Exploring Professional Communication
Routledge Introductions to Applied Linguistics is a series of introductory level textbooks covering the core topics in Applied Linguistics, primarily designed for those beginning postgraduate studies, or taking an introductory MA course as well as advanced undergraduates. Titles in the series are also ideal for language professionals returning to academic study.
The books take an innovative ‘practice-to-theory’ approach, with a 'back-to-front' structure. This leads the reader from real-world problems and issues, through a discussion of intervention and how to engage with these concerns, before finally relating these practical issues to theoretical foundations. Additional features include tasks with commentaries, a glossary of key terms, and an annotated further reading section.
Exploring Professional Communication provides an accessible overview of the vast field of communication in professional contexts from an applied linguistics perspective. It explores the nature of professional communication by discussing various fundamental topics relevant for an understanding of this area.
The book is divided into eight chapters, each dealing with a specific area of professional communication, such as genres of professional communication, identities in the workplace, and key issues of gender, leadership and culture. Although the book’s main approach to professional communication is an applied linguistics one, it also draws on insights from a range of other disciplines.
Throughout, Stephanie Schnurr takes an interactive approach that is reflected in the numerous examples of authentic discourse data, from a variety of written and spoken contexts.
Exploring Professional Communication is critical reading for postgraduate and upper undergraduate students of applied linguistics and communication studies.
The main idea of the exercises below is to point teachers and students to some additional material which they may find useful to explore in more detail some of the issues introduced in the various chapters and to engage in discussions that may touch upon and combine topics of different chapters (similar to Exercise 8.1).
Look at the following annual reports from different companies (you may also find your own examples from other companies online):
- Would you classify these documents as instances of professional communication? Explain why (not).
- Who are the target audiences of these documents? How is this reflected in the style and content of the documents?
- Identify and describe some of the genre-specific features of these annual reports and letters to shareholders.
- How do the companies portray themselves in these documents? What similarities / differences could you find between companies? In exploring these questions you should consider both textual and visual information.
- Would you describe the letters of the CEOs as instances of doing leadership? Why (not)?
Watch the following online video message of the Vice Chancellor (VC) of a University in the UK: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/audio/video/vc_annual_review.mp4 and answer the following questions:
- How is leadership done here? Which discursive strategies does the VC employ to achieve his objectives?
- How does the VC portray the university and its various members (staff, students, etc) in these ‘particularly challenging times’?
What is particularly interesting about this example is the intended audience of the discourse: in contrast to the other examples discussed in Chapter 7, this is an instance of external and internal professional communication. The message is directed both to current staff and students, but also to the wider public including alumni, prospective students and anybody searching the university’s website.
- How does the VC manage to address these different audiences in his speech?
As with many instances of public communication, including speeches, press releases, information material and many more, decisions have to be made about what to include and what to leave out. To the analyst, the latter may be just as important as the former. This video message was launched at the end of 2009, a year in which most universities in the UK and worldwide were affected by the global financial crisis in many ways, which was particularly reflected in substantial cuts in research and other external funding. Taking into consideration this background knowledge, answer the following questions:
- How do you think some members of staff may have felt when they heard the VC’s speech?
- How would you interpret the fact that several critical issues that were of concern for staff members at that time (such as potential staff redundancies and further budget cuts) are not mentioned at all?
The following scene is taken from the film The Devil Wears Prada (2006): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LVptO7o4L8&feature=related. Watch the clip and discuss the following questions:
- How are participants being portrayed in this short clip? How is this reflected in the ways in which they talk, dress, behave etc?
- Who is doing leadership here? How is this achieved?
- How does Miranda Priestly (the lady with the grey hair) do gender? What discursive strategies does she draw on to achieve her various objectives?
- Based on this short clip (or the whole movie, if you have seen it), would you describe this group of people as a CofP? Does it meet the criteria described by Wenger (1998)? – Explain your answer and provide specific examples to support your argument.
- If you have seen the whole movie, try to describe the culture of this workplace using one of the frameworks introduced in Chapter 3. On what kinds of evidence (e.g. linguistic and other) can you draw to support your claims?
Watch the video at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrJTf97Ev8o and discuss the following questions:
- How are members from different cultural backgrounds portrayed here?
- Which communication problems are depicted? How might they be related to issues of face and politeness as discussed in Chapter 4?
- How is the female boss (Seniora Jones) portrayed in this clip? Link your observations to the discussion of gender stereotypes in Chapters 6 and 7. You may also want to compare the portrayal of Seniora Jones with the ways in which Miranda Priestly (see Example 3) is portrayed.
- On what kinds of assumptions are video clips like these built?
- What are some of the problems with such videos? In discussing this question you may find it interesting to read the viewers’ comments which are posted below the clip at the link provided above.
- What are some of the dangers of using such material for corporate training courses? Do you think they are helpful for preparing employees for working in intercultural environments?