A glossary-based approach to ESP terminology acquisition
Learning technical terminology is an important goal in ESP training. To this end,
students adopt various approaches, one being reading texts which abound with technical
words and phrases. However, students often do not have enough linguistic knowledge
to understand specific terminology in a foreign language. In order to find the meaning
of such terminology and acquire new vocabulary they use dictionaries and glossaries,
yet they often lack the sufficient skills to use these and other suitable resources.
The objective of this paper is to present the analysis of an activity which was implemented
within the first and third year university-level business English courses at the
Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Maribor. With this activity, students
learn professional vocabulary by compiling bilingual lists of technical terms and
their definitions/translations based on professional paper(s)/books in English from
any field of economics and business.
The central idea behind this activity was to encourage the students’ autonomous learning
of technical terminology by reading technical literature and using various forms
of dictionaries, glossaries and terminology databases. At the same time, the tasks
are aimed at raising the students’ awareness of the importance of assessing the appropriateness
of the information these resources provide. The paper is divided into three sections.
First, the rationale and implementation of the activity are presented. Second, the
results of the analysis of the students’ work are given and discussed in terms of
the selection of professional papers and terminology, choice of definitions of terminology
and their translations into Slovenian. In the conclusion, the focus shifts to the
outcomes of the activity.
Keywords: reading, language for specific purposes, learner autonomy, terminology
acquisition, bilingual dictionaries, glossaries, terminology databases.
The instruction of languages for specific purposes comprises various language related
occupational skills and competences of which lexical competence is just one. According
to Knight (1994: 285), “vocabulary acquisition is considered by many to be the single
most important aspect of foreign language learning. Not only do the majority of students
studying foreign languages cite vocabulary as their number one priority [...] but
it is often considered a priority by teachers as well” (ibid: 285). At lower levels
of language instruction, the students generally acquire vocabulary through course
books and to some extent, this is also true for higher levels of language instruction,
i.e. university-level foreign language courses where course books are supplemented
by various kinds of authentic texts. A significant share of LSP courses at university-level
are devoted to technical vocabulary acquisition since it is presupposed that enrolling
students have a good general knowledge of a foreign language in terms of lexis and
grammar; that is, they are considered to be independent users of a foreign language.
However, most students lack a sound knowledge of specific terminology in the foreign
language they will be required to use in their professional and/or academic careers.
Students may acquire the language of a specific occupation or field in a variety
of ways. Undoubtedly, extensive reading of relevant material (i.e. various types
of professional and scientific papers and books) greatly contributes to foreign language
learning. Tumolo (2007: 480) discusses the role of reading in vocabulary knowledge
by advocating the approaches put forward by Krashen (1981, 1982, 1989) and Brown
(1994) concerning either indirect or direct language instruction. In his study, he
proposes a combination of “direct and indirect instructions to assist the learners
in their process of vocabulary learning, that is, a balance between implicit and
explicit, indirect and direct, teaching procedures for learning a foreign language”
(ibid: 480). Thus, language instruction in the classroom should be accompanied by
individual work in the form of the reading of longer texts.
Students may learn a large proportion of specific profession-related vocabulary by
reading texts with profession-related content; furthermore, by doing so they acquire
vocabulary incidentally. Another fact which supports reading as an important activity
for language acquisition is individual preference, as students may choose the material
they find interesting and/or relevant for their studies, as well as appropriate for
their level of language competence. Students who are less proficient in a foreign
language may choose texts which include specific terminology, but are still not as
demanding as the material selected by the more advanced students.
Looking at the process of vocabulary acquisition, Mohseni-Far (2007: 146) touches
upon note-taking as one of the techniques and strategies for learning new words.
According to him, after “getting information about a lexical unit, learners may take
notes, in the form of vocabulary notebooks, vocabulary cards, or simply notes along
the margins or between the lines (marginal glosses). Note-taking is one of the basic
strategies often recommended by researchers in the field of vocabulary learning”
(ibid: 146). Here, the issue arises of the students’ ability to understand new vocabulary;
they encounter a large number of new vocabulary items while reading longer and more
complex texts. Usually, the reading of texts in a foreign language is accompanied
by the use of bilingual or monolingual dictionaries. Although many resources are
nowadays available in both printed and online forms, students often do not use them
enough or do not know how to use them properly. Today’s students frequently rely
on the Internet as their principal source of information, even though it is well
established that not all online information is reliable. As a result, if students
are not critical towards it, they may become easily misled. We believe that it is
the task of the language teacher to present these pitfalls to the students, to raise
their awareness in this respect and instruct them how to be critical towards such
One of the tasks of any language instructor is therefore to help his/her students
learn how to use these resources effectively and appropriately. A number of authors
have dealt with the appropriateness of either monolingual or bilingual dictionaries
in language learning (e.g. Laufer and Hadar, 1997; Hulstijn, Hollander and Greidanus,
1996; Hunt and Beglar, 2005). Both types of dictionaries have advantages and disadvantages
connected with the level of the students’ language proficiency. Apart from these
two types of dictionaries, bilingualized compromise dictionaries are growing in importance.
“A bilingualized entry typically includes: L2 definitions, L2 sentences information
or L1 synonyms of the headword. These hybrid and fused dictionaries essentially provide
translations in addition to the good features of monolingual dictionaries. Using
bilingualized dictionaries is more efficient than using separate bilingual and monolingual
dictionaries, and they are more flexible because beginning and intermediate learners
can rely on the L1 translation and advanced learners can concentrate more on L2 part
of the entry” (Mohseni-Far, 2007: 144).
Bilingual instruction of specific profession-related vocabulary is, in our opinion,
of great importance, as students need to be aware of how particular terminology is
to be used in both L1 and L2 contexts. This is especially crucial in cases when differences
between the two systems exist. For example, many concepts in the field of accounting
are particular to individual national accounting systems and are not compatible internationally,
not to mention the differences in legal systems (e.g. business and company law).
Another relatively important element of university-level language courses is autonomous
learning, and at this level, students are expected to study a large proportion of
material on their own. According to Benson (1997: 18) “greater autonomy is a legitimate
goal of language education and [...] autonomous learning is more or less equivalent
to effective learning” (ibid: 18). Furthermore, the Bologna concept encourages a
high degree of student independence in knowledge acquisition. In her study on lifelong
learning of languages with reference to the common European policy on language learning,
Bocanegra Valle (2008) discusses the notions of lifelong learning, autonomous learning
and the concept of raising language awareness through authentic texts within the
context of an ESP course. Therefore, one of the goals of language instruction is
to ‘equip’ the students with the knowledge to learn a foreign language for whatever
purpose on their own, i.e. outside the classroom.
To recapitulate, the discussion so far has looked at the various factors which play
an important role in successful language learning, particularly in specific profession-related
terminology acquisition, i.e. the acquisition of new vocabulary while reading, the
use and the appropriateness of dictionaries and glossaries to facilitate the understanding
of vocabulary and, consequently, the learning of a foreign language coupled with
the idea of autonomous and lifelong learning.
Bearing these foundations in mind, we have developed an activity in the form of a
written assignment (seminar paper) with the aim of achieving the goals connected
with the acquisition of specific vocabulary. The primary goal was to help the students
acquire a higher level of knowledge of specific subject-related terminology in a
bilingual context, while the secondary goals, closely connected to the first, were
to enhance learners’ autonomy and vocabulary acquisition through independent extensive
reading and the appropriate use of available resources (both in printed and online
forms) within the bilingual (L2 and L1) framework of technical terminology instruction.
The students were instructed to divide their seminar paper into three parts: the
introduction, the core section and the comments. The purpose of the introduction
was to help students focus on the reasons for selecting a particular text for independent
extensive reading. The core section (i.e. the selection of lexical items with definitions
and translations) was aimed at the actual learning of technical terminology in a
bilingual context, and the students’ comments after the completion of the core section
of the activity served as reflection on the processes of autonomous learning of professional
vocabulary in a bilingual context (for a detailed structure of the seminar paper
see Appendix 1).
The entire activity was developed with the aim of testing:
a) whether or not the students will have any problems in selecting their reading
b) whether or not the students will have any problems in selecting business/economics
c) whether the students will find it difficult to find suitable definitions for the
selected business/economics vocabulary;
d) to what extent the students will find it difficult to carry out the activity in
a bilingual context;
e) whether the students will consider the task beneficial, despite its difficulty,
since it would enhance their autonomy in learning a foreign professional language.
2.1 Test design
The purpose of the seminar paper was two-fold: it was designed to be carried out
as individual work on the part of the students and to encourage them to reflect on
their ability to process technical terminology in any of the areas of business English.
The task was introduced as a part of the business English courses in the 1st and
the 3rd year of study (the university programme). The students were permitted to
write it parallel to any other seminar paper within their programmes for which the
reading of professional and scientific papers or books was required. Nevertheless,
they could select the reading material for this paper separately from any other course.
As regards the selection of reading material, the 1st year students were instructed
to choose articles in the professional daily or weekly newspapers and magazines (e.g.
The Economist, The Financial Times, The Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, etc.)
or professional books and other professional and scientific papers in English. They
were allowed to choose general business topics because the vast majority of these
students had no prior knowledge of business and economics terminology, or their knowledge
in the field was somewhat limited. They were also recommended to select topics which
they would find interesting. On the other hand, the 3rd year students were told to
choose their material from scientific papers or more comprehensive professional books
and had to take into account their individual specialisations within economics and
business studies. That is, the students of accounting, auditing and taxation were
only permitted to choose texts on accounting, auditing and taxation, while the students
of finance and banking had to choose the material on banking and finance, and so
on. As the 3rd year students had, in general, a somewhat good knowledge of core business
terminology, they were required to select less general business terminology.
As has already been mentioned, the students had to write a seminar paper to facilitate
their learning of professional vocabulary. The structure of the activity reflected
the main goals as presented in the introduction.
2.2 Test subjects
The seminar paper was assigned to the 1st year students of the Industrial Engineering
university programme and the 3rd year students of the Economics and Business Sciences
programme within the courses Business English 1 and Business English 3 in the winter
semesters of the academic years 2008/2009 and 2009/2010. For the 1st year students,
this was their first semester of studying business English; whereas, for the 3rd
year students it was their fifth semester of business English instruction. Table
1 shows the distribution and the number of students who submitted their seminar papers.
The data reflect the number of students enrolled.
Table 1: The number of students submitting the seminar papers per year of study and
per academic year
2.3 Task procedure
The implementation of the students’ task was divided into three stages. In the first
stage, the students received detailed instructions at the beginning of the academic
year (i.e. in October) concerning the requirements of the task. They were given two
weeks to select the reading material and the business/economics vocabulary. In the
second stage, the main and most important sources of information for the terminological
section of the seminar paper, i.e. ‘Selection of terminology’, were presented and
the students received the information on the available printed and online resources
(monolingual and bilingual specialised economics and business dictionaries, glossaries
and databases). We emphasised the use of ‘Evroterm – Multilingual terminology database’1
and a number of dictionaries available in the faculty’s reference library. The students
were also provided with a list of online glossaries and dictionaries (for a selection
of these online resources see Appendix 2). The third stage was the students’ individual
execution of the task in which they had to find the appropriate definitions of their
selected lexical items and translate them into Slovenian. The students were allowed
to consult the lecturer if they encountered any difficulty in the selection stage.
The time available for writing the seminar papers was 10 weeks; after that, the seminar
papers had to be submitted for assessment.
2.4 Data collection
After the papers were collected, a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the execution
of the task was carried out on the basis of the students’ comments about the different
stages of the activity and from the linguistic aspect of the translations of lexical
items and their definitions.
As regards the students’ comments, we looked at (1) the selection of texts, (2) the
selection of lexical items, (3) the choice of definitions, (4) the translation (vocabulary
and translation process) as well as (5) the observations concerning the students’
personal achievements. Bearing in mind the aims of testing, we were mainly interested
in establishing how the students approached the selection of reading material, their
reasons for choosing particular texts and any difficulties they faced in the process.
Concerning the selection of lexical items, we were interested in establishing on
what grounds they chose individual lexical items and any difficulties this part of
the task presented. The analysis of the students’ choices of definitions concentrated
mainly on the issues related to finding and selecting the appropriate definitions;
whereas, the translation section of the task was assessed in terms of the issues
related to finding and selecting appropriate Slovenian equivalents of the English
words and phrases. Finally, we wanted to find out how the students felt about the
task as such and what they gained from completing it.
The linguistic aspect of translation focused briefly on the selection of texts and
the selection of resources combined with the correct choice of definitions and the
appropriateness of translations. An analysis of the grammatical accuracy of translated
definitions did not fall within the scope of this paper, as the students were neither
language specialists nor students of English or translation studies. The focus was
thus on the suitability of translated terminology and definitions from the point
of view of their meaning.
For the purpose of this contribution, we investigated the students’ comments and
their translations as defined in the section on data collection above. In total,
67 seminar papers submitted by 1st year students and 69 seminar papers submitted
by the 3rd year students were analysed. All the results are presented from the quantitative
and qualitative aspect. The qualitative aspect of the analysis is presented in the
form of the actual students’ comments.
3.1 Students’ comments
3.1.1 Selection of texts
The first item under analysis was the selection of texts. Figure 1 shows the results
related to the selection of materials.
Figure 1: Selection of texts
It can be seen that 61% (in 2008/2009) and 60% (in 2009/2010) of the 1st year students
found it difficult to choose the reading material. The analysis of the comments showed
that the prevailing reasons were2:
-looking for the articles was too time-consuming,
-the content of the contributions was too difficult for me to understand,
-the difficulty in selecting the topic, as too many articles from different fields
of economics and business were available,
-the attractiveness of the content (the terminology was suitable but the content
was not interesting),
-the difficulty in finding articles with enough economics-related terminology,
-the length of the contributions (sometimes the articles were too long), and
-the difficulty of selecting an interesting topic (I did not know what was interesting
In contrast, 39% (in 2008/2009) and 40% (in 2009/2010) of the 1st year students experienced
no major difficulties in selecting the material for the analysis. According to them,
they liked the fact that they could select the article on their own but mainly they
selected the material because:
-the content was interesting,
-the content was easy to understand,
-the title of the contribution was interesting, and
-the topic was new and unknown.
On the other hand, 37% (in 2008/2009) and 35% (in 2009/2010) of the 3rd year students
considered the selection of material to be a demanding task. A survey of their comments
revealed that most of them had the same problems:
-too much material was available, which presented a problem for me in selecting
one for the seminar paper,
-there was a lack of difficult vocabulary items in the materials that were available.
However, 63% (in 2008/2009) and 65% (in 2009/2010) of the 3rd year students had a
positive experience regarding the selection of the material. This was mainly due
to the following three reasons:
-the materials I could choose was relevant,
-the material will be useful for my studies of other courses, and
-the materials will be useful for my future career.
3.1.2 Selection of lexical items
The next item under analysis was the selection of lexical items. Figure 2 presents
the results for all four groups of students. Again, we divided the answers according
to the students’ feedback (difficulties and positive experience).
Figure 2: Selection of lexical items
The percentage of the 1st year students who found the selection of lexical items
difficult was as follows: in 2008/2009, 44% of the students found this task demanding
while in 2009/2010 this percentage was higher, i.e. 75% (two year average: 59.5%).
According to the students, the main problems they experienced were related to:
-the lack of knowledge of economics related terminology,
-the problem of finding difficult words,
-the problem of general understanding of content,
-the inability to distinguish between general and professional expressions, and
-the lack of the required number of lexical items in a text.
On the other hand, 56% (in 2008/2009) and 25% (in 2009/2010) of the 1st year students
reported no major difficulties in this part of the task (a two year average: 40.5%).
Again, their reasons were more or less the same:
-there was enough vocabulary to choose from in the material,
-the possibility to choose the words and phrases that were neither too difficult
nor too easy, and
-the freedom to choose interesting vocabulary items.
An average of 43.5% of the 3rd year students (i.e. 35% in 2008/2009 and 52% in 2009/2010)
reported having difficulties in selecting the appropriate lexical items. The prevailing
negative comments of both groups are given below:
-the understanding of specialised terminology was difficult as such,
-the choice of terminology was difficult due to its abundance, and
-the choice of the vocabulary depended on the availability of definitions.
More than half (i.e. 56.5%) of the 3rd year students (i.e. 65% in 2008/2009 and 48%
in 2009/2010) had no difficulty in choosing the required fifteen lexical items for
their seminar papers. They selected the lexical items based on:
-the availability of terminology in the selected materials,
-the familiarity with the terminology in Slovenian (presented in other courses),
-the usefulness of terminology for writing the final thesis, and
-the applicability of terminology for further study and career.
3.1.3 Choice of definitions
The distribution of the students’ comments regarding the definitions to be included
in the seminar paper is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3: Choice of definitions
The results presented in Figure 3 show that the majority of students in all four
groups reported some kind of difficulty in finding and selecting the appropriate
definitions to include in their seminar papers. The analysis of the students’ comments
revealed that most of them reported mainly on the process of finding the definitions.
An average of 70% of the 1st year students (i.e. 73% in 2008/2009 and 67% in 2009/2010)
-the difficulty in finding and choosing the appropriate definition among those available,
-the need to consult various resources was tiresome,
-the definitions found were too short for the required task,
-the search for definitions was time-consuming,
-the difficulty of defining some expressions,
-it was almost impossible to find all the definitions,
-the abundance of new/unknown words in definitions, and
-the lack of skills in searching for the definitions in dictionaries and online.
Nevertheless, 27% of the 1st year students in 2008/2009 and 33% in 2009/2010 found
the search for definitions unproblematic, providing the following reasons:
-on-line dictionaries and glossaries were of use,
-sufficiently skilled in searching for relevant information on the Internet,
-good availability of online resources.
The distribution of the answers of the two groups of 3rd year students indicates
that the negative experience (i.e. difficulties) was common to as many as 82.5% of
all 3rd year students (i.e. 76% in 2008/2009 and 89% in 2009/2010). According to
them, this happened because:
-comprehensive definitions as a prerequisite for the successful completion of the
task were difficult to find,
-the differences in systems (i.e. subject-related notions) caused difficulties in
finding appropriate definitions,
-the use of many different resources was required, which was time-consuming and
-the information on the Internet was not always entirely suitable,
-the selected terminology was very specific and its definitions were hard to find,
-the definitions found online were sometimes wrong,
-a good professional explanation of some terms was hard to find,
-there is a lack of good specialised dictionaries,
-the problems arose out of my insufficient knowledge of English.
Less than one fifth (i.e. 17.5%) of the students in this category (i.e. 24% in 2008/2009
and 11% in 2009/2010) reported no major difficulties, commenting that finding the
definitions was not as difficult as it had seemed.
3.1.4 Translation (translating vocabulary and translation process)
Figure 4 presents the results of the students’ comments regarding the translation
element of the seminar paper.
Figure 4: Translation (translating vocabulary and translation process)
Figure 4 demonstrates that, on average, 97.5% of the 1st year students (i.e. 95%
in 2008/2009 and 100% in 2009/2010) considered the translation of lexical items and
definitions as complicated. In their comments they discussed both the issues related
to the translation of the vocabulary and the translation process in general. Their
reasons why this task was so demanding are given below:
-direct translation was required,
-it was difficult to find the translation of the entire phrase,
-consulting many resources was demanding and time-consuming,
-contrary to expectations, the task took longer to complete,
-finding the translations of specific terms was very hard, and
-it was difficult to choose the right word according to the context.
The students who did not report any difficulties (only 2 students in 2008/2009) claimed
that the translation did not present any serious problems.
Analysing the comments made by the 3rd year students, we can see that as many as
87% of the students in both academic years (i.e. 78% in 2008/2009 and 96% in 2009/2010)
claimed that they faced a number of problems, including:
-impossibility of direct translation,
-difficulty in finding the translations of certain terms,
-a lot of other specific terms were ‘hidden’ within the definitions themselves,
which made the translation even more difficult,
-sometimes the Slovenian translations of terms do not even exist,
-choosing the correct option among various ones was a problem,
-a general lack of good specialised bilingual dictionaries,
-different systems do not have corresponding terms,
-translating comprehensive definitions was very time-consuming,
-online translation tools were often unreliable, and
-the insufficient level of English knowledge.
However, only 13% of the 3rd year students had no major difficulties with the translation
stage of the seminar paper (i.e. 22% in 2008/2009 and 4% in 2009/2010). In their
comments they stated that it was not as difficult as it had appeared at the beginning.
The analysis of the students’ comments also revealed that a few of them made reference
to online translation tools such as ‘Google Translate’ and ‘Amebis Presis’3 although
they had been clearly instructed to avoid any automatic translation tools.
3.1.5 Personal achievement
The last section of the students’ comments was devoted to their personal achievements.
Figure 5 presents the views of all groups of students.
Figure 5: Personal achievement
The average percentage of 1st year students with a positive experience in both academic
years was 92.5% (i.e. 90% in 2008/2009 and 95% in 2009/2010). They gave a wide range
-the seminar paper was an encouraging activity for learning professional terminology,
-apart from learning new vocabulary, my awareness of economics related topics was
-searching for definitions required a lot of reading, which was good,
-although it was a difficult task, it was interesting,
-my terminology research skills increased a lot,
-it was a good activity for the use of different resources,
-by searching for the explanation of specific terms, other economics-related terminology
was acquired, and
-it was a good reading activity, which encouraged me to read more.
On the other hand, 7.5% of the 1st year students (i.e. 10% in 2008/2009 and 5% in
2009/2010) considered this task to be demanding. They stated that this was because:
-the level of my English was not sufficiently high, and
-I thought the task was going to be easy, but it turned out to be quite the opposite.
Looking at the results obtained from the analysis of the 3rd year students’ comments,
we can see that as many as 83% of the students (i.e. 85% in 2008/2009 and 81% in
2009/2010) graded the activity as useful. Their comments are given below:
-the acquisition of new terminology will be useful for my future career,
-the awareness of the difference between knowing the word only and explaining it
-a good activity for extensive reading,
-a good activity for learning how to research and translate specific terminology,
-my knowledge in a specific topic increased greatly,
-independent research and self-study are a very good way to learn something useful,
-the acquired knowledge will prove useful in other courses,
-learning vocabulary in context is better than learning it in an isolated way, and
-good practice in using dictionaries and glossaries.
On average, 17% of the 3rd year students (i.e. 15% in 2008/2009 and 19% in 2009/2010)
did not see the task as positive. They mentioned the following reasons in their comments:
-my insufficient knowledge of English made the task extremely demanding,
-the task required far more time and effort than expected,
-the task was not as easy as I expected.
3.2. Analysis of materials, definitions and translations
Parallel to the analysis of the students’ comments about the task, we also briefly
looked at the students’ choice of reading materials, i.e. professional and scientific
articles/papers/books, the choice of definitions and the translations of lexical
items and definitions.
By examining 67 seminar papers submitted by the 1st year students, we found that
all students selected their articles from the online versions of major newspapers
and magazines in the field of economics. Figure 6 shows the selection of reading
material by two groups of the 1st year students.
Figure 6: Choice of reading material
The same analysis could not be carried out for the 3rd year students as they were
required to select more complex reading materials (i.e. professional and scientific
papers or books). It can only be observed that an average of 94% of all 3rd year
students (i.e. 65 students in total) complied with the requirements of choosing either
a professional or scientific article or a book as their reading material. Only 6%
of them (i.e. 4 students) failed to comply with this requirement and selected general
magazine articles with business or economics related contents. Out of the students
who selected appropriate material, 89% chose professional or scientific papers, whilst
11% chose books.
Because the students were free to choose the business and economics related vocabulary
on their own, we shall not deal with a detailed analysis of these choices in this
contribution. It was only established that not all the students complied with the
requirement of selecting technical terminology. In the two groups of 1st year students,
approximately 34% of them included at least one word in their lists that can be classified
as a general vocabulary item. Among the 3rd year students, this percentage was lower
A brief analysis of the translations of lexical items (‘entries’) and their corresponding
definitions into Slovenian concentrated mainly on the suitability of translated terminology.
In general, we were able to divide the translations of terminology into two broad
groups, i.e. the correct and incorrect. The incorrect translations could further
be divided into those which were the result of a wrong interpretation of the context
in which a word or a phrase occurred or, mostly in the case of phrases, the result
of word-for-word translation. However, a more detailed analysis of these mistakes
was not performed within the scope of this research. The percentages of correct/incorrect
translations per year of study are given in Figure 7.
Figure 7: Correctness of translations (lexical items)
On average, 88% of the 3rd year students and 73% of the 1st year students (academic
years 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 combined) managed to find the appropriate Slovenian
equivalents of the lexical items in English. The 3rd year students exhibited a higher
level of correctness in translating lexical items into Slovenian or finding the appropriate
A similar result was obtained when analysing the translated definitions. Apart from
the word-for-word translation of phrases and the contextual inappropriateness of
translation, the main feature of the translated definitions was that the students
failed to translate the entire English definition or they simply found an alternative
Slovenian definition. This occurred more frequently in the papers submitted by the
3rd year students (i.e. 22% of all 3rd year students in both academic years) than
in those submitted by the 1st year students (i.e. 15% in both academic years).
The results of the quantitative and qualitative analysis of the students’ comments
and a brief linguistic analysis of the translated lexical items and their definitions
led us to some significant observations.
From the results obtained by analysing the students’ comments about the contents
and processes connected with this activity, it can be established that the difficulties
experienced by the 1st year students in terms of material selection originate mainly
in their lack of knowledge regarding business and economics related topics and business/economics
terminology. Unfortunately, the task could not be carried out in the second or any
other later semesters because the Business English 1 course in the Industrial Engineering
programme is taught in only one semester in the first year of study. In contrast,
the 3rd year students found it much easier to relate to the material for the seminar
papers because they recognise the link between them and their usefulness for their
study of business and economics topics and their future careers. Therefore, we can
claim that the majority of 1st year students had problems in selecting the reading
material while the 3rd year students did not.
Similarly, the choice of lexical items included in the seminar papers and the issues
related to this process also heavily depended on the students’ familiarity with the
field of study. The results show that the 1st year students had quite a few problems
in this respect. Contrary to that, the 3rd year students did not report any major
difficulties. The majority of 1st year students had most problems with differentiating
between technical terminology and general vocabulary as well as general difficulty
in understanding the materials’ contents. On the other hand, the majority of the
3rd year students based their selection of vocabulary on its applicability and usefulness.
We believe that these differences are mainly the result of the students’ familiarity
with economics and business topics and related terminology. It has to be noted, however,
that there is a significant difference between the two groups of the 1st year students
and the two groups of the 3rd year students regarding the percentages of those students
who had trouble in selecting the lexical items for translation. We believe that this
statistical difference is the result of the number of submitted seminar papers per
year of study in both academic years.
Finding adequate definitions and translating them presented more problems for both
groups of students than anticipated. The results from all four groups of students
show that finding a suitable definition for the selected lexical items was quite
difficult. Comparing the results obtained from the seminar papers submitted by the
1st year students with the results obtained from the 3rd year students, we can establish
that the 1st year students were less critical towards the vocabulary-related resources
and looked for quick ‘online’ solutions for the definitions and translations of the
selected lexical items more than the 3rd years. Although the 1st year students were
permitted to include brief definitions in their seminar papers, the vast majority
had problems finding them. The time spent on searching for the explanations of terms
and the overall lack of command of English were among the prevalent reasons why the
task was described as demanding. Of course, one has to bear in mind that they are
considered to be beginners as regards business and economics vocabulary. In addition,
only a few students were aware of the fact that not all the definitions they found
online were suitable in terms of the context in which the selected lexical items
occurred. The 3rd year students, on the other hand, were far more critical towards
the available information and exhibited a higher level of awareness as regards the
appropriateness of definitions, especially those found online. They were thus able
to assess the suitability of the information given in these resources critically.
Similar to previous observations, this is most likely due to their general understanding
of economic concepts and a higher level of English knowledge in their fields of specialisation.
The 3rd year students also exhibited the need to link the selected reading material
with their study of economics.
Of all the stages of the activity, the students found the translation process the
most difficult. The data obtained for this part of the activity point to the fact
that most students found the translation extremely difficult. The analysis has revealed
that some students did not know how to deal with the translations of words and phrases
for which they could not find Slovenian equivalents. As regards the correctness of
the translations, the prevalent reason for inappropriate translations was the word-for-word
translation of individual phrases. These findings support the students’ comments
regarding the translation process in the activity; both the 1st year and the 3rd
year students found it difficult to choose the correct translations when more options
were available and many observed that there was a lack of good bilingual (English-Slovenian)
resources. Despite the fact that the students were not allowed to use online translation
tools, some 3rd year students reported using them. However, one very important realisation
made by the students who used these tools was that they were not as reliable as they
In contrast to the prevailing opinion among students that the translation process
was demanding, the overall impression about the usefulness of this seminar paper
was unexpectedly good. Most students reported that the task was beneficial for their
language acquisition, i.e. they saw it as a positive experience. We believe that
the positive attitude towards the task and personal achievements reported by the
majority of students contributes to an increased level of motivation for further
individual study of technical terminology, which was one of the main goals of the
Looking back at the rationale behind this approach and the results obtained from
this study leads us to the following conclusions. The primary goal of the activity
was to enhance the learning process of new vocabulary through extensive reading.
Based on the analysis of the students’ comments, we can see that the goal was achieved
to a large degree as most students reported that the task helped them learn new words
and phrases. Second, the activity was intended to encourage the students’ autonomous
learning in compliance with the Bologna concept. Since the completion of the task
lasted approximately 10 weeks, during which the students had to carry out a great
deal of independent work, we may claim that this objective was also achieved. The
third aim was to sensitise the students in terms of the quality of information found
in various types of resources. This aim was only partly achieved as quite a few students
included information in their seminar papers which was inappropriate in terms of
contextual use. As regards the framework of bilingual instruction of specific profession-related
terminology, the task was successful to the extent that it made the students aware
of the differences between different systems within specific fields of economics
and business sciences.
Nonetheless, the results have shown that in future more emphasis should be placed
on instructing the students in how to search for the correct Slovenian equivalents
of English business and economics terminology in order to avoid the pitfalls of word-for-word
translation. Furthermore, the students’ awareness of the complexity of the ESP and
of the appropriate context of technical terminology use should be enhanced. Further
studies into the process of how the students actually choose the vocabulary definitions
would be of interest.
Summing up, one of the main advantages of the approach discussed in this paper is
therefore the fact that the students were actively engaged in vocabulary acquisition
rather than mere passive receivers of language input. The execution of the task was
also facilitated by the abundance of business and economics terminology resources
in the English language. Of course, the suitability of this approach should be tested
in other LSP courses and other languages as well. Furthermore, an investigation into
any of the specific issues raised in this contribution (the processes related to
the choice of material, the selection of vocabulary, the selection of definitions
and translation) would be welcome.
Bocanegra-Valle, A. (2008). Learning to learn in ESP: Fostering lifelong learning
in European higher education under Bologna requirements. In I. Fortanet and C. Räisänen
(eds.), ESP in European higher education: integrating language and content. (pp.
213–232). Amsterdam: J. Benjamins
Brown, D. (1994). Teaching by principles: an interactive approach to language pedagogy.
New Jersey: Prentice Hall Regents.
Fortanet, I. and Räisänen, C. (eds.). (2008). ESP in European higher education: integrating
language and content. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins
Hulstijn, J.H., Hollander, M. and Greidanus, T. (1996). Incidental vocabulary learning
by advanced foreign language students: the influence of marginal glosses, dictionary
use, and reoccurrence of unknown words. The Modern Language Journal, 80, 327-339
Hunt, A. and Beglar, D. (2005). A framework for developing EFL reading vocabulary.
Reading in a Foreign Language, 17, 1-31.
Hutchinson, T. and Waters, A. (1994). English for specific purposes: a learning-centred
approach. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.
Knight, S. (1994). Dictionary Use While Reading: The Effects on Comprehension and
Vocabulary Acquisition for Students of Different Verbal Abilities. The Modern Language
Journal, 78, 285-299 [online]. Available: http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/330108.pdf
Krashen, S. (1981). Second language acquisition and second language learning. UK:
Pergamon Institute of English.
_____. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. New York:
Pergamon Institute of English.
Laufer, B. and Hadar, L. (1997). Assessing the effectiveness of monolingual, bilingual,
and “bilingualized” dictionaries in the comprehension and production of new words.
The Modern Language Journal, 81, 189-196.
The structure of the seminar paper withinstructions
Write your reasons for selecting a particular text and briefly describe its contents.
The introduction is limited to approximately 120 words. All comments must be written
2. Selection of terminology
Choose at least 15 lexical items from the selected text (business/economics words
or phrases). For each lexical item, provide the English definition as well as the
Slovenian translation/equivalent of the lexical item and the translation of the English
definition. You should translate the definitions on your own. Do not use any online
translation tools. Length of definitions:
a) 1st year students: you are allowed to write short definitions,
b) 3rd year students: you must select more comprehensive definitions.
All definitions, lexical items and their translations, as well as contextual information,
have to be properly cited. Standard organisation of each ‘lexical entry’ is shown