Sports-specific english language express-course for volunteers

PhD  S.Y. Kanina1
Associate Professor, PhD O.E. Romanovskaya1
PhD E.V. Ermolaeva1
1Ulyanovsk State Pedagogical University named after I.N. Ulyanov, Ulyanovsk

Keywords: sports events, volunteer movement, sport-specific English, vocabulary, foreign language communication, language proficiency, lexical selection.

Background. The sport volunteer service movement in Russia is obviously gaining momentum, with more and more students joining it to go through special training centers that lure, select and train them for servicing the top-ranking international sport events. One of the key qualification conditions for the service is basic English; plus, desirably, knowledge of some other major language(s) (French, German, Spanish) that is also welcomed as an extra credential. Practical experience has showed that many young enthusiasts fail to qualify for the advanced trainings due to their poor English speaking skills in common and sport-specific matters.

From the viewpoint of an English teacher, the situation is further aggravated by the shortage of training/ lexical materials for training service [6]. Having analyzed the available literature on the subject, we have put together the necessary lexical materials sensitive to the interests and motivations of the would-be volunteers [1-4, 7, 8].

One of the core objectives of the foreign language trainings is to help the trainees form and excel basic speaking skills by mastering the primary lexical units and applying them in speaking and writing for perfection of the verbal and written communication skills in the foreign language [5]. One of the ways to attain the objective is the sport-specific express courses of foreign language.

Objective of the study was to provide theoretical grounds for the new sports-specific ‘English language for international sport event servicing’ express-course.

Methods and structure of the study. In the specific sport lexicons mastering process, the educators are expected to make a special emphasis on the modern interactive learning formats with their special progress-facilitating environments to encourage every trainee, recognize his/her progress and intellectual achievements for success of the training process. In the interactive trainings the trainees should be encouraged rather to win the necessary knowledge and skills than expect that they are ready made and served.

Lately a variety of modern online English language training methods have been increasingly used for the learning material mining and progress test purposes, for the online competitions, and direct verbal and written communication with native speakers in many matters that are not always covered by the textbooks.

To offer a solution for the above issues, we developed a new sports-specific 24-hour (12 sessions) ‘English language for international sport event servicing’ express course that was piloted at Ulyanovsk State Pedagogical University named after I.N. Ulyanov. An objective of the express course was to help the candidate volunteers develop basic English communication skills in the sports-specific topics. The course was designed for advanced training of the university students tested with at least A2-level knowledge of English. A special emphasis in the course was made on the standard word combinations (idiomatic expressions) and verbal templates.

Results and discussion. It is common knowledge that the best way to learn a foreign language is the language immersion – and this is what the sports-specific express course offers to the students with its lexicons mastering trainings and the role games assisted by the English teachers and physical education specialists in the integrated learning formats.

At the beginner training stage, the trainees are expected to develop basic speaking skills in the subject lexicon and advance and test them in a variety of situations modeled in the education process. At the second stage, the studies are combined with the academic physical education curricula, with the lessons dominated by contests managed by the physical education teacher with assistance from the English teacher responsible for the flow of foreign communication in the lesson. Every action of the trainees would be commented and discussed in English, with everybody required to speak English only to facilitate the sport-specific terminology mastering process. Therefore, the course in fact mimics the practical sport communication environments to immerse the trainees in the purely foreign communication in the specific area. The physical education teacher’s role in such training sessions is to model as close as possible the competitive environments typical for the relevant top-ranking international events; whilst the English teacher is responsible for the terminological and lexical support and for the relevant graphical materials including, e.g. the competitive score boards, public information etc. At the third stage of the training course, the trainees would act for the team supporters to actively discuss the competitions and demonstrate their sport-specific speaking skills. Such discussions would be facilitated by the teacher or a student group leader responsible for ‘professional’ guidance of the discussion process, knowledge assessment, friendly encouragement and support.  

Conclusion. The new sports-specific ‘English language for international sport event servicing’ express course has tested a range of efficient language learning and lexical scope advancing methods and tools to train the beginner volunteers for the practical service. The express course testing experiment showed its benefits as verified by the experimental group progress in the sport-specific English terminology and speaking fluency, with the progress largely facilitated by the trainees’ enthusiastic attitudes to and high motivations for the learning process.


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The study overviews the growth and challenges of the newborn sport service volunteer movement in Russia, with its progress being limited by the still poor sport-specific English speaking skills. The authors offer a new sports-specific ‘English language for international sport event servicing’ express course that was developed and piloted at I.N. Ulyanov USPU to train the school/ university students joining the sport volunteer system. The express-course offers a range of efficient learning techniques and sport-specific glossaries with a special emphasis on the standard word combinations, idiomatic expressions, online communication and other efficient tools to secure fast progress in the modern sports-specific English. The article gives practical learning recommendations and overviews benefits of the special practices to improve the bilingual skills of the future sport volunteers for success in their practical service.