In this introduction to his series of resources for English learners in the Hospitality and Tourism industry, Keith Harding provides some tips for using the materials, including teaching pre-work and in-work students, mixed ability classes and how to balance grammar and vocabulary with a focus on communication and functional language.
The language of Hospitality and Tourism
Hospitality and Tourism is often described as 'the pleasure industry' or 'the welcome industry'. It’s an industry where communication is the key feature. It’s also an international industry and will involve a range of inter-cultural encounters. The language of this industry is quite clearly English in an international context, but it is also the language of meeting needs, of providing high levels of service, of understanding people, of delighting people, of solving problems.
From a teaching point of view the emphasis is firmly on functional language – giving information, making recommendations, dealing with problems and so on – and on creating realistic situational practice where language functions can be demonstrated and developed alongside basic service-oriented performance.
A word about grammar and vocabulary
Grammar will be important, but, as with most ESP (English for Specific Purposes), grammar should be treated as the slave not the master. The order in which learners will meet grammatical forms may not be the same as in a general-English or secondary school course. Question forms, for example, are very important and tend to be used more frequently than affirmative and negative statements. Past tenses occur less frequently than present and future forms.
Because nearly all of us travel and have holidays, the specialized vocabulary of Hospitality and Tourism will be familiar to teachers and general English users to a greater extent than in other ESP subjects (for example, package tour, five-star hotel, travel agents, tour operator), but there will still be some less well-known technical lexis. Do you know what a TIC is, or pax, or a fam trip?
As with other ESP subjects it is not just the technical but also the semi-technical, or enabling, vocabulary that is important. Think of the verbs that are used when you check in at a hotel: fill in the form, take the lift, insert your card, breakfast is served, enjoy your stay, and so on. Collocation and context are important.
What does the series cover?
This series of lessons looks at a number of different Hospitality and Tourism encounters:
- Giving information
- Checking in at hotels and airports
- Working as a holiday rep
- Providing hospitality at tourism events
- Travel agency situations
Each of these focus on different functions and situations, but all have in common the general underlying feature of working with and interacting with the public in order to establish a particular result, whether it’s checking someone into a hotel, solving a problem, or helping someone to choose and book a holiday.
They will involve a variety of media: not just face-to-face, but also telephone, email, websites, and printed information. In all instances the same core principles exist: service – function – register.
How to use the material
The lesson plans and worksheets provide the basic tools for your lessons. They are designed to be useable with large groups, small groups, and, in most cases, one-to-one as well.
Remember that Hospitality and Tourism classrooms are usually bright lively places in which smiling professional providers meet pleasure-seeking tourists. Ideally you will have a flexible furniture arrangement to act out dialogues and role-plays, and walls will be decorated with colourful brochures and maps to make the learning environment an attractive and relevant place. Homework and coursework should also be practical and interesting, with real tasks rather than dry mechanical exercises. Teaching (and learning) Hospitality and Tourism is fun!
Teaching ESP has great rewards, but it also has challenges. Because of the nature of the subject, Hospitality and Tourism probably suffers less than other ESP subjects, but it is important to be aware of them – and how to deal with them. Here are some ideas:
Mixed levels and abilities: The fact that the learners have the subject in common often overcomes this challenge, but you should know your students' strengths and weaknesses and mix them and group them accordingly.
Motivation: Some vocational learners can lack motivation in ‘English’ (particularly if they have not enjoyed their previous language learning experience). Keep the materials bright and interesting and focused on the subject and the students’ interests. Let the topic and the subject lead the language work, not the other way round.
In-work / Pre-work: If you have students who are working in Hospitality and Tourism already, then they will be able to bring relevant experiences to the classroom, and you can tailor delivery to their needs. For pre-work students you will need to set up contexts and situations very clearly, drawing on any experience they have of using hospitality services, but making sure they switch into the provider/professional role.
Teacher knowledge: Some ESP teachers worry that their knowledge of the subject will not be as good as that of their students. You need to stay one step ahead of the learner by reading up about topics and subjects. Get hold of a basic Vocational Course book (e.g. for GNVQ or A-level in the UK). However, it is also acceptable for you to tap into your learners’ knowledge and get them to explain concepts and procedures.
Above all remember to 'keep it real'. That way it will be fun for the teacher as well as benefiting the learner. Enjoy!