Claudia Wong (Center for Language Education, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)

Dr. KY Wu and Ms. Irene Ng ( Center for Language Education, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)
Mr. Adam Tse (English Language Centre, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University)

Source of funding:
The Hong Kong University Grants Committee (UGC)

The project aims to develop resources for students of science and engineering and their teachers to support the learning and use of technical vocabulary. University English enhancement courses in Hong Kong tend to focus on academic English. Unfortunately, it is often assumed that students do not require assistance with technical language since this will be acquired during the study of content courses. However, recent research suggests that the role played by technical vocabulary in specialized texts has been significantly under-estimated. Technical vocabulary can account for a very large proportion (often over 30%) of the words in a text. The challenges represented by technical vocabulary in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) content areas, particularly for second-language (ESL) students, are also receiving special recognition globally. Some studies suggest that the heavy load of technical vocabulary may even contribute to science avoidance by students.

The project addresses the above problems by creating learning resources based on technical words that are judged by Engineering and Science faculty to be important, including words known to be difficult for students. The resources (OLR) will be available to students on-line and take the form of interactive activities which are both motivating and effective for learning. The activities are presented as self-paced learning objects, with an initial diagnostic quiz which directs students to one of three levels of challenge based on their existing knowledge of the vocabulary of their discipline. The learning resources are intended to develop students’ ability to use technical vocabulary correctly both in written and spoken English. Ten STEM disciplines will be included.

Before the learning resources are created, the project first identifies technical vocabulary that is judged to be relevant and important for Hong Kong university students by Engineering and Science faculty. The first stage of the project involves the creation of ten subject-based corpora and ten subject-based vocabulary lists. The materials in the OLR are based on the vocabulary of the wordlists.

This project is in progress and its work will continue until 2020.

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