Workplace culture and organization are evolving as they adapt to globalization and rapid technological development. Likewise, the nature and role of workplace language and the literacy demands of work are changing in the face of increasingly multicultural workplaces and global communication networks. Among these changes, recent research has highlighted the role that informal modes of interpersonal communication play in the functioning of the modern workplace. Successful participation in such interactions is seen as not just a question of fitting in socially, but of doing work through talk. Ethnographic research in the workplace has stressed the importance of understanding language by viewing it within its social setting and understanding the interactional norms of particular communities of practice. Research into language programs for the workplace reflects this shift in emphasis. In contrast to research in the field of language for specific purposes on the specialized vocabulary and formal registers of particular professions, a growing body of research focuses on teaching and learning the language of routine workplace interactions. This article reviews current research into the nature of workplace language, noting in particular the contributions from ethnographic and language socialization research. It then discusses research into four aspects of the content of language programs for the workplace: employability skills, interpersonal communication, intercultural and critical language awareness, and teaching focused on the employment interview.
(Online publication September 02 2011)
Jonathan Newton is a senior lecturer in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. His research focuses on language teaching for the workplace, classroom-based SLA research, and intercultural language teaching. His articles have appeared in journals such as Second Language Research, System, Journal of Pragmatics, English Language Teaching Journal, and Modern English Teacher. He has papers forthcoming in Language Learning and The Journal of Second Language Writing. He recently co-authored two books, Teaching ESL/EFL listening and speaking (with Paul Nation, Routledge, 2009), and a second, Workplace talk in action: An ESOL resource (with Nicky Riddiford, VUW, 2010).
Ewa Kuśmierczyk is a PhD candidate in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies at Victoria University, New Zealand. She has an MA in Applied Linguistics and has been a tutor in Applied Linguistics courses at Victoria University since 2007. Her current project is looking at multimodal approaches to construction of professional identity in job interviews. The analysis of speech in conjunction with gesture, bodily movements, and document use aims at gaining a better understanding of how interview participants interact to create positive interview outcomes.