Teodora Popescu, Rodica Pioariu and Crina Herțeg (Eds.) Cross-disciplinary Approaches to the English Language: Theory and Practice. Newcastle-upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011. Pp. xii-168. ISBN 978-1-4438-3389-9
Reviewed by Anabella-Gloria Niculescu-Gorpin, Romanian Academy, Iorgu Iordan – Al. Rosetti Institute of Linguistics, Romania
The volume under review here, Cross-disciplinary Approaches to the English Language: Theory and Practice, which includes 10 interdisciplinary contributions, discusses various facets of the teaching of English Language and Culture in Romania, which is part of the curriculum in many secondary schools and relevant university departments. The articles in this book are a valiant attempt to discuss and theorize the issues involved in teaching this subject matter in Romania, also trying to identify solutions from a cross-disciplinary perspective. The contributors are Romanian university professors and secondary school teachers who have acquired thorough expertise in the topics at hand.
The volume is organized in three main chapters - Chapter I: Cross-disciplinary Issues in the English Language; Chapter II: Teaching English as a Discipline at the Crossroads and Chapter III: Language and Culture in the Global Village, each opening with an introduction discussing the umbrella topic, followed by subchapters focusing on more specific issues, offering fine-grained analyses of language education as a hybrid phenomenon, a ‘cross-discipline’ (Preface, p. VI).
As suggested by the title – Cross-disciplinary Issues in the English Language – Chapter I brings together contributions providing evidence for the interdisciplinary nature of teaching English, tackling various aspects, amongst them the corpus-based approach to translation or the difficulties arising when attempting to translate language humour.
After the Introduction, where Crina Herțeg discusses the pros and cons of interdisciplinarity, Mona Arhire writes a very well-informed overview of the interdisciplinarity involved in corpus-based translation studies. The article starts with a brief historical outline of the domain, and then gives room to a more extensive discussion of online corpora, analysing some of their features, such as types, consistency, user-friendliness, authorship and also outlining some their drawbacks. The paper is well structured and offers readers a wealth of bibliographical references, as well as an overall image of the international corpora and projects related to the subject. Although in her Conclusions the author claims that she ‘can only be hopeful as regards the Romanian translational research domain for fast development in the direction of corpus-based studies, and with a view to including the Romanian language on the long list of languages currently worked on.’(p. 16), it would have been interesting to include in the article more information about the contribution of the Romanian academia to the field so far, about the attempts to build such corpora etc. This would have emphasized even more their usefulness as a tool for Romanian linguistic research.
In Developing Business Students’ Mental Lexicon in English, Teodora Popescu focuses on several tools that can assist students in acquiring English business terminology. After making a highly informative contrastive overview of business English vs. general English in the first three subsections, based on an up-to-date international bibliography and very good corpus-based examples, the author dedicates Subsection 4 to several methodological suggestions that can help English teachers develop their students’ business English lexicon. Thus, teachers should make use of concordance programmes, lexical databases, dictionaries, thesauri, the business press, and business-related texts. Teodora Popescu not only describes these tools, but she goes a step further and suggests practical activities that shift the teaching process from teachers to students, allowing the latter to be actively involved in the development of their English business lexicon.
Transgressing English Language Boundaries. The Case of Business English Borrowings by Crina Herțeg discusses Romanian business terminology recently borrowed from English. The examples are abundant and supported by well chosen examples taken from the Romanian business press, illustrating either the integration or assimilation of borrowings or the cases when translation was the preferred option. The author only briefly shows that such borrowings are determined by the needs of the community, by the current economic, socio-political and technological development of the Romanian society.
The last contribution to Chapter I – Language Humour Interidiomatically Viewed – presents an interesting applied analysis of the theory of linguistic norms (Coșeriu 1994) to humour-generating devices, in a contrastive analysis of two Germanic languages (English and German) and a Romance language (Romanian). The article includes three subsections: the first is dedicated to a presentation of Coșeriu’s theory; in the second, the author discusses the idea that comic effects are triggered by flouting the three main norms identified by Coșeriu, namely congruence, correctness and appropriateness, and provides numerous examples in the three languages under analysis; in the third, she proposes ‘a modest’ approach to translating humorous language. The author proposes a translatability scale and argues that ‘the three types of humour rank quite differently from the corresponding linguistic norms in the hierarchy suggested by Coșeriu (1994, ib.), namely: the congruence-flouting type ranks highest, while the correctness-flouting kind is relegated to the lowest position, with the appropriateness-flouting humour hovering somewhere in between.’ (p. 64). Her main conclusion is that translators are faced with numerous challenges when tackling humorous effects, as semantic and sociocultural variables specific to one language are sometimes impossible to translate into another one, a possible solution being to change the linguistic and situational context of the original so that the new readers find it congruent with theirs, thus having access to the message.
As Teodora Popescu states in the Introduction, Chapter II – Teaching English as a Discipline at the Crossroads – is dedicated to several aspects of education that are not only related to teaching English per se, but also to the advantages of teaching other subjects (such as entrepreneurship) through English. The main approaches embraced in the three papers that make up this second chapter are English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL).
Alexandra Jacobsen’s article, Using Cooperative Strategies in Learning Professional English at University Level, is a versatile course proposal for professional English based on her experience acquired during teaching Romanian engineering students. The educational process is described in its overall complexity – the author takes into account not only the teaching materials necessary for the fulfilment of the task, but also the environment in which the educational process takes place. Using Pulko and Parikh’s (2003) notion of ‘soft skills’ (i.e. general skills such as making presentations and collaborative work) as a starting point, Alexandra Jacobsen takes into account her students’ specialised field of study (Applied Electronics) when developing her course: she makes use of the learning tools already mastered by her students (presentations, projects and team work) and mingles them with topics specific to their area of expertise. Her course proposal is organised according to the tenets of Cooperative Learning and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) and it focuses on presentations (during the first semester) and on meetings (during the second). What Alexandra Jacobson tries to do is to teach her students English in a context, i.e. presentations or meetings. Therefore the language material is not abstracted away from context. The course proposal focuses mainly on developing team work/collaboration skills, higher-order thinking skills, as well as business language and communication skills. The interesting point this article makes is that, once acquired in English, such skills could also be transferred into Romanian. And this is an idea worth disseminating, as the purpose of the educational process should be to help students develop their overall skills and competences, beyond acquiring a very useful foreign language.
In Moise Achim and Laria Dragolea’s contribution, Teaching Entrepreneurship to Humanities Students, English is not the focal point, but only the medium through which entrepreneurship is taught to 31 MA students in Language and Communication for Business Administration who had no previous background knowledge in Business Studies. Seeing the educational process in the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) framework, the authors’ aim is to test experimentally how easily Humanities students can learn business content presented in English and whether, when taught entrepreneurship in English, it is not only their language knowledge per se, but also their English language communication skills will improve. Subjects were randomly assigned to the experimental group (the teaching methods employed were meant to allow students more autonomy and critical thinking) and the control group (the teaching methods were more traditional). The content taught was presented via mini-lectures, project work, pair- and group work, simulations and role-plays. After presenting this very interesting and promising teaching path, the authors claim that the experimental group obviously performed better both in terms of English and business knowledge by the end of the academic year. Nerveless, a more in-depth analysis of the results, including some statistics, would have given more weight to their conclusions, as readers are left wondering how exactly success was actually measured.
The article A Teachers and Students' Perspective on Their Engineering Under- and Post-Graduate English Syllabus in a Transylvanian Technical University by Marinela Grănescu and Ema Adam addresses the issue of syllabus design for English for Specific Purposes (ESP). The authors acknowledge that designing a course syllabus is a complex, time-consuming and difficult endeavour, especially with students with a heterogeneous level of English knowledge.
After defining the concept of syllabus and presenting types of syllabi, the authors dedicate the main part of their article to discussing the English language syllabi designed for Bachelor and M.Sc. courses at the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca. The main points to be considered in syllabus design, the authors claim, are ‘the students’ needs and expectations’ that will trigger ‘a syllabus based around activities and tasks which promote real and meaningful communication’ (p. 112). The contribution may be of help to Romanian academics involved in syllabus design, as it emphasizes the need for an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approach to language education.
The final chapter – Chapter III: Language and Culture in the Global Village – focuses on the acute need to teach English in a true intercultural context, as cultural elements are really important to learners. Understanding languages also involves an in-depth understanding of cultural issues. It is only in this way that learners can truly comprehend and act adequately when using a foreign language.
In A Cultural Briefing on Romania: Insider and Outsider Perspectives, Emilia Plăcintar starts out with an extensive and insightful overview of Barry Tomalin’s intercultural training working model presented during the Cultural Trainer Certificate Course she attended, as stated in the Introduction. Then, Emilia Plăcintar tries to apply the main tenets of Tomalin and Nicks’ (2007) approach to cultural training, namely the 5 C’s (cultural knowledge, cultural values and attitudes, cultural behaviour, cultural preferences and cultural adaptation) to the Romanian academic environment. For that purpose, she analyses the image of Romania as it appears in some essays written on the topic “Advice for a foreign friend about to start a business in Romania” by several 2nd year BA students in contrast with the description of Romania made by Lewis (2006). The information analysed is organised according to the format proposed by Tomalin, i.e. Expectations, Communication, Organisation, Leadership and Etiquette (ECOLE). The results show that the Romanian students’ perception of their own country pretty much resembles the core features proposed by Lewis.
In Culture and Collocations: Catalysts for language learning, Gabriela Mocan and Mariana Toma focus on the deep interconnectedness between language, mental representations, and social action. After briefly presenting the concepts of culture and language, the authors turn their attention to sources of cross-cultural miscommunication, discussing LaRay Barna’s (1998) six sources of miscommunication and communication styles. Then, they move to culture and collocations, and emphasize that mastering collocations seems to be easily and unconsciously done by native speakers, whereas learners need to spend a lot of time and effort on the matter. What is needed here is not only linguistic competence, but also cultural competence, without which culturally-marked collocations seem impossible to understand and learn. To prove their point, Mocan and Toma present two classroom activities meant to help students develop their cultural-linguistic competence: (i) American or British English? and (ii) High Context vs. Low Context, the latter being an activity specific to Intercultural Communication classes aiming to develop students’ writing skills. The practical section is the most interesting, as it offers great ideas for teaching and learning collocations, focusing on changing the students’ world view and their attitudes towards different cultures, thus supporting authentic cross-cultural communication.
The last contribution, Rodica Pioariu’s Cross-cultural Issues in Teaching English to Romanian Students nicely rounds up the volume, offering an overview of the past and present situation of teaching and learning English in Romania. The article is a detailed presentation of the history of teaching English to Romanian students, from the 19th century to the present, emphasizing that, in the context of globalization, knowing English is a must, as it represents the current lingua franca. It also points to the fact that teaching a foreign language is always influenced by external economic, social and political factors, and that cultural issues should always be addressed when teaching foreign languages, be it English or any other language for that matter.
Cross-disciplinary Approaches to the English Language: Theory and Practice is a valuable resource for both theoretical and practical cross-disciplinary information on teaching and learning the English language in a globalized, multicultural context. The subjects analysed – corpus-based translation studies, a variety of aspects related to teaching and learning Business English, the changes undergone by present-day Romanian under the influence of English, the idea of a cultural-linguistic competence arising, etc. emphasise the indissoluble relationship between language and culture. Moreover, the book presents to the general public the less widely known situation of English teaching in Romania, thus being a pioneering work in the Romanian academic landscape.
Barna, L.M. (1998). Stumbling Blocks in Intercultural Communication. In Milton J. Bennett (Ed.), Concepts of Intercultural Communication. Selected Readings (pp. 173-189). Maine: Basic Yarmouth.
Lewis, R.D. (2006). When Cultures Collide. London: Nicholas Brealey International.
Pulko, S.H., & Parikh, S. (2003). Teaching ‘soft’ skills to engineers. International Journal of Electrical Engineering Education, 40(4), 243-254. DOI:
Tomalin, B., & Nicks, M. (2007). The World’s Business Cultures and How to Unlock Them. London: Thorogood.
How to cite this review: Niculescu-Gorpin, A.-G. (2017). Teodora Popescu, Rodica Pioariu and Crina Herțeg (Eds.) Cross-disciplinary Approaches to the English Language: Theory and Practice. Newcastle-upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011. Pp. xii-168. ISBN 978-1-4438-3389-9. Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education – JoLIE, 10(2), 135-140. DOI:
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