre analysis. System 37, 99−109.

Ibrahim, A.I.(2010). ESP at the Tertiary Level: Current Situation, Application and Expectation. English Language Teaching, Vol.3 (1),200−2004.

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Kareva, V. (2013). English for specific purposes: Public administration and political sciences. Procedia – Socialand Behavioral Sciences 70 ( 2013 ) 1477 – 1481. Nickerson, C. (2005). English as a lingua franca in international business contexts.

English for Specific Purposes 24, 4,367−80.

Szendroi, I. (2010). Teacher talk in the ESP classroom the results of a pilot observation study conducted in the tourism context. WoPaLP, Vol. 4, 30−58. Wright, C. (1992)available: http://www.camlang.com/art001.cfm#1. in Ibrahim,

A.I.(2010). ESP at the Tertiary Level: Current Situation, Application and Expectation. English Language Teaching, Vol. 3 (1),200−2004.

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