Collaboration is a cornerstone of JALT activities and the same goes for SIGs. While many people often think of collaboration within a SIG, there is an ever-growing amount of collaboration between SIGs as well as among SIGs, chapters, or other groups. This year, the SIG Focus column would like to highlight SIG collaboration in all its forms. Please feel free to contribute or suggest ideas by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello, and welcome to this brief overview and introduction to JALT’s Business Communication (BC) SIG and our recent collaborative activities. For those readers unfamiliar with us, BC’s basic aim is to develop the discipline of teaching English conducive to participation in the world business community, involving all aspects of BC, business skills, and business focused training. We also wish to provide instructors with a means of mutual collaboration and a platform for sharing best practices—that is, sharing research, developing teaching methods, and building a community of professionals who want to study, learn, and teach BC.
As a SIG, we are always interested in building something new: collaborative bridges between corporate, academic, and private business English (BE) instructors. We feel that BE teaching in Japan has a strong and developing future. As the importance of Asian markets grow, so will the need for BE as a lingua franca (BELF). Furthermore, we hope that this need for interactive English will also have a knock-on effect on university and school education practices over the coming years. Naturally, BE pedagogy is not an isolated or discrete field—it involves interactions and shared content with other similar content areas such as intercultural communication and pragmatics to name a few.
In the recent past, the SIG has held a number of significant collaborative events, such as The Evolution of Business Language Training in Japan conference in Fukuoka, a “PechaKucha” inspired forum at the JALT International Conference (both in 2016); a Cross-cultural and HR Management Challenges in Japan forum, an English for Specific Purposes Conference at Keio University, and the Business and Intercultural Negotiation Conference at Kansai University (all in 2017), The Spark: Igniting Global Innovations in Communications for Global Businesses Conference at Toyo University (in 2018), another English for Specific Purposes Conference in Osaka, and a talk on “Ready-made Mind Maps to drive a TBL or PBL Learning Cycle” (both in 2019), and, more recently, three online talks titled “Business English as a lingua franca and the CEFR companion volume in the Japanese context”, “Mediation, Interaction and Pluricultural Competence: How can the new CEFR help English teachers?” and “Business Writing with an Attitude” (all in 2020).
As a factor for success, we have always endeavoured to work closely with other JALT groups including, for example, the Fukuoka, Kyoto, Nankyu, Osaka, and Tokyo Chapters, as well as the CALL, CEFR, CUE, GALE, ICLE, Pragmatics, TBL, and Vocab SIGs. We have also worked closely with a number of great education sponsors (e.g., Cambridge Centre, Cambridge University Press, Eigo Live, Englishbooks, Macmillan Education, Oxford University Press, Pearson, Q-Leap, RSA Japan, Tryalogue Education, and Widgets Inc.) while trying to raise interest in their brands, products, and services. We have also been closely involved with other similarly-minded teaching organizations, such as The Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research (SIETAR) Japan, and, in particular, International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language Business English Special Interest Group (IATEFL BESIG), not to forget the universities where our members work and whose students volunteer for us and/or do poster presentations at many of our events too—and of course PanSIG. The intercultural, international, and interdisciplinary collaborations that these connections offer have been at the core of our event history to date.
In contrast to the “old pre-covid paradigm”, JALT now also provides many new avenues and opportunities for interacting and collaborating, and the recent shift to, and experience with, emergency remote teaching (ERT) and online learning is the latest iteration of that. While the situation with COVID-19 in Japan is still fluid (and appears likely to remain so for the foreseeable future) it has produced several major paradigm shifts in how SIGs deliver and receive educational content. The flow-on effect is also clear, as our sibling SIGs and Chapters take advantage of the practicality with which members can collaborate, not only locally, but internationally too, on shared platforms such as Zoom.
To that end, BC has not been exploring a conference (or shared conference participation) for 2021 (partly due to the uncertainty of reduced grants for 2021) and is instead looking at a “back to basics” seasonal concept—that is, collaborative events held every three months or so. This means we will either approach individuals, sponsors, SIGs, or Chapters to hold shared events regularly. The first of these new formats was a wonderful Zoom-hosted talk in June, “Entrepreneurial Ideas for Teachers”, fronted by Todd Beuckens (the founder of elllo.org ), followed by 10 short “elevator pitch” style open mic presenters, then followed by another two hours of discussions, networking, and socialising in the post event “cocktail lounge”. The success here bodes well for future events in ways we did not consider previously, and we are, naturally, open to expressions of interest from anyone wishing to collaborate: please feel free to contact us via our official SIG webpage (https://jalt.org/groups/sigs/business-communication) anytime.