Teaching business communication
语篇能力 Discourse competence
Linguistic competence deals with elements of language at a basic level, and tends to focus on language out of context。 Discourse competence, on the other hand, deals with language in use, although it is important to note that the word discourse can be used in a variety of ways by language professionals。 For the purposes of this book, however, discourse is used to describe how people interact with each other within context。 Typical examples of this include negotiations, correspondence, presentations, service encounters, meetings, and so on。
In this sense, business discourse refers to the spoken and written communication that is found within the world of business。 By way of analogy, if linguistic competence refers to the building blocks of language, discourse competence refers to the whole house。 Like the occupants in a house, who use different rooms for different functions, the participants in the discourse have to communicate within different contexts; it follows that different discourses require different strategies。
One strategy involves the use of register (the degree of formality, or the degree of specificity, especially of topic vocabulary). So, for example, a chat in a pub would use a colloquial, everyday type of lexis, and would therefore have a different register from what we would expect to find in a meeting of international consortium partners about to sign a major contract, which would probably have more formal language and specific lexis. Another aspect of discourse is that often one of the participants may hold more power than the other participants, and this is also reflected in the types of language used. Thus discourse can reflect relationship between individuals, and can even be seen as a tool for manipulating others. Related to this is the concept of genre, which seeks to distinguish between different types of texts (for example, what makes a memo different from a letter of complaint, or a telephone conversation different from a presentation?).
Discourse can be spoken or written. Spoken discourse is often covered in business English training because it is more immediate; a learner may have time to look something up in written discourse, but the demands of spoken discourse tend to be more urgent, and so it is sometimes seen as more important in the business English classroom. The converse can also be argued: that written discourse provides a more permanent record, and so mistakes might be less easily forgiven.
There are many ways to analyse spoken discourse. One of these is conversation analysis, which is a sociological approach used to analyse the way people interact with each other in talk. Interaction is seen as a dynamic process which develops by taking into account what has already happened. Conversations have certain characteristics, and these can be used to help understand what is happening and how it is happening. Spoken interaction has a structure. Participants in a conversation take turns to speak, and there are rules which govern what is and is not allowed. For example, it is normal for participants to listen to each other, and to stop talking when another participant is talking. This is known as turn-taking.
Often utterances come in pairs, such as a question and answer, or complaint and an apology, or a greeting and a responsive greeting.
Conversations also have opening and closing sequences. For example, a telephone conversation often starts off by using some or all of the following components:
Note that the language used depends not only on the standard sequences, but also on the relationship between the caller and the receiver. The language and the tone will be very different if the call was between a buyer and seller, or an employer and employee, or two colleagues who were good friends.