plenary lectures

Prof. dr hab. Anna Michońska-Stadnik

Institute of English Studies, University of Wrocław

Students gifted with languages – challenges and hope for language teachers

Nowadays numerous students are recognised as particularly gifted with languages. They are fluent in several foreign languages and use rich, often specialised, vocabulary. They stand out from the group, which hinders the process of planning language classes and results in problematic social relations.

My presentation will focus on three basic areas:

1/ Definitions and characteristic behaviours of gifted students, also in relation to Language Aptitude Tests;

2/ Language learning strategies frequently used by gifted students, including multilingual students;

3/ Suggested ways of managing particularly gifted students in classroom conditions.


Prof. dr hab. Teresa Siek-Piskozub

Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań

The Evolution of the Approach to Teaching Language for Specific Purposes

The interest in language for specific purposes dates back to the 1960s, when the difference between teaching general and specialised (i.e. professional) foreign languages was recognised. Over the past years this sub-field of applied linguistics has undergone a number of phases of development. On the one hand, this has seen the discovery of the insufficiencies of one approach and the development of new research domains in linguistics, and on the other it has involved reference to new psychological theories of learning – but all approaches encouraged a quest for new glottodidactic solutions.

The first three phases were effects of the development of linguistics as a field of research. At first, a language register typical of a given professional or specialised area was analysed; this led to the creation of syllabuses that contained only the structures and vocabulary that were used in texts typical for this particular field. The next phase concentrated on analysing rhetoric specific for a given field and emphasising the use of  language. This became possible due to the development of a new area of research – so called discourse analysis, performed by linguists interested in different contexts of language use, and which finally resulted in a change of the linguistic paradigm (from formal into functional). The third phase was characterised by an in-depth examination of the target situation in which the language was to be used. This approach was influenced by the analysis of language users’ needs in various situations and professional contexts, and was initiated by Richtericht (1983).

The fourth stage put a greater stress on skills that a student should have. Glottodidactics, under the influence of cognitive psychology, paid more attention to cognitive processes that occur in the course of learning and communication. There was an emphasis placed on the comprehension of authentic texts of academic or professional character, as well as on the ability to interpret processes taking place while language is used. The fifth stage is linked to the general didactic tendency to give autonomy to learners. The student, along with his cognitive, emotional and social needs, appeared at the centre of interest to glottodidactics in various language development phases, and in various contexts. This approach emphasises that it is not only content that a learner absorbs that is important for him.. The actions he performs in order to acquire the content are also significant. This approach integrates earlier concepts, especially the awareness of a target situation in which the student will communicate, as much as his target communication needs, but it also supplements teaching programmes with needs (both cognitive and emotional) connected to the process of learning.

Glottodidactics, including teaching language for specific purposes, is now entering a new stage. This is due to the new trend in didactics and glottodidactics, i.e., the holistic approach to the development of an individual and the promotion of integrating professional content with language teaching. It refers to both academic and lower levels of education. Another influence comes from the growing recognition of intercultural communicative competence (ICC) (Byram 1997) as a goal of language learning, including that of foreign languages. ICC differs qualitatively from the communicative competences of a native speaker, which used to be the model of earlier didactic approaches. The multicultural context in which a language may be used is taken into account (Stojaković 2015).

In my presentation I will talk about earlier approaches and I will point to their deficiencies. I will refer to the newest concepts and I will indicate challenges that foreign language teachers are facing.

Sources:

Byram, M. 1997. Teaching and assessing intercultural communicative competence. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment. 2001. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.

Richterich, R. (ed.) 1983. Case studies in identifying language needs. Oxford: Pergamon.

Stojaković, N. (ed.). 2015. Visitas of English for Specific Purposes. New Castle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.


Prof. dr hab. Mirosław Pawlak

Adam Mickiewicz University in Kalisz

State University of Applied Sciences in Konin

Teaching a foreign language at a higher education institution – challenges and proposed solutions

Teaching a foreign language at a higher education institution is associated with numerous problems. Some of them are system-related, others reflect essential changes in the entrance level and profile of contemporary students. Faculty schedules and curricula often reflect a neglect of foreign language teaching and a lack of connection between education levels. The language level of students is not satisfactory and the teaching methods do not meet students’ expectations. The purpose of this presentation is to introduce these challenges and to propose solutions in relation to education policy, the approach to teaching foreign languages in higher education institutions, and specific didactic methods applied during class.


Prof. UW dr hab. Przemysław Gębal

The University of Warsaw

From the didactics of specialised texts to using professional and social needs in the teaching process. Directions in specialised language teaching development

Teaching foreign languages for specific purposes is constantly undergoing transformation, and it follows the new activity-oriented didactic trends. More and more often, programmes of language classes are designed to be in line with the need to perform specific professional tasks, which makes it necessary for teachers to widely integrate their knowledge and didactic expertise with the use of language in social contexts.

The aim of this paper is to present the current directions in teaching foreign languages for specific purposes at the academic level. The evolution of specialised language teaching will be shown in the light of changing standards and objectives of foreign language instruction at the academic level in Poland.


Dr Małgorzata Jedynak

The University of Wrocław

Brain-friendly language teaching – a few words on neurodidactics

Neuroscientific achievements are currently used in many fields of science, including educational psychology, pedagogics and glottodidactics. Neurodidactics bridges the gap between neurosciences and didactics, and attempts to answer the question of how to practically use the potential and individuality of our brains so that the learning process becomes most effective. Neurodidactics is a comparatively new field of study. Even though it has already been over thirty years since the German mathematics teacher, Gerhard Preiß, used the term “neurodidactics” for the first time, it is only over the last few years that this branch of science has gained immense popularity; this is undoubtedly connected to the fast-paced development in brain research technology (tomographs and scanners).

Thanks to neurobiology and neuropsychology, we have found out that our brains learn via association – both on the semantic and sensory levels. Our internal motivation and the satisfaction that stems from own achievements are not born by themselves; in fact they depend on neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and endogenous opioids, released by certain brain areas. We have also learned that the use of new technologies contributes to the deactivation of certain brain areas that specialise in processing information. This neurobiological knowledge underlying the process of language learning enables language teachers to plan their classes in a way that allows them to use their students’ full potential.

In my speech I would like to answer the following questions:

  1. Do foreign language classes at the academic level in their present form support the natural learning process?
  2. Do foreign language classes allow the individual development of every student?
  3. Is there a need to create a new formula for language classes?

The aforementioned questions seem justified when we consider the fact that the current model of language teaching in higher education institutions came into being in times when neuroscientific research on learning processes was not well developed.