Sunday, March 29, 2009

EAP and the DELTA

Let us call it an industry, for that is what it is and as an industry "English for Academic Purposes" appears to be bucking the current economic trend. As competition for available jobs becomes increasingly intense, an "Anglo-Saxon" education becomes increasingly desirable. It is, therefore, to be welcomed that the industry is correspondingly taking itself increasingly serious and that is why, in my mails to various perspective employers, I have stated that the DELTA, is the best qualification that our industry has even if it is not always wholly relevant.
The extent of its irrelevance became apparent today when I was watching a clip of Scott Thornbury explaining genre and using an academic text as an example. In doing so he referred to the preponderance of modalities in an academic text and I thought fine, very interesting Scott, but "my" students know what an academic text is and the last thing I have to do is make them aware of the modalities. Certainly, they need to know those modalities and for the purpose of exercising academic caution they need to know how to use them. However, it is safe to say that they are already a step ahead of simply recognising an academic text because it's peppered with modalities; In the university environment the students are quickly made aware of the need to qualify those sweeping statements that smack not only of stereotypes but also of naivity and of the need to "hedge" when making their statements. Furthermore, while this is one of many specific examples, where a "DELTA approach" is not required it might be added that a course, which pays so much reference to course books, methodologies, teaching discrete items and a systems based approach, all of which have no or very little place in an academic environment, can never be wholly relevant to EAP.
However, for the time being at least, it is the best "qualification" that this industry has, it can make EAP teachers more "language aware" and it can, in some instances, provide a framework which they can use as a point of reference when teaching. For instance, in the past I had no real problem explaining to my students that a definite article might refer to a particular noun in the previous sentence. Now, I can label this and I am more aware of introducing strategies for the students to discover meaning for themselves. Yes, the DELTA does offer the EAP teacher a lot. Nevertheless, it is time either for the industry to move on and find a more relevant qualification or for Cambridge itself to see the need for this development. However, until that happens, yes, the DELTA by all means.

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