Saturday 17 April
The Internet and Business English an up-date
Barney Barrett (Summertown Publishing, England)
- Track: Business English.
- Style: Workshop.
- Focus: experienced and inexperienced audience; adult teaching; speaking on behalf of publisher and focusing on published material: The Internet and Business English, Barrett & Sharma, 2003, Summertown Publishing
Report by Geoff Taylor, Computer SIG Committee member
Barney's talk was described as an update and promotion for a published book (he pointed out that the book's companion website already provided a high level of future-proofing). However, the talk stands very well by itself as a guide to Business English/ESP resources on the World Wide Web.
1.Searching the Web
When searching for specific news stories, for example, the latest on the oil and gas industry, as opposed to the huge number of general hits the basic Google search facility gives, the Google News Search service focusses on online newspapers. Google News UK (news/en/uk/main.html) prioritizes UK newspapers.
Google Glossary (help/features.html#definitions)
This service searches online glossaries. It is keyed in simply by putting "define: keyword", where keyword is the word you want defined, into the search field
Google linked items
To search for grammatically linked items e.g. for "price" >> price, prices, pricing put "~" followed by the keyword into the search field, e.g. "~price"
This service maintains a personal profile of topics, e.g. TEFL, TESL, EFL, ESL chosen by the user (and stored as cookies on the hard drive). A slider control permits the user to determine how much the personal preferences should influence the results. (I haven't actually managed to find this service yet.)
Barney described some useful facilities available in some meta-search engines, which get their results by searching other search engines and often have extra useful features, including:
- Vivisimo (www.vivisimo.com)
clusters its results into related topics and has a useful "Preview" button
- Kartoo (www.kartoo.com)
produces a graphical map of results, and has a useful history function
- Profusion (www.profusion.com)
takes each key word and highlights it in a different colour in the results hit list, and so is very good for showing collocations
- BBC Audio/Video Search (on BBC News website)
apparently produces a list from the BBC's online archives of audio/video clips, averaging 1-2 minutes in length (I couldn't actually find this feature when I visited the BBC website)
2.QuickFinder learner dictionaries
Barney recommended learner dictionaries that offer a word "quickfind" facility that enables users to get instant access to key dictionary facilities while viewing text in a Web browser or other compatible application, e.g. MS Office. Key information about any word the user lets the mouse linger on may be displayed in a small window on the desktop.
Dictionaries with this feature included:
- Oxford Phrasebuilder Genie ()
- Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary ()
- Macmillan English Dictionary/Essential Dictionary ()
3.Favourite ESP websites
Barney recommended some particular websites for ESP and business English:
A specialist search engine for company annual reports
Auto Choice Advisor, interactive car selector
Control The Nuclear Power Plant, interactive meltdown avoidance game
PBS Building BIG (for kids), includes interactive labs, mazes, puzzles
How Stuff Works: great diagrams, expanded enormously, even financial topics
Barney explained that subscriptions to email newsletters can be very useful for ESP/business English teachers. Recommended newsletters included:
- Marketing Profs Today marketing know-how & jargon
- HR Zone human resources management issues & jargon
- CFO.com tools, resources and jargon for financial executives
- BBC News daily news headlines and summaries, can have topics chosen according to your preferences
Barney recommended various forums for English language teachers, including:
- The Oxford Teachers' Club (Oxford University Press)
- Onestop Forum (Macmillan Publishers Ltd)
- BBC World Service Learning English Message Board
6.Continuing to learn
Barney recommended handing out a page of links to useful websites at the end of a course. If saved as an editable (Word) document, it can be updated as needed, and personalised for individual students.
This talk, more or less independently of the book being promoted, provided a convenient guide to a good range of Web-based Business-oriented and general English resources, and so was very useful not only for the Business English teacher, but also the general English teacher.
In keeping with the aim of providing an update to what was in any case a relatively recent publication, many of the points made were novel, with interesting tips even for experienced 'Webheads'. In addition, by maintaining a brisk pace, Barney was able to cover a lot of ground, and in enough detail to give a pretty good idea of the value of the resources and how to use them. In consequence, the talk was suitable for teachers with less wide-ranging experience of Web-based resources, and those with lots of experience.
The talk was well-researched, clearly structured and succinctly presented. The availability of handouts with short clear descriptions and full links to the on-line material discussed was very welcome, permitting attendees to follow up the recommendations of material subsequently at their leisure.