Learning English Through Workplace Communication: Linguistic devices for interpersonal meaning in textbooks in Hong Kong

Winnie CHENG, Phoenix W. Y. LAM, Kenneth C. C. KONG

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Using language to establish and maintain interpersonal relationships contributes to effective workplace communication. Importantly, language plays a significant role in constructing professional role and identity, building solidarity and rapport, presenting comments and views, and facilitating collaboration and problem-solving in the workplace. Yet, the teaching of workplace interpersonal language is under-researched, and the extent to which such teaching materials, in particular textbooks, can assist ESP teachers in the classroom is unknown. In this article, we report on a study which evaluates textbooks designed for a module on learning workplace English in the senior secondary curriculum in Hong Kong. Specifically, it examines the textbooks, both qualitatively and quantitatively, regarding the presentation and teaching of linguistic devices of four broad areas of interpersonal meaning in different written and spoken workplace text-types and student activities. While linguistic devices in all the four broad areas of interpersonal meaning are identified, some areas, and most of the linguistic devices, are not given sufficient attention. The article therefore recommends that the textbooks should address the deficiencies identified and present interpersonal language in the workplace much more explicitly. It also highlights the need for ESP teachers to not exclusively rely on textbooks for teaching interpersonal language.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-39
Number of pages12
JournalEnglish for Specific Purposes
Early online date20 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • ESP
  • Interpersonal language
  • Interpersonal meaning
  • Materials design
  • Workplace communication
  • Workplace discourse


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