19-21 Mar 2020 Nantes (France)

Call for papers

Université de Nantes
19-21 March 2020


The issue of specialised varieties of language in Applied Languages: the case of English and other languages

English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and LEA (Applied Languages) have been linked for many decades. Indeed, many ESP colleagues teach in Applied Languages and Applied Languages departments look to recruit ESP profiles as much as LANSOD (Languages for Students of Other Disciplines) departments do. However, this tangible professional convergence has not yet resulted in a scientific dialogue between the two types of foreign language training programmes, despite the many attempts made by colleagues involved in both areas.

The 41st GERAS International conference will take place in 2020 at the University of Nantes, which has a strong and vibrant LEA department. The scientific committee sees this as an excellent opportunity to reopen up the debate on the issue of specialised varieties of language in LEA in order to highlight not only the professional convergence between ESP and LEA, but also the convergence between linguistic content and pedagogical approaches.

In this context, the first issue that arises concerns the scientific divergences and convergences between the terms “applied language” and “specialised language”. Apparently, ESP and LEA are not exempt from the “contradiction” highlighted by Elisabeth Crosnier, who observed that the professional world and the academic context are “two culturally opposed worlds” (2002: 158-159). On the contrary, “specialisation” and “application” both refer to dimensions outside of the language, which are professionalising and/or disciplinary in nature and thus seem to belong to the same “functional” cultural world. What theoretical and practical differences differentiate them? What factors oppose them and/or place them in a position of complementarity? In this regard, Applied Linguistics approaches can offer insights for exploring possible answers.

A second issue concerns the role that language specialisation can play in LEA. This issue can be approached from many different perspectives, but three in particular come to mind. The first is driven by the increasingly widespread trend to steer the LEA cursus from a multidisciplinary approach towards greater specialisation and professional training. In other words, from a multidisciplinary base of subjects at the undergraduate level including economics, law and management, the courses lead to a wide range of specialisations at master’s level covering: international marketing, international logistics, international business, management of humanitarian, cultural or international projects, sustainable development design and planning, corporate social responsibility, fair trade, digital documentation, catering and tourism, wine economics, oenology and gastronomy among others… These specialisations seem difficult to implement without a parallel specialisation of language skills. So how should we go about this?  What lessons have been learned in this area? These questions renew the recurring debate about the absence of relations between languages and vocational subjects, as summed up by E. Crosnier – “the notion of ‘applied language’ has not been widely implemented”. She went on to say “with this general training, students have perfected their knowledge of the language, but without really having access to specialised fields with a view to applying them” (2002: 160). However, this view has been challenged in recent years by a growing number of LEA courses, which place language learning and their application to specialist subjects at the heart of their curriculum.

One way to approach the problem could be to look at the different specialised genres whether they be open, hybrid, evolutionary, transversal or hyper-genre in nature etc. The aim would be to make LEA students aware that genres reflect messages specific to a professional culture and setting and help them to achieve particular goals in particular situations. Genre analysis – particularly contrastive genre analysis – could make LEA students more aware of the notion of specialisation and the tools it provides to serve its purposes.

A second approach is specialised translation, which is included in many LEA courses and can take various forms (professional, business, legal, corporate, scientific and technical translation, etc.). It questions the relationship between language and a specialty and the optimal degree of specialisation that can be offered according to the nature of the course (Crosnier 2002: 161-162). This offers the opportunity to examine the extent to which Languages for Specific Purposes (LSP), designed as complex “language-discourse-culture” sets, can go beyond a level of specialised granularity limited to the lexicon or terminology.

A third way to address the problem is through civilisation classes. These modules generally account for many hours in LEA course schedules. Gilles Leydier points out that “the multidisciplinary and vocational nature [of LEA] with its multiple career opportunities” places heavy demands on civilisation courses, but that “civilisation programmes in LEA often resemble an endless inventory” (2004b : 136). In fact, very generalist modules, often directly imported from the LLCE (Languages and Literature) department, can often be found alongside more vocationally oriented modules. The author also highlights the convergence between LSPs and civilisation since “it is difficult to design studies on specialised language without taking into account the surrounding civilisational and cultural context” (2004a: 18-19). With this in mind, Michel Van der Yeught examines the conditions under which specialised language can serve civilisation in LEA: “specialist domains and languages are an important vector for promoting and studying civilisation” (2006: 258). There are, therefore, a number of avenues to explore in LEA between civilisation and LSP.

The need to ensure consistency between the aforementioned specialist linguistic content and the professional skills that LEA students need for their future career raises questions about pedagogical methods. As Marie-Françoise Narcy-Combes (2008: 133) points out, LEA students must “be able to carry out a project as part of a team, conduct research and report on it in one or more languages, be able to be autonomous and take responsibility”. In this regard, action-oriented approaches such as task-based language learning and teaching, project-based learning and other innovative pedagogical methods including technology mediated learning help to reduce the distance between the academic context and the business world.

A third issue concerns the relationship between English and the other languages taught in LEA (often referred to as “Language B”). LEA programmes are bilingual with English often designated as the compulsory Language A combined with a varying selection of Languages B, ranging from four to twelve depending on the university. Even though GERAS conferences focus on issues related to English, it is difficult to imagine discussing specialisation in terms of English in LEA without taking into account its impact on other languages. Even if ESP were to become fully integrated into LEA, would it make sense to include it as the only specialised language in the programme? It seems not and in any case ESP would certainly benefit from a general increase in linguistic specialisation, which would act as a unifying force to the benefit of all LSPs.

In a sense, the rapid development of LEA challenges traditional monolingual perspectives and suggests that there is an urgent need to open up the debate. The rapid growth and increasing success of trilingual programmes (which often include specialist translation modules), as well as the emergence of quadrilingual and multilingual programmes, offer a clear demonstration of this trend. To ensure the inner consistency of these types of programmes, linguistic specialisation cannot be limited to one or two languages, but rather should apply to all languages. In this respect, GERAS has a wealth of experience in exchanging with the members of other research groups like GERES (Groupe d’étude et de recherche en espagnol de spécialité) and GERALS (Groupe d’étude et de recherche en allemand de spécialité). This could be used to develop greater specialisation of other languages frequently offered in LEA including Italian, Portuguese, Arabe, Russian… Colleagues teaching these languages could help guide the overall thinking on these issues in ways that the organising committee will have to determine. This last set of questions clearly paves the way for contrastive approaches between languages and proposals in contrastive linguistics are likely to advance reflection within the wider community of linguists.

There is every indication that the issues surrounding the specialisation of languages in LEA touch on a considerable number of subjects which are vital to the ESP field of research: culture and civilisation (and therefore diachrony and specialised communities), translation (and therefore lexicology, terminology, discourse and genre analysis, work on corpora), didactics, dialogue with other LSPs and their culture...We welcome papers on any of these topics and on related subjects.

Submission guidelines

Please submit your abstract according to the guidelines below.

Languages: French or English
Word limit: 300
Deadline: 31st January 2020
Send to: GERAS41@univ-nantes.fr


  • Crosnier, Elizabeth. 2002. « De la contradiction dans la formation en anglais Langue Étrangère Appliquée (LEA) ». ASp 35-36, 157–166.
  • Leydier, Gilles. 2004a. “The Jack of all trades, the master of one”. Babel 9 « La civilisation : objet, enjeux, méthodes ». Toulon : Université du Sud Toulon-Var, 7–27.
  • Leydier, Gilles. 2004b. « Penser la civilisation contemporaine en LEA ». Babel 9 « La civilisation : objet, enjeux, méthodes ». Toulon : Université du Sud Toulon-Var, 133–148.
  • Narcy-Combes, Marie-Françoise. 2008. « L’anglais de spécialité en LEA : entre proximité et distance, un nouvel équilibre à construire », ASp 53-54, 129-140.
  • Van der Yeught, Michel. 2006. « La langue de spécialité au service de la civilisation en LEA : Wall Street and the Making of America ». In Leydier, Gilles (dir.), Babel 14 « Enjeux contemporains dans le monde anglophone ». Toulon : Université du Sud Toulon-Var, 251–260.
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