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Professionals learn to master English

Published on Friday, 22 Jan 2010
Vijay Bhatia says the course trains students to be proficient communicators in their professions.
Photo: Felix Wong

English is commonly accepted as the international language of business. With globalisation comes a growing need for people across the world to use the language professionally in the workplace. City University's department of English offers a master of arts in English for specific purposes to train qualified and proficient users of the language.

The programme caters for those who wish to pursue a career in English teaching or professional communication in fields such as business, translation, public relations and legal.

According to Vijay Bhatia, professor in the department of English at City University, job prospects for graduates are extremely good because there is a huge demand for English teachers in the tertiary education and business sectors in Hong Kong. Many graduates teach English at universities and tertiary institutions, and some teach workplace English training courses at organisations. "Most Hong Kong students in tertiary education are required to study English. Not only do universities and local tertiary institutions require English teachers, there is demand from a growing number of primary and secondary schools. Moreover, big organisations in banking and aviation, and the government require professional use of English on a daily basis. Our graduates are qualified to teach English in these organisations," Bhatia says.

Graduates who are not aiming to teach will benefit from the programme in further developing their careers in other professions.

"We have students working for the government coming to study to improve their speech and writing skills. There are public relations people and businessmen who study the course to become professional communicators. There are so many jobs that require good English and the course trains students to be proficient communicators in their fields," he says.

Applicants come from diverse backgrounds. "[This] encourages them to integrate and develop cross-disciplinary expertise in the use of English, helping the students become aware of specific language demands in their chosen areas. At the same time it also makes them sensitive to the intricacies of language use in different professional communities," he says.

More than two-thirds of the courses in the programme are electives. "When students do assignments they have the freedom to choose topics that are related to their job or interest. This encourages students to do better because they are doing something that they are interested in," Bhatia says.

People with a bachelor's degree qualification in any discipline can apply for the programme. "The programme brings together students from different professional backgrounds and interests. We are not looking for linguists, but rather people with a good grasp of English."

Students who already have a master's degree but wish to enhance their professional knowledge can study for a postgraduate certificate by completing 15 credits or a postgraduate diploma upon completion of 24 credits, instead of the 30 required for a full master's degree. Students can choose between a one-year, full-time programme and a two-year, part-time programme, but they are required to finish the course within five years.

Classes are held in the evenings and on the weekends.

Lee Ka-ning, a student of the master's degree, is studying to become an English teacher. "I did a lot of research to look for a course that would suit me and eventually I chose this because I think it was not too academic and very flexible. It shows a nice balance between academic and practical," she says.

The programme has taught Lee to accustom different styles of English to different contexts. "I used to work in a bank and the use of English was very different from the academic English I use now. It took me some time to adjust and I learned a lot from the process."

Lee finds the interaction between classmates very valuable. "Many fellow classmates are teachers. They are able to share with me practical teaching experience and give me ideas as to how to handle situations and possible problems that I may face in the classroom."

Key points 
  • The programme allows students to play a decisive role in the curriculum by choosing electives related to their professional goals
  • Many students take the course to pursue a teaching career in the tertiary education sector
  • Students will develop the knowledge to use English in different industries and for different professional purposes
  • Students with a master's degree can opt for a postgraduate certificate or a postgraduate diploma, which requires fewer credits to study
  • People in any profession and with a bachelor's degree in any discipline are welcome to apply


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