Archive

Posts Tagged ‘soft skills’

Soft Skills as Genre

July 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Image: callcentercartoons.com

When you consider teaching genre, you probably think about emails or report writing. So, conversational discourse, such as the classic soft skills, is probably far from your mind.

However, if you’re looking for a way to introduce the key business soft skills into your teaching, analysing and presenting them as a specific ‘genre’ can make them accessible for teachers and  learners.

Furthermore, a genre approach represents a high impact methodology that gives lots of value through easily applicable communication techniques. It also allows teachers with limited business knowledge to engage with language, not business, while at the same time providing dynamic communication models that learners can easily translate into workplace situations.

Recognising a Genre

Technically, a genre is any communicative act that is associated with a particular structure, language items and conventions – things that the majority of people do when they are performing this act.

If we analyse them, we see that most soft skills neatly fit this pattern. For example, when many people give feedback theyfollow the following structure:

  1. General Positive Statement
  2. Specific Critical Statement
  3. Specific Positive Statement
  4. Advice for the future

If you think about the times you’ve given or received feedback I’m sure you can recognise this structure. In addition, if you think about the language used I’m sure you can make a list including – softening phrases (a bit, kind of, maybe…), modals (you could have, you might…) and indirect sentences (maybe you could think about…).

Finally, anyone who’s had issues with the appropriateness of their feedback has probably discovered the same conventions – the things successful feedback givers do and unsuccessful ones don’t

  • Avoid negative words (problem, criticise, didn’t like etc)
  • Be vague when being negative (one thing I’d say is… rather than you should have…)
  • Stress collaboration (next time we need to…)

Business trainers have been talking about this for years and you can easily find what they have to say through a simple Google search.

Why Teach Soft Skills this way?

For many years, I presented language for a particular situation, such as meetings, and then ran a role play practicing the situation. Like me, you’ve probably noticed that, when taught this way, learners are rarely able to apply new language in the communicative situation.

I believe that the reason for this is the detachment between language input and communication. An answer could be to teach the language within the meeting, in a test teach test scenario for example but I also find that learners do not engage overly in this process.

In my opinion, this is because, although they may tell you they want to improve their ability in meetings, what they actually mean is that they want to improve their communication skills.

By presenting a ‘soft skill’ as a specific genre, you can present high frequency grammar and vocabulary and explain why these language items are so critical for completing the particular skill. You can also embed the language within the specific skill and apply that skill to different situations. For example, influencing can be practicised in a meeting, on the telephone and in a negotiation.

In other words, the genre not only provides a vehicle for the language in the class but also creates a trigger for specific language use in the client’s working environment.

It’s easier to recognise the skill and thus the associated language than pick discreet language items to use when doing business.

Advertisements