This paper first focuses on general English (GE) attrition and its possible consequences
for business English (BE) students at Ljubljana’s Faculty of Economics (FELU). It
then discusses the role of grammar within the areas of foreign language (FL) and
BE teaching/learning as well as various opinions regarding the advantages of explicit
FL/grammar instruction over implicit FL/grammar instruction. The author concludes
that BE learners as economics students at the FELU must be given an opportunity to
continue learning FL uninterruptedly. The author’s suggestion is the introduction
of grammar instruction in BE contexts in the first year at the faculty. By the latter
the author refers to a combination of meaningful uses of a FL and form-focused instruction
(FFI in BE contexts. The author emphasizes that FL teaching/learning policies of
certain academic institutions in Slovenia that do not offer FL instruction at all,
or, not at periods crucial for FL learning of non-native speakers, are essentially
Keywords: business English, language attrition, explicit/implicit grammar instruction,
FonF/FoF approach, form-focused instruction/FFI.
“The grammarian has no more
right to decree how people
should speak than the physicist
has to decree how electrons
(Cook, 2001: 20)
This paper first focuses on general English (GE) attrition and its possible consequences
for students studying business English (BE) at Ljubljana’s Faculty of Economics (FELU)
- that is, future economists. Namely, students of BE require mastery of GE as a necessary
prerequisite for further BE instruction. Since the FELU has no organized foreign
language (FL) instruction for first-year students, BE students-to-be spend a year
or two not using GE before BE lectures start in second year.1 Therefore, the processes
of GE attrition during this special transition period, when secondary-school students
become university students and several years of studying GE transmute into studying
BE, are deemed to be particularly detrimental to economics students at the FELU.
Based on the findings of a large-scale study of the language needs of economics students,
which presented evidence of the processes of GE attrition slowly setting in during
this lengthy period of FL disuse (Čepon 2006), the article makes a case for providing
FL instruction and in our case grammar in BE contexts, in the first year at the faculty.
This paper discusses the role of grammar within the areas of FL and BE teaching/learning
as well as various opinions regarding the advantages of explicit FL/grammar instruction
over implicit FL/grammar instruction. Some of the likely benefits of introducing
grammar instruction in BE contexts are combating language attrition of first-year
economics students, easing the transition from GE to BE teaching/learning and above
all, enabling continuity in FL study. One of the disadvantages for BE teachers is
teaching pre-experience learners, thus also having to act as an expert in the area
of students’ carrier content and not just being an expert in the area of real content
- foreign language.
Students’ goals are to communicate in FL/L2. Grammar contributes to that goal, therefore,
according to experts, it must be regarded as an obligatory “optional extra” (Cook,
2.1 The importance of grammar
During the past 30 years or so we have seen grammar move from a central position
in language teaching to positions of lesser importance2, and back, although it has
never again reached previous importance. In addition, over the years its concept
has also changed from prescribing how a language should be used to grammar focusing
on actual language use (Nunan, 1999).
Grammar has held and still holds a central position in language teaching due to the
fact that “there is ample evidence to demonstrate that teaching grammar works” (Ellis,
2006: 102). Grammar has been described as interwoven with meaning, social function
and discourse (Celce-Murcia, 1991). Grammatical competence, along with sociolinguistic
and strategic competences, is seen as crucial for mastering communicative competence.
In this new view, grammar, lexis and phonology are resources for creating meaning
in social communication that need to be learned due to the fact that those systems
in FL/L2 do not develop on their own (Canale and Swain, 1980; Tarone and Yule, 1989;
Frodesen, 2001). Experts have come to realize that both vocabulary and grammar are
essential for communication, so neither area should be neglected at the expense of
the other one (Celce-Murcia, 2001). Regardless of the fact how much importance has
been ascribed to various aspects of FL/L2 study by linguists, they all seem to be
curiously interconnected to each other via grammar - “the invisible central spine
that holds everything else together” (Cook, 2001: 24).
A new broader, non-traditional approach sees grammar as interesting and helpful for
effective language learning in itself and an opposite to traditional grammar rule-teaching.
Rather than the learning of prescriptive rules, grammar has become a means of developing
learners’ ability to communicate meaningfully, appropriately and effectively, i.e.,
“an integral part of language use” (Frodesen, 2001: 234) and “a voyage of discovery
into the patterns of language” (Hawkins, 1984: 150). By many experts “Language learning
is essentially grammar learning and it is a mistake to think otherwise” (Widdowson,
1988, as cited in Frodesen, 2001: 234) and “knowledge of a language means knowing
its grammar” (Ur, 1996: 76). Essentially, contemporary FL/L2 teaching/learning experts
agree that “The essence of language lies in grammar” (Nunan, 1999: 96) since “Grammar
exists to enable us to mean” (Nunan, 1991: 153).
However, despite all this evidence, the role of grammar in contemporary ESL/EFL is
still undefined since nobody is certain in what way, how much and when to teach grammar.
Its place still remains rather controversial since the experts in the field of teaching
grammar have expressed a variety of views on this issue - many of them just pointing
to the essential complexity of the issue. Consequently, Dörnyei (2009), for instance,
claims that “in this latest development in SLA theory the term ‘grammar’ has been
carefully avoided” (ibid: 281).
The most comprehensive model of grammar has been created by Larsen-Freeman (2001)
who integrated three traditionally separate aspects of linguistics, i.e. syntax (form),
semantics (meaning) and pragmatics (use) into grammar as a higher concept within
3. Problem difinition
The impetus for the paper developed through the author’s experience teaching BE at
the FELU. Therefore, the paper deals with the issue of grammar instruction primarily
within BE study, which is extremely important for the future professional life of
students at the FELU. In the Slovenian environment, students will undoubtedly use
BE for the needs of their profession, job and work place (Čepon 2006).
Due to no organized FL instruction for first-year economics students, they are forced
to stop learning a FL uninterruptedly. Even worse, they do not just discontinue studying
a FL but stop using GE almost completely before the lectures in BE start in the second
year at the FELU3. This one-/two-year hiatus4 is deemed to be the greatest obstacle
on their road to successful BE learning since it causes not only the attrition of
GE grammar, as the basis for teaching/learning GE5, but also the attrition of GE
itself, as the basis for teaching/learning BE6 (e.g. Hutchinson and Waters, 1987).
Admittedly, enabling continuity in FL study is especially important for economics
students at the FELU for at least two reasons: firstly, they are non-native speakers
of English, and secondly, they are in the period of completing GE study and beginning
BE study on GE foundations7. For such students, a mere retention of the previously
acquired GE during a one-/two-year hiatus in FL teaching/learning at the FELU would
be quite difficult, let alone studying BE after the processes of GE attrition have
started. Consequently, even advanced students with high grades after finishing the
English matura exam find BE instruction in the second year quite challenging (Čepon
From this perspective, one could easily claim that the onset of GE attrition due
to no FL study in a first-year tertiary environment clearly impedes economics students’
further study of BE at the FELU and in a way, their future professional and career
Although attaining FL/L2 linguistic accuracy via grammar instruction and thus producing
genuine bilinguals does not seem like an achievable goal of FL/L2 instruction, lately
several experts in the area of FL/L2 teaching/learning (e.g. Dörnyei, 2009) have
started arguing in favour of explicit FL/L2 and explicit grammar instruction, or
rather, knowing how to combine the two. For the purposes of this article we have
devoted our attention to explicit grammar instruction in BE contexts.
The author concludes that possible first-year BE instruction - that is, at the beginning
of studies at the FELU, when the students are still receptive as well as motivated
enough for everything new due to adjusting to their study program - would internally
motivate students to learn a FL and primarily stall the FL attrition processes. Greater
contact and as early contact as possible for BE students would improve their FL knowledge.
4. Grammatical instruction
Several books have been published on the place of grammar in the curriculum, most
of them discussing different views on what it means to teach grammar. The problem
with grammatical instruction may not lie in the teaching methodology itself but in
the oversimplified understanding of a connection between L2 learner’s conscious awareness
of a rule and the ability to use it. Grammatical instruction as such seems neither
important nor adequate for learning FL/L29 since teaching grammar does not enable
learners to communicate effectively in real-life (Ur, 1996). The main goal of FL/L2
teaching/learning is to foster the internal processes for building up FL/L2 knowledge
subconsciously. It is achieved when students can confidently and competently use
FL/L2 in an unconscious sense. The function of grammar is to assist that within the
context of FL/L2 teaching/learning methodology. To make things more complicated,
Nunan (1999) offers evidence that even learners at the same level of language proficiency
differ regarding their conceptualizations of grammatical rules, so he concludes that
FL/L2 learners “grow their own grammars” (ibid: 113).
Knowing the grammar of a FL/L2 is important since it is a means of achieving linguistic
accuracy - the more accurately a message is conveyed in FL/L2, the lesser the opportunities
for misunderstanding in communication. Grammar is also possible to define from the
point of view of the lack of FL/L2 grammatical competence - if/when the communicators
do not participate willingly and fully in the conversational exchange, the communicative
burden is not being shared equally and communication breaks down. Therefore, linguistic
accuracy achieved via FL/L2 grammar accuracy contributes to the speaker’s ability
to successfully produce his/her own meaning in FL/L2.
As expected, there are opponents (e.g., Krashen, 1985) as well as proponents of grammar
instruction (e.g., White, 1987; Dörnyei, 2009). Lightbown and Spada (2006) are for
instance confident that exposure to meaning in comprehensible input and mere reliance
on communication do not lead to FL/L2 acquisition automatically. In a similar vein,
Cunningsworth (1984: 18) claims that “any teaching programme which omits grammar
is not really teaching language in the full sense of the word”. To him, it is the
effective teaching of grammar that distinguishes a true language course form a phrasebook
The long-term effects of instruction, as Nunan (1991) sees them, are that learners
might not be not capable of reproducing a particular item being taught but “systematic
exposure over a period of time will speed up acquisition in the long run” (ibid:
148). Similarly, Long (1983, as cited in Nunan, 1991: 148) emphasizes the advantages
of formal instruction over acquiring FL/L2 informally, in a natural way10.
To sum up, there is no simple answer to a continuing controversy whether grammar
should be taught. In the words of Dörnyei (2009: 270), implicit learning that “does
do such a great job in generating native-speaking L1 proficiency in infants, does
not seem to work efficiently when we want to master an L2 at a later stage in our
4.1 Explicit versus implicit grammatical instruction
Trying to clarify the role of grammar in FL/L2 study, many experts (e.g. Ellis, 1997)
have pointed out that FL/L2 learners cannot be realistically expected to master the
grammar system of the FL unassisted, on their own, mainly due to radical differences
in the way L1 and non-mother tongues are acquired. All the available evidence seems
to point to the conclusion that learning FL/L2 naturalistically accompanied by communicative
practice does not help FL learners to become proficient in FL/L2 (e.g. Skehan, 1998,
as cited in Lyster, 2004: 337; Swain, 1985, as cited in Nunan, 1991: 153).
Although some experts still deny the role of explicit instruction in teaching/learning
(e.g., Krashen, 1991, as cited in Lyster, 2004: 321; Long, 1996, as cited in Lyster,
2004: 321), there are other FL/L2 theorists who are clearly convinced that implicit,
incidental L2 learning11 could not be more effective when it comes to improving learners’
inter-language (Spada, 1997, as cited in Lyster, 2004: 321; Norris and Ortega, 2000;
Lyster, 2004; Lyster, 2004a).
Consequently, as Dörnyei concludes (2009: 272), “we need explicit learning procedures
- such as focus on form or controlled practice - to push learners beyond communicatively
effective language toward target-like second language ability”. Therefore, the overall
consensus in the area of FL teaching/learning is that the lack of success of implicit
teaching forces teachers to rely on explicit teaching.
Apparently, the advantage of explicit over implicit instruction is the most clearly
documented method effect in empirical literature on types of instruction (Schumann,
1978, as cited in Fotos and Ellis, 1991: 607; Ellis, 1984, as cited in Fotos and
Ellis, 1991: 607; Kadia, 1988, as cited in Fotos and Ellis, 1991: 607; Pienemann,
1984, as cited in Fotos and Ellis, 1991: 607; Ellis, 1990, as cited in Fotos and
Ellis, 1991: 607). Dörnyei (2009), for instance, emphasizes that there are two strong
sources of evidence available to support explicit teaching, namely reviews of empirical
studies that specifically compare implicit and explicit instruction12, and secondly,
educational experiences from immersion programmes that provide optimal conditions
for implicit learning. Explicit grammar instruction, instead of an implicit one,
slowly introduced via a deductive approach, is expected to help FL/L2 learners at
higher levels to internalize the grammatical rules and learn a FL/L2 in a more natural,
subconscious way (Norris and Ortega, 2000).
In conclusion, research has shown that children are better than adults at implicit
language acquisition processes13 and adults, due to their greater cognitive maturity,
are better at explicit learning processes (DeKeyser, 2000). Thus, it can be concluded
that certain Slovenian tertiary institutions’ FL teaching/learning policies that
deprive analytically capable adults of the opportunities to implement such abilities
should be considered as essentially flawed.
4.2 The meaning/form continuum
Various studies of FL/L2 instructional effectiveness have proposed different instructional
options; however, they are all to do with the major issue of the field of FL/L2 teaching/learning
- the relative value of meaning, i.e., the role of communication and a focus on form
(FonF/FoF instruction) - whether lexical or grammatical14.
To illustrate the meaning/form continuum, Long and Robinson (1998, as cited in Norris
and Ortega, 2000: 420) have suggested a tripartite distinction among focus on meaning,
focus on forms and focus on form. Namely, the reference is to three types of FL/L2
instruction - the type focusing on meaning, on forms (FormS/FonFS)15 and on an integration
of both meaning and forms (FonF/FoF). Instruction based on meaning assumes that appropriate
FL/L2 input in meaningful situations leads to incidental acquisition of FL/L2. The
second type, FormS/FonFS type of instruction refers to a deliberate teacher-fronted
discussion of grammatical forms in isolation in the classroom (Norris and Ortega,
2000). The third type, FonF/FoF, is actually a combination of focus on meaning and
focus on forms, and refers to a brief, incidental instructional attention to linguistic
features within a communicatively meaningful context (Doughty, 2003).
FonF/FoF is an approach to redirecting learner attention during input processing
since learners need to notice varying aspects of the FL/L2 input.16 However, a guiding
principle is to engage perception and noticing processes in FL/L2 input during implicit
learning, rather than accumulate meta-linguistic knowledge. The overall emphasis
is always on the communicative context within which the teacher should wait for a
real-time problem–oriented trigger, also just perceived one, to appear incidentally.
Doughty (2001) claims that what distinguishes FonF/FoF from other pedagogical approaches,
is the necessity for learners’ simultaneous processing of form, meaning and language
use during one cognitive event.
FonF/FoF activities have been defined by Williams (2005) in terms of three features,
the first being an essential feature and the other two being less obligatory. These
are namely, problematicity,17 targetness/planning, and obtrusiveness.18 According
to Williams (ibid), a major role for FonF/FoF appears to be in the following three
areas: initially, in the area of noticing a form for the first time in the input,
secondly, in recognizing that a learner’s inter-language form is different from a
correct target language form, and finally, an inclusion of the new target language
form into a learner developing inter-language.
Similarly, Nassaji (2000) has also proposed an integrative approach to FonF/FoF -
an integration of focus on form and meaningful communication. He claims that if the
goal of FL/L2 teaching/learning is to achieve fluency, accuracy and complexity, and
if accuracy cannot be achieved without paying attention to form, then the most reasonable
approach seems to be to FonF/FoF during communication.
The overall feeling that one may get is that the principal question of the FonF/FoF
argument is neither whether or not to teach grammar nor whether to teach it explicitly
or implicitly, but how to draw the students’ attention to form/grammar without giving
explicit grammatical explanations.
4.2.1 Form-focused instruction/FFI
Form-focused instruction, often abbreviated as FFI, is the instructional approach
frequently mentioned in SLA theory over the past decade and associated with Long’s
FonF/FoF type of instruction (1988, 1991, as cited in Williams, 2005: 671)19. FFI
is the umbrella term for all approaches and techniques that focus on formal aspects
of language20. It combines focus on formS and focus on form and could be labelled
as “a (new) type of grammar instruction embedded within a communicative approach”
(Dörnyei, 2009: 282). According to Lyster (2004), FFI is a way to drive immersion
students’ inter-language development forward. Ellis (2002) defines it as any planned
or not planned instruction due to which FL/L2 learners pay attention to linguistic
form. He is adamant that FFI contributes to the acquisition of implicit knowledge21.
Today, there are still no consistent answers to key questions about FL/L2 instructional
effectiveness. Surprisingly, Garrett (1991) claims that the proponents and the opponents
of the relative value of focus on form in SLA are really on the same side - they
both assume that the grammatical rules are learned as a basis for language comprehension/production
and that the acquisition of competence comes first and performance follows. The only
issue they disagree about is whether FL/L2 competence can be internalized without
explicit formal instruction or not.
Therefore, we should not separate communicative competence from grammatical competence,
i.e., meaning from form/grammar, since it is not possible to speak a language meaningfully
without grammar. The fact that students do not learn to communicate on the basis
of learning grammar cannot be the reason for rejecting formal classroom instruction
of the concepts of grammaticality, i.e., the interconnectedness of meaning and form:
“We cannot assume that when grammar is not mentioned in class learners will automatically,
successfully, induce the foreign language’s grammatical concepts from the input”
4.3 Grammar within BE teaching/learning contexts
Let us now turn our attention to the key question - if FL instruction was to be introduced
as first-year BE instruction at the FELU, what kind of BE instruction should it be?
With the emergence of BE in the late seventies of the previous century the issue
of teaching grammar was even further complicated. Although BE seems to be approaching
the problem of teaching grammar from an entirely opposing point of view, the dilemma
and the complexity of the issue stay the same. With regard to the question about
the existence of grammar in BE, experts (e.g. Hutchinson and Waters, 1987; Dudley-Evans
and St John, 1998) claim there are no new categories created by or specific to BE.
BE can utilize all the language forms which exist in GE and it needs to cover all
the core grammatical areas of GE22. In the words of Brieger (1997), ”Business English,
as a wide-ranging area encompassing all communication activities used in business
interactions has no limits as far as grammar is concerned” (ibid: 37).
Essentially, the experts claim that in GE there should be more emphasis on the selection
of a right methodological approach to grammar teaching (i.e., a pedagogical sequence
of grammatical structures) (Larsen-Freeman, 1979; McIntosh, 1979) whereas in BE the
emphasis should be more on finding a right measure of grammar for the purposes of
the target group of BE learners.
Despite all this, the author concludes there are compelling reasons to treat grammar
in BE classes at the FELU from a different approach. Firstly, due to a lack of first-year
FL instruction BE students at the FELU have experienced a prolonged period of FL
non-use, sometimes even up to two years’ long. Undoubtedly, the presentation of grammar
to BE learners who are making a new start at studying BE cannot be carried out in
the same way as it was during their FL study in primary and secondary school. Obviously,
in their case the reference is to learn BE, a 'different' kind of language, and after
a considerable gap of time.
Secondly, just before the start of BE instruction in second year, BE students at
the FELU already feel the consequences of GE attrition. According to the analysis
of the FELU’s BE students’ language learning needs (Čepon 2006), the great majority
of the participants felt they were forgetting English during their first-year studies.
The results showed that both they and BE teachers at the faculty believed that GE
attrition processes were impeding BE teaching/learning. The consequences of GE attrition
can especially be perceived in students’ subjective feelings of losing spoken and
written language skills, secondly, in forgetting English grammar, thirdly, in their
reports about having problems recalling “more demanding” English words and “more
difficult grammar”, and finally in their admission of consequently consciously retreating
to their “elementary-school” levels of language knowledge. In the author’s opinion,
and based on the results of the above-mentioned analysis (ibid), these must have
resulted from a longish period of FL disuse, as well as from the unstimulating language
environment in the first year at the FELU and a lack of economics students’ motivation
to find opportunities to use English actively.
The effects of GE attrition, directly and indirectly triggered by a slowly dwindling
logical structure of GE, are known to cause a lack of real internal and external
motivation for further FL learning. A lack of motivation for FL learning is in language
attrition literature even reported as a direct indicator of the underlying and ongoing
language attrition processes (Weltens, 1989; Gardner et al, 1987, as cited in Hansen
and Retz-Kurashige, 1999: 8; Edwards, 1976, as cited in Weltens, 1989).
Thirdly, BE students at the FELU do not simply continue learning GE from before but
start learning BE in the second year. In the author's opinion, the disappearance
of the main factor for successful BE learning - that is, a logical structure of prior
GE knowledge and its grammar, renders the would-be BE students’ acquisition of new
BE knowledge more difficult.
The next possible reason for the introduction of first-year grammar instruction at
the FELU may as well be directly linked with the FELU's present policy of internationalizing
its students. The author is referring to the fact that due to EQUIS and AACSB accreditation
requirements for the FELU23 there has been an increasing number of foreign-exchange
students in BE classes at the FELU recently. They are not all speakers of a homogenous
native language and not all learners have gone through an integrated course of FL
study identical to the one that Slovenian students have been through. BE teachers
at the FELU are therefore quite likely to encounter BE classes quite heterogeneous
with regard to students’ grammar background.
More advanced FL learners, a category that by definition should include most BE learners,
require less grammar because the assumption is they have already internalized it.
Consequently, experts in the field of BE advocate very little treatment of grammar
in BE classes and certainly no overt explanation of grammar. Most experienced BE
teachers have realized that the students will not be able to automatically transform
explicit grammar input into productive communicative output, so they resort to explicit
grammar explanations only as a means to an end rather than an end in itself.
4.3.1 New instructional approach to BE grammar teaching/learning
First-year grammar instruction at the FELU that the author is proposing should basically
be placed in the BE teaching/learning context. It should be communicative in orientation
but still contain opportunities for reviewing, revising and practicing grammar. Such
FL instruction is superior to both traditional GE classrooms that may emphasize grammar
heavily and to immersion programs that avoid grammar entirely (Spada 1990, as cited
in Nunan 1999: 47). Essentially, BE instructors at the FELU should concentrate on
creating conditions for meaningful uses of a FL and form-focused instruction/FFI.
Since FFI relates the form to the meaning arising from the language in a FL classroom,
FFI in BE classes would therefore refer to any incidental and undeliberate discussion
of grammar, i.e., counting on BE learners assimilating grammar incidentally as a
function of communicative activity.
Such an instructional approach is undoubtedly more suited to proverbially quite proficient
FL learners with an internalized knowledge of grammar than the deliberate discussion
of grammatical forms. An incidental discussion of grammar arising from classroom
communication appears especially appropriate for BE instructional contexts since
FFI is the approach with a strong communicative quality but a lesser interest in
structural and formal properties of language. Put shortly, it implies that the learner’s
engagement in situational meaning is primary and their attention to linguistic form
The principles that the author proposes for first-year BE grammar instruction at
the FELU should ideally be based on the key principles of instructed language learning
proposed by Dörnyei (2009). Namely, besides being personally engaging and motivating
for proverbially quite advanced BE students, BE grammar instruction should contain
the optimal balance between meaning-focused and form-focused instruction with a lot
of/enough controlled practice, mainly due to the fact that such an instructional
approach is apparently as effective as teacher-fronted instruction that involves
pure focus on forms (Norris and Ortega, 2000). Fotos (2005), for instance, claims
that the time has come to realize that a combination of grammar instruction and communicative
activities is optimum for effective FL learning. Long et al (1993, as cited in Norris
and Ortega, 2000: 421) assume that such instruction is likely to be more effective
because “it is consonant with what L2 researchers know about how second languages
In practice, FFI involves a number of approaches and techniques under its umbrella
since there are several other ways of bringing the students’ attention to grammar
without giving explicit explanation24, all of which is sound classroom practice and
not new to seasoned teachers25. According to Doughty (2001), the most beneficial
kind of pedagogical intervention is an immediate contingent recast26 which fits into
a learner’s working memory along with the original utterance with which it is compared27.
Put simply, attention-oriented instruction is effective; however, the key point is
that metalinguistic awareness and noticing are two separate mental processes - the
latter is a mental process that enables the learners to segment the input for themselves.
The more a learner pays attention to morphological, orthographic, prosodic, semantic
and pragmatic features of a language, the more likely it is that the new information
will be retained and it does not matter whether they do so intentionally or incidentally.
The purpose of FFI practice should be clearly explained to BE learners. There should
be enough declarative input, i.e., explicit initial grammatical input components,
offered in several creative ways28, as well as a guiding principle to avoid accumulation
of metalinguistic knowledge.
Eventually, in order to stir implicit learning there should be plenty of opportunities
to partake in genuine FL/L2 interaction. Such a combination of FFI and meaning-based
instruction appears particularly suitable for older, more mature and more proficient
BE learners. The learning resulting from the FFI should enable such BE learners to
develop abstract rule-based knowledge of grammar and not just knowledge based on
examples, mainly due to their predisposition, i.e., their greater cognitive maturity
to induce rules (Lyster, 2004a). The fact that such BE learners are supposed to already
have access to a much larger range of stored vocabulary is also important, although
the question is whether it is passive or active vocabulary.
Another, not so desirable consequence of BE adult learners’ greater cognitive maturity
is that BE teachers must take into account their inability to pay attention to cues
in FL/L2 input due to their reliance on the already existing L1-processing strategies
- most notably, the ability to predict L1 utterances during fast, real-life language
comprehension and production (ibid). Unfortunately, a FL/L2 knowledge cannot be acquired
via reliance on trying to predict what is going to be said.
One of the major deficiencies of the change proposed is that is impossible to expect
pre-experience learners to bring any business experience or carrier content knowledge
of their area of work/ field of study into the BE study process. Since they are in
the midst of obtaining professional and theoretical knowledge their business knowledge
is impractical and impersonal, only theoretical, incomplete, and obtained merely
from books. Due to that, in the case of introducing first-year BE classes, the faculty’s
BE instructors would thus have to bear not only all of the burden of explaining carrier
content but also the burden of teaching BE learners among whom it is already possible
to perceive the beginnings of the attrition of real content, which is a FL itself.
In reality; however, any FL instruction would be much more beneficial to the students
of economics at the FELU than no instruction at all. In addition, the instructors
of other specialized subjects and the faculty management at the FELU should also
contribute their share to facilitating the transition from GE to BE learning after
the hiatus of one or more years - the former with demands for regular reading of
English professional literature, and a wider and more binding selection of obligatory
English study literature and the latter by introducing formal evaluation of students’
prior GE knowledge. However, they should be aware that a vital continuity in FL learning
would only be provided by organizing first-year FL instruction.
All the above mentioned evidence has led many experts (e.g. de Bot et al, 2005) to
accept the value of explicit teaching without any doubt and only focus on the search
for the most effective type of explicit teaching. It appears that the real challenge
in fact is knowing how to combine implicit and explicit teaching/learning.
In the light of BE instruction at the FELU, it can be concluded that in the first
year at the FELU when students are left to their own self-initiated language study,
they are not capable of creative English learning. Majority of students do not consider
changing their non-existent or inactive method of retaining, revising or studying
GE, its grammar or BE and even if they do, this only involves minor changes (Čepon
2006). Generally speaking, they find their superficial approach to maintaining their
FL knowledge quite sufficient. To most of the economics students, their already acquired
GE seems good enough and adequate for the needs of their study, i.e., merely passing
their FL exams and browsing the Internet. In addition, being laymen, even those who
claim their FL knowledge is quite good, only take receptive language skills into
account, i.e., reading and listening and not true FL language knowledge and all of
the language skills (ibid).
To gather some of the threads about FL teaching/learning in the tertiary context
at the FELU, we conclude that BE learners as economics students at the FELU must
be given an opportunity to continue learning a FL uninterruptedly. Instead of a year-/
two-year gap in FL instruction before they start with BE classes in the second year,
the author’s suggestion is to introduce them to grammar instruction in BE contexts
in first year at the faculty instead29. By the latter the author refers to a combination
of meaningful uses of a FL and FFI in BE contexts.
Grammar may be labelled ‘an optional extra’ (Cook, 2001: 39) in BE contexts where
there is an uninterrupted continuation of FL learning and a natural conversion from
GE to BE instruction. However, in the specific BE teaching/learning contexts at the
FELU, we should perhaps label its function as an obligatory ‘optional extra’.
All of the preceding entails that current FL teaching/learning policies of the academic
institutions in Slovenia that do not offer FL instruction at all or not at periods
crucial for FL learning of non-native speakers are essentially dubious. By doing
so, they deny FL learners at academic institutions the ability to use an analytical
approach to FL learning, i.e., they are denying high-analytic-ability learners the
only mechanism at their disposal to learn a FL. Namely, SLA research has suggested
that “explicit learning processes are a necessary condition for achieving a high
level of competence in a non-native language after childhood” (DeKeyser, 2000: 520).
1 Rižnar (2010) states that a hefty percentage of tertiary institutions in Slovenia
(14.5 %) do not offer FL at all or provide only English instruction.
2 Despite the fact that the zero grammar approach was popular it never really took
hold (Ellis, 2006).
3 During this period, the students make insufficient use of additional opportunities
to retain their FL knowledge, so this period results in almost complete non-use of
English (Čepon 2006). According to Čepon (ibid), first-year economics students speak
English less than one minute daily on average.
4 The period of FL disuse may even extend to almost two years due to failed classes.
5 Klapper (2006) remarks that “advanced learners entering university often experience
quite a culture shock where grammar is concerned” (ibid: 397).
6 Expert literature consistently emphasizes the extreme importance of gaining new
knowledge on the basis of already internalized, existing prior knowledge (e.g.. Ausubel,
1963, as cited in Marentič – Požarnik, 2000: 44).
7 Formally, faculty management does not demand evaluation of prior GE knowledge
before the start of BE lectures in the second year and BE instructors therefore do
not perform such tests.
8 Apparently, little FL/L2 knowledge is a dangerous thing. According to a study
of 2000 small and medium-sized enterprises and 30 multinationals from 29 European
countries (CILT, ELAN 2006) it is possible to assess the devastating impact of a
lack of FL/L2 knowledge on the effectiveness and the profitability of modern businesses.
Pearson (1989) warns that it is a mistake to imagine that export selling is the only
function in a multinational company that requires the knowledge of FL/L2 – other
operations in such companies may require even broader FL/L2 proficiency from their
9 Studies by Dulay et al (1973, as cited in Nunan, 1988: 32) and Bailey et al (1974,
as cited in Nunan, 1988: 32) showed that formal instruction had no effect on the
order of learning of certain grammatical items. Research by Pienemann et al (1987,
as cited in Nunan, 1988: 33) has led them to conclude that the acquisition of grammatical
structures will be determined by how difficult the specific grammatical items are
psycholinguistically, rather than how difficult or simple they are grammatically.
10 Systematic exposure to grammatical instruction with a view to enhancing subsequent
noticing of the discrepancies between native speakers’ input and learners’ interlanguage
(Schmid and Frota, 1986, as cited in Nunan, 1991: 150; Peckham, 2000, as cited in
DeKeyser, 2003: 331) has been referred to as consciousness-raising (CR) (Rutherford
and Sharwood-Smith, 1988, as cited in Nunan, 1991: 150).
11 It is not likely that the terms ‘incidental’ and ‘intentional’ will soon receive
a strong theoretical meaning in SLA theory. So far, ‘incidental learning' has been
used as a non-theoretical term to refer to unintentional acquisition of language
during communication - i.e., picking up a language while the focus is on meaning
and function and not on form. Hulstijn's (2001) attempt to offer some theoretical
definition to these two terms is the following: incidental learning is learning with
the intention to use the information for the successful completion of a listening,
reading, speaking or writing activity, and not to memorize the information or commit
it to memory. Intentional learning is learning with the intention to commit the information
to memory so that it is not forgotten and not with the intention to use the information
for the successful completion of a listening, reading, speaking or writing activity.
12 Reviews of empirical studies that specifically compared implicit and explicit
instruction mentioned in the article are Norris and Ortega (2000) and DeKeyser and
13 DeKeyser and Juffs (2005) summarize the issue about implicit language acquisition
processes by saying that “nobody doubts that implicitly acquired procedural knowledge
would be useful; the main question is to what extent it exists” (ibid: 441).
14 The term Focus on Form (FonF/FoF) was first coined by Long (1988, 1991, as cited
in Williams, 2005: 671).
15 Caution is necessary because of a potential source of confusion due to quite
a number of rather similar terms and varied interpretations. According to Doughty
(2001), FonF/FoF encompasses FormS/ FonFS, but the reverse is not true.
16 Why do L2 learners need to notice aspects of L2 input? According to Doughty (2003),
research has shown that adults stop relying upon signals in the FL/L2 input. Instead,
due to a process called developmental sharpening, i.e., a prerequisite to L1 listening
ability, they normally start using their existing L1-processing strategies - most
notably the ability to predict what is going to be said next based just on a few
cues in rapid articulation. However, because of that they cannot stay tuned to the
cues and details of the FL/L2 input. Since they do not have the ability to predict
FL/L2 utterances during comprehension, they have to be guided through FL/L2 instruction
back to perceiving and noticing the signals in the L2 input.
17 Problematicity refers to a fact that FonF/FoF should arise out of a real-life/perceived
problem in communication during a lesson to which only an incidental treatment is
required from a teacher.
18 Obtrusiveness refers to the degree to which an activity/technique interrupts
the flow of communication.
19 FFI and FonF/FoF mean different things to different people and, in addition,
their apparent similarity is potentially confusing.
20 FFI was proposed by Spada (1997, as cited in Norris and Ortega, 2000: 420).
21 FFI contributes to the acquisition of implicit knowledge only if two factors
are given: the choice of the target structure and its extent. Namely, extensive instruction
directed at simple structures was more effective than limited instruction directed
at difficult structures.
22 Certain grammatical forms can be more or less prevalent in certain types of BE
discourse and genre.
23 In 2006 the most important European association of business schools, the European
Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), awarded the FELU its global EQUIS (European
Quality Improvement System) quality accreditation status - the leading international
system of quality assessment, improvement, and accreditation of higher education
institutions in management and business administration. In 2010 the FELU earned another
renowned international accreditation - The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools
of Business/AACSB international accreditation, which only 579 business schools in
the world have been awarded so far.
24 To mention but a few; printing the grammatical items in question in italic or
bold-letter forms, paraphrasing the students’ sentence to highlight the mistake,
recasting, highlighting features of the input, subtly slipping grammatical discussion
in as support for other activities.
25 However, convincing as these claims may be and given that grammatical form is
there to serve meaning, Cook (2001) even questions if those other ways of bringing
the students’ attention to grammar without giving explicit explanation have anything
to do with form. He goes on to suggest that they may in fact be a way of focusing
on meaning. In his opinion, meaning and form should not be separated.
26 Recasting is the use of implicit unobtrusive exchanges between students and teacher
instead of a direct correction. According to Doughty (2003), studies of visual input
enhancements such as font manipulations or colour coding, have not proven important
or visible enough for the students to notice, whereas auditory recasts, one of the
more implicit of FonF pedagogical procedures, have been found to be quite effective
in raising students' attention. For example: Student: I buyed it. Teacher: Aha,
you bought it. Student: Yes, I bought it (ibid).
27 Psycholinguistic studies have suggested that the size of the cognitive window
of opportunity for pedagogical intervention is well under one minute (Doughty, 2001).
28 To achieve subsequent automatization and internalization of declarative knowledge,
BE teachers must not underestimate the value of rote-learning and intensive recycling.
29 According to Čok et al (1999), it is useful and necessary for older and more
proficient FL/L2 students to study/learn FL grammar.
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