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Topic of the Week: Implications of LSP Curricular Design for Mainstream World Language Classes

Barbara A. Lafford is a Professor of Spanish in the School of International Letters and Cultures at Arizona State University. Since arriving at ASU she has published in the areas of Spanish sociolinguistics, second language acquisition, Spanish applied linguistics, computer assisted language learning, and languages for specific purposes/experiential learning.

In recent years, interest in Languages for Specific Purposes (LSP) courses has been on the rise in American educational institutions (Lafford, 2012; Long & Iucinski, 2012). The curricular design of such courses focuses on “the language, lexis, grammar, discourses and genres of those disciplines rather than using the general grammar, learners’ dictionaries and general public genres and discourses” (Räisänan & Fortanet-Gómez, 2008, p. 12).  Three constructs - rhetorical situation, genres, and pragmatics – address the fundamental goals of LSP courses (i.e. to understand and produce appropriate written and oral texts in various cultural contexts [both the target and workplace cultures). Success in each requires their incorporation into curricular design. Explicit instruction in each of the three should be incorporated into world language teaching for academic purposes to expand the repertoire of learners and ensure the learning of relevant professional language.

  1. A Rhetorical Situation entails (1) a text (i.e., an actual instance or piece of communication), (2) an author (i.e., someone who uses communication), (3) an audience (i.e., a recipient of communication), (4) purposes (i.e., the varied reasons both authors and audiences communicate), and (5) a setting (i.e., the time, place, and environment surrounding a moment of communication) (Sproat, Driscoll, & Brizee, 2012). Introducing these concepts to all language students is crucial to their understanding of basic elements of human communication and to their successful interpretation and creation of target language texts.
  2. Genres are types of written or oral texts that form part of any rhetorical situation (Swales, 1990).  In a business setting, typical genres might include a cover letter, curriculum vitae, memo, or white paper. Each genre is characterized by a combination of certain lexical and structural elements that create a register or style appropriate for a given audience. However, the notion of genre also includes various types of oral discourses in both academic and professional settings (e.g., book reports, conference papers, telephone call protocol, sales presentations, marriage ceremonies, inaugural speeches, newscasts). Each of these genres has an inherent structure that defines them that needs to be made clear to all language learners to enhance their effectiveness in target language oral exchanges.
  3. Pragmatics explores the appropriate performance of various speech acts (Searle, 1969) (e.g., making requests, accepting/rejecting an invitation, apologies) according to intended audience and contextual factors. For instance, a speaker makes a request (e.g., asking for directions) using different grammatical and lexical structures appropriate for interacting with interlocutors of different ages and sexes who are in different power relations with the speaker.  In order for language learners need to be able to use language appropriately and effectively in different rhetorical situations they need to be exposed to the concept of pragmatics and engage in class activities to hone their pragmatic competence.  

Although many foreign language textbooks include examples of various types of written and oral texts, (e.g., menus, editorials, television commercials) most do not talk about these texts as belonging to a certain type of genre with certain features (e.g., appearance of the text, a certain type of infrastructure, key elements or speech acts that genre must contain, and specific lexical items and grammatical structures) that combine to create a formal or informal register depending on the intended audience. Also missing from many language textbooks are the constructs of rhetorical situation and pragmatics. It is imperative that all three constructs be integrated into the curricular design of world language courses so that students will understand and recreate various types of oral and written texts in a more authentic manner.

The accompanying Activity of the Week is an example of each for an advanced Spanish grammar class. It illustrates how students apply their understanding of rhetorical situation and genre in the analysis of authentic texts.


Lafford, B. (2012). Languages for specific purposes in the United States in a global context: Commentary on Grosse and Voght (1991) revisited. Introduction to the third Focus Issue, The evolution of languages for specific purposes: Update on Über Grosse and Voght (1991) in a global context. Modern Language Journal, 96(s1), 1-27.

Long, M., & Uscinski, I. (2012). Evolution of languages for specific purposes programs in the United States: 1990-2011. Modern Language Journal, 96(s1), 190-202.

Räisänen, C., & Fortanet-Gómez, I. (2008). The state of ESP teaching and learning in Western European higher education after Bologna. In I. Fortanet-Gómez & C. A. Räisänen (Eds.), ESP in European higher education (pp. 11–51). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Searle, J.  (1969) Speech acts: An essay in the philosophy of language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sproat, E., Driscoll, D. L., & Brizee, A. (2012). Elements of rhetorical situations. Online writing lab. Owl at Purdue University.  Retrieved April 12, 2015 from

Swales. J. (1990). Genre analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Activity of the Week

  • Textual Analysis of an Obituary in Spanish

    This week's Activity of the Week, by Barbara Lafford, is intended for an advanced Spanish grammar class. The activity illustrates how students apply their understanding of rhetorical situation and genre in the analysis of authentic texts. In this example students use a textual analysis template to examine an obituary from this online site. For more about the importance of rhetorical situation, genre, and pragmatics in language classes, see this week's Topic of the Week article by Dr. Lafford.

    Download the textual analysis template here.

    Download the completed example here.

CASLS Spotlight: Games 2 Teach Website Has Launched

At CASLS, one of the cornerstones of our philosophy is to provide busy language instructors with the materials and research to support their own classes. One of these resources is the newly-redesigned website Games 2 Teach, an online hub for curricular resources and professional development specifically involving games, pragmatics, and language learning. This site will build off of an existing website by providing new materials and up-to-date resources for instructors to use. Games 2 Teach will continue to provide:

    With more and more games becoming simpler in design and free-to-play, the practicality of using games in the classroom is becoming more feasible and relevant to students. We are hoping that instructors are becoming more interested in this growing, dynamic field of study and we would love to hear your input on your experience with Games 2 Teach and the changes we have made. Write to us at, follow us on, or like us on Facebook

Language Corner

Unit on Leisure Activities for French Students at Novice Mid Level

Source: Madame's Musings Back to Quick Links


National Board Certified French teacher Madame Shepard is using the NCSSFL/ACTFL Can-Do Statements to assess her students, who are at the Novice Mid level. When she noticed that her students aren't very proficient with the statement "I can ask some simple questions" in the Interpersonal Communication mode, she made a unit about leisure activities that stresses this skill.

Read what she has planned in her blog post:

Dreams and Tales in Siwa and Ouargla

Source: Jabal Al-Lughat Back to Quick Links


This article looks at opening and closing formulae used in tales, and shows the similarities and differences between Siwi language and Arabic.

Find the article at

What Linguistic Diversity Feels Like

Source: Sinosplice Back to Quick Links


This article looks at a few examples of how languages or dialects influence each other. The first-hand experiences could be used in class to create a discussion and ask students to share any relevant personal experiences.

Access the article at

Article: Who in the World Wants To Learn German?

Source: Deutsche Welle Back to Quick Links


Here is a nice recent article about where in the world people are learning German as a second language, and why:

French Basketball Players in the NBA

Source: France-Amérique Back to Quick Links


Do you have any basketball fans in your French classes? Here is a recent article in French about French players in the NBA:

Introducing French Students to Impressionism

Source: The French Corner Back to Quick Links


Here is a blog post describing different online resources and how they can be used to introduce French students to impressionist art:

Algunas parejas de verbos: confusing verbs in Spanish

Source: De Boca en Boca Back to Quick Links


There are some pairs of verbs in Spanish that are confusing for students, usually because they may translate as one in their L1. This post looks at some of these verbs: jugar/tocar/actuar, enseñar/aprender, saber/conocer, etc.

To access the article go to

50 actividades para el Día del Libro

Source: Lapicero Mágico Back to Quick Links


World Book Day or Día del Libro is a yearly event on April 23 organized by UNESCO to promote reading and literacy. It’s a well-known tradition in Spanish-speaking countries and both towns and schools organize events and activities. This article shares some ideas on what to do to promote reading and writing.

You can read through the ideas at

Famosos eran y famosos son: hipótesis (indicativo, subjuntivo)

Source: Mundo ELE Back to Quick Links


Using celebrities in class may be a way to engage students. This blog post describes and exemplifies an activity where students look at old pictures of celebrities and they make hypotheses using different Spanish phrases followed by the indicative or the subjunctive.

Access the resources at

Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange: Resource for Newcomers

Source: CORE Back to Quick Links


The Cultural Orientation Resource (COR) Center was housed at CAL for 15 years, serving as the national technical assistance provider on both overseas and domestic refugee orientation and on the backgrounds and likely resettlement needs of new refugee groups. Beginning in March 2015, the International Rescue Committee became the new national technical assistance provider for the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

Visit the new Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange website for more information about the current CO technical assistance project or to access newly developed resources.

Resources are especially targeted for those who are assisting newcomers to the United States to resettle and find employment as quickly as possible.

Browse the resources available on the website at

School: Conversation Topic

Source: Tim’s Free English Lesson Plans Back to Quick Links


This lesson uses discussion questions to keep students talking about their past experiences at school. There’s some useful language included for students to practice, but the aim of the lesson is also to provide further exposure to the use of comparatives and superlatives by asking students to compare their schools. Another option would be to use the text right below the picture to create a discussion, or utilize the discussion questions provided to target the use of “would” and “used to” for past habits and actions.

Access the topic at

How to Make Shakespeare Easy for English Language Learners

Source: British Council Back to Quick Links


Genevieve White shares some tips and ideas on how to make Shakespeare accessible to English students by integrating videos, animated summaries and introducing drama in the classroom.

To access the article go to

Ideas and Resources for Teaching about Home and Family

Source: Creative Language Class Back to Quick Links


Here are some great ideas and resources for helping your students talk about families and home, aimed at specific “I Can” style unit goals:

Playgrounds Around the World in Photos

Source: Back to Quick Links


This website has photos of children playing at recess in different areas of the world. You could use the pictures in class to prompt descriptions of the different playgrounds and also prompt discussions of cultural, economic, and climatic differences.

Access these photos at

4 Powerful Ways to Implement Blogging in the Classroom

Source: Daily Genius Back to Quick Links


Jennifer Carey shares some good ideas on how to use blogs in the classroom for different purposes and audiences. She also points at some specific 2.0 applications.

Access the article at

My 5 Favorite Simple Ways to Use Video in Class

Source: EFL 2.0 Teacher Talk Back to Quick Links


This post looks at five ways of using video in class. Some activities will appeal to students with different learning styles and the article also includes links to specific examples and other ideas, as well as a screencast on how to easily create a listening cloze.

Access the article at

Professional Development

Call for Papers: East Coast Organization of Language Testers

Source: ECOLT Back to Quick Links


The East Coast Organization of Language Testers (ECOLT) is pleased to announce its fourteenth annual conference.
ECOLT 2015
October 9, 2015
Georgetown University, Washington DC

The organizers invite proposals from colleagues in academia and education, government, and for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. ECOLT encourages students, researchers, and teachers to present papers or posters on projects related to language testing.

Submission Deadline: Friday, June 5, 2015

View the full call for papers at

Professional Development from the Center for Applied Linguistics

Source: CAL Back to Quick Links


Announcing Two New Professional Development Institutes in DC


Newcomers in Your School: Cultural Connections and Instructional Strategies
August 11-12, 2015

This interactive two-day institute provides effective strategies and practical hands-on activities to create a welcoming environment for newcomer students and facilitate their learning. Learn more at


Leading Dual Language Programs for Student Success: A CAL Leadership Institute
October 7-8, 2015

This institute is designed to help educators strengthen their leadership by gaining a solid understanding of the benefits of dual language education and learning how they can develop an effective dual language program that promotes student success on their campus. Learn more at

Workshop on Online LCTL Teaching

Source: CeLCAR Back to Quick Links


Workshop on Online LCTL Teaching
Center for the Languages of the Central Asian Region (CeLCAR), Indiana University
Friday, May 22, 2015 at the IMU Memorial Union at Indiana University

This workshop for teachers of less commonly taught languages (LCTLs) is co-sponsored by the Mellon Innovating International Research, Teaching, and Collaboration (MIIRT) fellowship and the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center (IAUNRC) at Indiana University. It will focus on the unique challenges facing the less commonly taught language community as we strive to move more of our languages to online teaching platforms. The workshop’s four invited speakers are renowned experts in the field and will present on contemporary issues and real-life solutions applicable to transfer your language courses to an online learning environment:

Nelleke Van Deusen-Scholl, Yale University
Rick Kern, University of California, Berkeley
Binbin Zheng, Michigan State University
Sun-Young Shin, Indiana University

CeLCAR’s own Online Team will also present the experience and lessons learned in developing online courses for less commonly taught languages of Central Asia.

If you are currently developing an online language course or have considered developing an online language course in the future, don’t miss this free workshop!

Attendance is limited and will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. To register go to

Call for Papers: Technology for Second Language Learning Conference

Source: Iowa State University Back to Quick Links


Technology for Second Language Learning Conference Data-driven Approaches to Learning Phraseology and Formulaic Language: Computation, Co-selection, Contextualization, Cognition
Iowa State University
Friday September 18 and Saturday September 19, 2015

The annual Technology for Second Language Learning (TSLL) conference brings together researchers, developers and practitioners who are interested in improvements and innovations in the uses of technology in language learning.

This year, the conference will focus on phraseology and formulaic language. Technology-based pedagogy facilitates learners’ access to large collections of relevant texts where they can explore multi-word units. These new possibilities for the study of language and for learning raise many intriguing questions, such as:

    How are phraseological forms acquired in first or second language, both receptively and productively, and how can this knowledge contribute to designing technology-mediated language learning experiences?
    What innovative computational methods can be used to identify phraseological forms for specific purposes?
    How can computer-assisted language learning (CALL) applications (e.g. vocabulary learning software, automated writing evaluation tools, etc.) benefit from phraseological resources and information?
    How can corpus-derived materials, e.g. lists of phraseological forms, be used to improve language learning experiences?

Proposals must be submitted by June 1, 2015.

View the full call for papers at


Book: Language Testing and Assessment

Source: Routledge Back to Quick Links


Title: Language Testing and Assessment
Edited by Antony John Kunnan
Published by Routledge

Most scholars consider the birth of modern language testing as a field of study to be the year 1961 with the publication of Robert Lado’s book Language Testing and John Carroll’s chapter ‘Fundamental Considerations in Language Testing’. In the decades since it has grown in scope into a deeper and wider theoretical and intellectual field of study. The intellectual growth has come with the birth of psychometrics, specifically, in using statistical analyses for test development and research; with ideas from linguistics, in developing language tests that are communicatively oriented; with ideas from ethics, specifically, in developing qualities, codes, and standards so that tests are fair and just. This has been coupled with the growth of the field into a billion-dollar worldwide enterprise partly fuelled by the practical need to assess the English language ability of test-takers who want to study at English-medium universities or work in offices that mainly use English for communication.
This new four-volume collection from Routledge captures this burgeoning field by offering a cogent and comprehensive state-of-the-art coverage of the very best material. The volumes have been conceptualized both as a scholarly contribution in terms of theories and research as well as a practical guide in terms of test development in the field of language testing and assessment.

To purchase the book or see the table of contents go to

Book: Corpus Linguistics for ELT

Source: Routledge Back to Quick Links


Title: Corpus Linguistics for ELT: Research and Practice
By Ivor Timmis
Published by Routledge

Corpus Linguistics for ELT provides a practical guide to undertaking ELT-related corpus research. Aimed at researchers, advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students of ELT and TESOL, and English language teachers, this volume:
•    covers corpus research in the main areas of language study relevant to ELT: grammar, lexis, ESP, spoken grammar and discourse;
•    presents a review of relevant corpus research in these areas, and discusses the implications of this research for ELT;
•    suggests potential ELT-focused corpus research projects, and equips the reader with all the required tools and techniques to carry them out;
•    deals with the growing area of learner corpora and direct classroom application of corpus material.
Corpus Linguistics for ELT empowers and inspires readers to carry out their own ELT corpus research, and will allow them in turn to make a significant contribution to corpus-informed ELT pedagogy.

To purchase the book or see the table of contents go to

Book: Academic Literacy and Student Diversity

Source: Multilingual Matters Back to Quick Links


Title: Academic Literacy and Student Diversity: The Case for Inclusive Practice
By Ursula Wingate
Published by Multilingual Matters

This book provides a comprehensive overview of approaches to academic literacy instruction and their underpinning theories, as well as a synthesis of the debate on academic literacy over the past 20 years. The author argues that the main existing instructional models are inadequate to cater for diverse student populations, and proposes an inclusive practice approach, which encourages institutional initiatives that make academic literacy instruction an integrated and accredited part of the curriculum. The book aims to raise awareness of existing innovative literacy pedagogies and argues for the transformation of academic literacy instruction in all universities with diverse student populations.

To purchase the book or see the table of contents go to

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