In February, 2009 Maren Schierloh was awarded a CIBER Professional Development Grant to present research findings at the annual CIBER Business Language Conference. The conference focused on “Navigating the World of Business Through Language and Culture” and was held April 2-4, 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Schierloh’s presentation, titled “Let’s Talk Business: Foreign Language Teachers’ Input Modifications in the Business Language Classroom,” compared a traditional language learning classroom to a business language learning classroom. Schierloh’s findings showed no difference between the two according to language cues, but a marked difference in content and pace.
The business language classroom had a higher level of specified language, or terminology, in addition to a faster pace. Schierloh said the pace in the business language classroom was more authentic. “Most of the students want the authentic language use practiced in the business class,” Schierloh said.
Although the authenticity of the language learning is desirable both for business classrooms and traditional language learning classrooms, Schierloh said there is a need for a stronger focus on language pedagogy in the business classroom. “Teachers need to be more aware that their task is to teach language, not business content,” Schierloh said.
Schierloh’s research offers suggestions for a more successful language learning experience. She suggests teachers:
- Make good use of contextual aides like pictures or movies.
- Use strategies to help students negotiate meaning.
- Be more aware of the pace at which students are absorbing the information and slow down if necessary (all the while striving to keep an authentic pace).
- Stay language oriented and not focus on teaching business concepts.
Maren Schierloh holds her bachelor’s degree in English Linguistics and Literature, and Human Physiology and Sports Sciences from Kiel University in Germany and her master’s in Language Pedagogy from the University of Utah. Schierloh is currently working toward her PhD in Second Language Studies at Michigan State University.