Luận án Introduction presents rationale, aims of the study, scope, methodology and organization of the study

Foreign languages have been introduced and taught in Vietnam for many years. Especially, English has become a very popular subject to be taught and paid further surveys and studies at all levels: from elementary to secondary schools and, furthermore, to tertiary education across the country.

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PART A : INTRODUCTION _______________________________________________________________________________ 1. Rationale Foreign languages have been introduced and taught in Vietnam for many years. Especially, English has become a very popular subject to be taught and paid further surveys and studies at all levels: from elementary to secondary schools and, furthermore, to tertiary education across the country. As the spread of English to almost all corners of the world, nowadays, people are getting more and more aware of the importance of the language. For many people in Vietnam, English is seen as a very necessary means to get a good job, especially a well-paid job in foreign invested companies. Thus, there is a growing demand to learn the language for business communication. Therefore, the teaching and learning of English have been placed in an important focus. However, the current situation of English teaching and learning in Haiphong University has both advantages and disadvantages which should be defined more clearly so that we can improve the teaching-learning environment and the proficiency of English competence of the students. As English teachers of ESP, we may find it hard to determine what points to focus on when asked to navigate students for their big steps into the real world after they leave university. We should always bear in mind that some of our students may someday have to work for a 100% foreign invested or International Joint Venture (IJV) firm. This requires not only instructing our students on how to improve their foreign business language skills, but also helping them come to terms with cultural differences and business styles which may often be more of useful resources than impediments. Feedbacks from many graduates of Haiphong University and now working for foreign firms show that they really need real-life English when they start their jobs in foreign invested companies such as how to prepare for a job process, office activities, administration procedures, etc. Besides, the teaching of business correspondence is one part of the English for Business Communication. That is why the English majors will really have to face with some fundamental drawbacks when taking part into this ESP course, namely lack of real-life experience, limited time allocated for the course, inappropriate material course book, inexperienced teachers, etc. With those difficulties, the teaching of English business correspondence is really a challenge. What we have to carry out at the moment is to find out the effective way to the teaching and learning this subject matter, so that when they leave university and start working for a business firm they will feel less difficult dealing with business correspondence. 2. Aims of the study The study is aimed at: 1. Reviewing current approaches to teaching EFL writing with focus on teaching and learning business correspondence writing; 2. Identifying some commonly made mistakes by English majors in Haiphong University while learning to write business correspondence; and 3. Giving suggestions for effectively teaching business correspondence writing in Haiphong University. I strongly hope that with all my great efforts focused on some pending matters in terms of both theory and practice, some of my study will partly contribute to the improvement of ESP learning-teaching in general, and business correspondence writing in particular. 3. Scope of study This research focuses on finding out suitable techniques for teaching students to write business correspondence correctly and efficiently (in which cover letters are of the most concentration). With the current ESP curriculum and materials in use in Haiphong University, the Business English is taught within only 30 forty-five minute periods. That is why the scope of our study is limited to the writing of cover letters in Job Seeking Process. 4. Methodology For the implementation of this study, a number of methods will be used such as contrastive, comparative, analysis, general review from published materials in the related fields. Different sources of materials will be chosen from related textbooks, articles, internets, Video Compact Discs (VCD), Compact Discs (CD). Also, the analysis of students’ writing task is done to recognize most common mistakes made by students when they perform their cover letter writing. This can surely help teachers anticipate problems in the existing course and seek the possible solutions to fix these problems. The analysis will assist to distinguish advantages and disadvantages in teaching techniques for teachers’ part. 5. Organization of the study The study includes three parts: PART A: INTRODUCTION presents Rationale, Aims of the study, Scope, Methodology and Organization of the study PART B: DEVELOPMENT constitutes the body of the study and consists of three chapters: Chapter One: Review of Literature In this chapter, the trends and approaches applied to teaching English writing such as Product, Process and Genre are reviewed and then narrowed down to the approaches for teaching ESP. At the end of this chapter a summary of the limitations and differences of these approaches is presented. Chapter Two: Methodology A brief description of the Business English course currently being taught in Haiphong University is given and all information related to the research questions, survey and data collection procedures is also provided with. Also the analysis of errors made by students is discussed. Chapter Three: Data Analysis and Discussion In this chapter, survey data collected are analyzed based on the questionnaire responses in order to find out some major findings about students’ difficulties in learning Business letter writing. Besides, students’ needs on the course content, methodologies and their recommendations will be discussed. Additionally, their weaknesses and strengths are concluded after the error analysis. Finally, a combined approach to teaching business letter writing is suggested. PART C: CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS presents review of the study, recommendations for improvements and some suggestions for further study. PART B: DEVELOPMENT _________________________________________________________________________ CHAPTER ONE: REVIEW OF LITERATURE 1.1. English for Specific Purposes (ESP) From the early 1960’s, English for Specific Purposes (ESP) has grown to become one of the most prominent areas of EFL teaching today. Its development is reflected in the increasing number of universities offering an MA in ESP and in the number of ESP courses offered for overseas students in English speaking countries. According to Hutchinson & Waters’ point of view, they clearly mention, after a careful analysis of ELT and based on a focus on the commonality of language and learning, that “ESP must be seen as an approach, not as a product. ESP is not a particular kind of language or a methodology, nor does it consist of particular type of teaching material.” (Hutchinson & Water 1987:19). Being recognized as an approach, learning English should be focused on the student needs and therefore learning motivation should be created and paid attention to. As for a broader definition of ESP, Hutchinson and Waters (1987:19) also mention, "ESP is an approach to language teaching in which all decisions as to content and method are based on the learner's reason for learning". With the above mentioned views on ESP, it can be shown that rather than simply focus on the method of language delivery, more attention should be given to the ways in which learners acquire language and the differences in the ways language is acquired. Learners are seen to employ different learning strategies, use different skills, enter with different learning schemata, and be motivated by different needs and interests. Therefore, focus on the learners' needs became as equal as the methods employed to disseminate linguistic knowledge. Also the teaching approaches should be learner-centered orientation. As for Hutchinson and Waters (1987:17) ESP is divided into three divisions: English for Science and Technology (EST), English for Business and Economics (EBE), and English for Social Science (ESS) and then when coming to the upper level, each of these three branches is further divided into sub-divisions according to learners’ needs: for study as English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and for work as English for Occupational Purposes (EOP). Besides, Dudley-Evans and St John (1998) suggested the use of continuum which clarifies the nature of ESP work. The continuum runs from very General English courses to specific ESP courses. In this process, the higher the level is, the more specific the ESP course reaches, ranging from English for beginners to individual needs of professional users. Today, English is one of the major languages in the world with the number of speakers of over four hundred millions. Geographically, English is the most widespread language on earth. It is the language of business, technology, sports and aviation. The world communication is mainly carried out in English. “Incredibly enough, 75% of the world’s mails and 60% of the world’s telephone calls are in English.”(John and Liz Soars (1986): 2) Further more, as Dudley-Evans and St John note that with the increasing numbers of international students taking Master courses in Business, Finance, Accounting and Banking, the area of Academic Business English is beginning to assume much greater importance in EPA. (Dudley-Evans and St. John 1997: 31) and ESP courses are designed by mixing up different elements to fit the learners’ particular situation. 1.2. Teaching English writing 1.2.1. Definition of writing Writing is one of communicative approaches. Through the mastery of writing, people come to be fully effective in intellectual organization, in the management of everyday affairs, in the expression of ideas and arguments. By writing people can have control of both information and of people as well. As mentioned by Byrne (1988) we can understand that “writing is an act of forming graphic symbols”. However, of all language learning skills, writing is valued as “a language skill which is difficult to acquire” (Tribble, 1996:3). In The World's Writing Systems, Peter T. Daniels defines writing as: “a system of more or less permanent marks used to represent an utterance in such a way that it can be recovered more or less exactly without the intervention of the utterer”. 1.2.2. Writing tasks and activities Doff (1988: 148-153) and Brown (1994: 327-330) divide writing activities according to the level of the teacher's control, which include: (1) imitative or writing down, (2) controlled or guided writing, and (3) free-writing or self-writing. Imitative writing involves classroom activities like copying, which are somewhat mechanical and do not require the students to understand the meaning. That is why these activities are uninteresting for students and should only be used for beginners. Another form is dictation, which is more challenging to students. This incentive activity helps develop both listening and spelling. However, it does not really develop writing skill in that students do not have to express ideas or find ways to constructing sentences. Also, this is not an authentic activity. Controlled writing activities provide more challenges for students but still limit their creation such as changing a text from present tense to past tense, completing a sentence by filling the blanks, writing sentences from clues, writing from pictures. Another form is dicto-comp, in which the teacher read the whole paragraph at normal speed, then puts key words from the paragraph on the board, and students are required to rewrite the paragraph from their recollection and the key words. Freer activities include writing based on a text or on oral presentation. In the former, students are provided with a paragraph as a model, then are required to based on the paragraph and write a similar paragraph giving their own information or information provided by the teacher. Oral presentation begins with class activities when students make suggestions and the teacher builds up an outline, or a list of key expressions, on the board. In free writing, or self-writing, students have a certain amount of choice on the ideas, there may be some few limitations like the length of the composition, or the topic chosen to write about. 1.2.3. Teaching writing in ESL classes Students need to be personally involved in writing in order to make the learning experience of lasting value. Encouraging student participation in the exercise, while at the same time refining and expanding writing skills, requires a certain pragmatic approach. The teacher should be clear on what skills students are trying to develop. Next, the teacher needs to decide on which means (or type of exercise) can facilitate learning of the target area. Once the target skill areas and means of implementation are defined, the teacher can then proceed to focus on what topic can be employed to ensure student participation. By pragmatically combing these objectives, the teacher can expect both enthusiasm and effective learning. As Ann Raimes (1983) mentions that “When we learn a second language, we learn to communicate with other people: to understand them, to talk to them, read what they have written and write to them. Visitors to another country will often have to leave a note for the mailman, fill out a customs declaration form, give written instructions, or write a thank you letter.” There is no better way for students to grasp the essential value of writing as a form of communication than for them to produce the kind of practical writing that many people do in their everyday life. Each piece of practical writing has both clear purpose and specific audience: Messages, application forms, invitations, letters and instructions and the like. 1.2.4. Approaches to teaching English writing There are several ways to approach writing in the classroom. It should be said at the beginning that there is not necessarily any 'right' or 'best' way to teach writing skills. The best practice in any situation will depend on the type of students, the text type being studied, the school system and many other factors as Raimes (1983) points out “There is no correct answer to question of how to teach writing in ESL classes. There are as many answers as there are teachers and teaching styles, or learners and learning styles.” Hereafter, several approaches are reviewed with a view to understanding the background theory of current writing approaches to teaching writing in ESL classes. 1.2.4.1. The Product Approach For a long time, Product Approach has dominated much of the teaching that happens in the English classrooms. In this approach, focus is greatly placed on the linguistic knowledge, with attention on the appropriate use of vocabulary, syntax, and cohesive devices. As far as the Product Approach is concerned, learning to write has four stages: familiarization, controlled writing, guided writing and free writing. The aim of this approach is to enable students to produce similar texts. Brown (1994:320) states that learning is evaluated through text analysis of students’ work according to some criteria such as the standard of rhetorical style, accurate grammar, and conventional organization. The Product Approach to writing usually involves the presentation of a model text, which is analyzed and the basis of a task that leads to the writing of an exactly similar or a parallel text. Robinson (1991) summarizes the method in the following way: MODEL TEXT →COMPREHENSION/ANALYSIS/MANIPULATION → NEW INPUT → PARALLEL TEXT The use of models for text analysis and as a basis for thinking about the purposes and readership of a text can, however, have an important role to play in teaching writing. This is especially true where the teaching of writing is integrated with the teaching of reading. The situation where the writer looks at a model, or previous example, of a text he wishes to write, and then adapts it for the specific purpose reflects what frequently happens in business or academic writing Therefore, this approach is totally teacher-centered and product or output-focused. The weaknesses of the Product Approach is that process skills are given a relatively small role, and that the knowledge and skills that students bring to the classroom are undervalued. In short, product-based approaches see writing as mainly concerned with knowledge about the structure of language, and writing development as mainly the result of the imitation of input, in the form of texts provided by the teacher. However, advantages of the Product Approach can not be denied, for this traditional approach recognizes the need for students to be given linguistic knowledge about texts, so students will have a clear idea about the organization of a particular text. And what’s more, the Product Approach understands that imitation is one way in which people learn. It has contributed greatly to the development of students’ vocabulary and structure and under some circumstances it is very useful for practical teaching. 1.2.4.2. The Process Approach Form the 1970s, in the light of the weakness of Product Approach, teachers are more concerned about the Process Approach. As its term suggests, in the Process Approach, the focus of attention has shifted from the finished product to the whole process of writing: experience and question, prewriting preparation, draft writing, editing and rewriting, publication or sharing, and response and feedback from the readers. The very typical four stages go as following: prewriting; composing/drafting; revising and editing. In Process Approach, the teacher primarily facilitates the students’ writing, and providing input or stimulus is considered to be less important. Writing development is seen as an unconscious process which happens when teachers facilitate the exercise of writing skills. The role of a teacher is as an education facilitator. The shift of focus and the change in the teacher’s role necessitate greater emphasis on activities such as collaborative group work and peer evaluation. Since its foundation, the Process Approach has been widely accepted because it lays emphasis on the writing process of writers. Compared to the Product Approach, the Process Approach has undoubtedly made great improvements on practical teaching and provided much thought for English teachers. However, the disadvantage of the Process Approach is that it often regards all writing as being produced by the same set of processes; that it gives insufficient importance to the kind of texts writers produce and why such texts are produced; and that it offers learners insufficient input, particularly in terms of linguistic knowledge. Ron White and Valerie Arndt are keen to stress that 'writing is re-writing; that revision seeing with new eyes - has a central role to play in the act of creating text' (White and Arndt 1991: 5). In their model, process writing is an interrelated set of recursive stages which include: - Drafting - Structuring (ordering information, experimenting with arrangements, etc.) - Reviewing (checking context, connections, assessing impact, editing) - Focusing (making sure you are getting the message across you want to get across) - Generating ideas and evaluation (assessing the draft and/or subsequent drafts) White and Arndt's model can be represented diagrammatically, as in Figure 1: Figure 1: Model of Process Approach The teacher plays a greater role in this approach in providing input and consequently, feedback during the revision and evaluation stages. The number of times this is done is not restricted as writing is a recursive activity. The teacher’s response serves to provide support for the students in the writ