Applied Linguistics and Knowledge Transfer

Employability, Internationalisation and Social Challenges

by Ana Bocanegra-Valle (Volume editor)
©2020 Edited Collection 344 Pages
Series: Linguistic Insights, Volume 268


Applied Linguistics can contribute to the enhancement of economic growth and societal well-being by addressing today’s social challenges and integrating employability, internationalization initiatives and knowledge transfer across higher education and elsewhere. This volume aims first to raise awareness of the significant contribution of Applied Linguistics in these key areas and then explore the challenges which scholars, researchers and students need to address when trying to build successful and sustainable collaboration between universities, industries and public sectors in national, transnational and international contexts. It also provides clear pointers for bringing university degrees in line with today’s job market and social demands.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • Contents
  • Applied Linguistics at the Interface between Scholarly Research and Society (Ana Bocanegra-Valle)
  • Part 1: Knowledge Transfer
  • Linguistic Research in the 21st Century: Looking Beyond (Ricardo Mairal-Usón/Pamela Faber)
  • Integrated Writing Assistants and Their Possible Consequences for Foreign-Language Writing and Learning (Sven Tarp)
  • Using the English File Pronunciation App for Pronunciation Training: The Learners’ Views (Jonás Fouz-González)
  • The Discourse of Engineering Students’ Entrepreneurial Proposals at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (Carmen Sancho Guinda)
  • Part 2: Internationalisation
  • The Role of Languages in Transformational Internationalisation (Elspeth Jones)
  • Service-Learning and Social Networks in Study Abroad Contexts: Engaging International Students in the Host Communities (Carmen Carracelas-Juncal)
  • Constructing and Reconstructing Attitudes towards Language Learning in Study Abroad (Vasi Mocanu/Enric Llurda)
  • “There Are So Many Dimensions of Internationalization”: Exploring Academics’ Views on Internationalization in Higher Education (Oana Maria Carciu/Laura-Mihaela Muresan)
  • Part 3: Employability and Social Challenges
  • Pronunciation and International Employability (Martha C. Pennington)
  • Disparities between Foreign Language Skills Taught in Higher Education and Job Market Needs (Troy B. Wiwczaroski/Mária Czellér)
  • What Do Young People Think of the Phenomenon of Immigration? A Corpus-Based Study of University Students’ Ideas and Attitudes as Expressed in EFL Classes (Penny MacDonald/Llum Bracho)
  • Multimodal Women Engineers’ Identity Construction (Silvia Molina-Plaza/Samira Allani)
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Series Index

Ana Bocanegra-Valle

Applied Linguistics at the Interface between Scholarly Research and Society1

1 Introduction

As a well-established area of study and research, Applied Linguistics can contribute to enhancing economic growth and societal well-being by facing today’s social challenges and integrating employability, internationalisation2 initiatives and knowledge transfer issues across higher education and elsewhere. This volume aims to first raise awareness of the significant contribution of Applied Linguistics to these key issues and then explore the challenges which scholars, researchers and students need to address when trying to build successful and sustainable collaboration between universities, industry and the public sector in national, transnational and international contexts.

The different approaches undertaken throughout the chapters (theoretical, quantitative and qualitative) make the book potentially interesting for a diverse group of readers. First, it will appeal to graduate (masters’ and PhD) students working in the field of Applied Linguistics, and then, to novice and established scholars in need of new research themes or in need of connecting the key areas of enquiry addressed in this volume with their current work. It also provides clear pointers ←9 | 10→for policy makers, education providers and curriculum developers in charge of implementing content in higher education programmes and endorsing university degrees with skills and competences in line with today’s job market and social demands.

2 Key areas of enquiry in Applied Linguistics today

This volume provides an overview of themes that connect the work of applied linguists with learning, living and working today. The themes of knowledge transfer, internationalisation, employability and social challenges cut across the chapters in this book to show the significant contribution of Applied Linguistics to these emergent areas of enquiry. These areas intertwine and relate to each other in many ways (see Fig. 1-1); thereby, building complex connections that, as the chapters in this volume attest, are of benefit to the advancement of Applied Linguistics research. These connections are explained below following the organisation of the parts and chapters in the book.

The first area of enquiry that is discussed in this volume concerns knowledge transfer. Following the University of Cambridge’s definition:

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Knowledge transfer (KT) is a term used to encompass a very broad range of activities to support mutually beneficial collaborations between universities, business and the public sector. It’s all about the transfer of tangible and intellectual property, expertise, learning and skills between academia and the non-academic community. (University of Cambridge 2009: n.p.)

Thus, knowledge transfer encompasses a two-way exchange process, thanks to which researchers can gain new perspectives on possible directions and approaches for research, and the non-academic community can get an important return that is converted into economic growth and societal well-being (University of Cambridge 2009).

The notion of knowledge transfer is often associated with other terms like knowledge management, knowledge sharing, innovation and entrepreneurship, probably because (i) they all show ways for academic and non-academic communities’ mutual acquaintance and collaboration; and (ii) they all entail a wide variety of channels through which knowledge and technology are shared and transferred from research institutions to industry and vice versa.

Knowledge transfer can be attained at the local, regional, national, transnational and international level, and particularly universities and research institutions endeavour to build collaborative networks that enhance the outcomes of such transfer. Knowledge transfer has been identified as a key strategy in universities’ mission and, more recently, as an indicator of the internationality of the institution (Kuenssberg 2011; Arias-Coello/Simon-Martin/Sanchez-Molero 2018; Bocanegra-Valle 2018, 2019).

The processes, origins and outcomes of internationalisation have become a key area of enquiry often associated in educational contexts with teaching and learning processes. In this volume, however, internationalisation is viewed as a more overarching driver for higher education institutions; in particular, as what Hudzik has defined as comprehensive internationalization:

Comprehensive internationalization is the means by which higher education institutions respond to widening and more complex expectations to connect globally across all missions to better serve students, clientele, and society in a twenty-first century context. In brief, comprehensive internationalization seeks to mainstream access of all institutional clientele to international, global, and comparative content and perspective. (Hudzik 2015: 1)

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The international dimension of higher education has lately grown in scope, scale and value with its benefits, risks and unintended consequences (Knight 2012). As a process, internationalisation evolves by adapting its approaches to the priorities of national and local educational contexts. In this volume, the contribution of internationalisation to achieving priorities such as knowledge transfer and social goals is discussed.

The connection between knowledge transfer and internationalisation has been noted by scholars like Teichler (2004), who contends that knowledge transfer is one of the three areas of learning and research related to internationalisation; the impact of internationalisation, however, will vary substantially by academic discipline:

Knowledge in normal disciplines (i.e., not specialised on international issues) is more frequently, more intensively and more rapidly transferred from one country to the other. This is undertaken […] through various means, notably through media (books, electronic media and similar means), physical mobility (conferences, study abroad, academic staff exchange, etc.), joint curricula and research projects as well as trans-national education. (Teichler 2004: 10–11)

The third area of enquiry discussed in this book is social challenges, among which employability stand out. Employability means “having a set of skills, knowledge, understanding and personal attributes that make a person more likely to choose and secure occupations in which they can be satisfied and successful” (Dacre Pool/Sewell 2007: 280). A person’s employability very much depends on what that person knows (i.e., his/her knowledge), and on what that person is able to do with such knowledge (i.e., his/her skills). Applied Linguistics can positively contribute to the development of the knowledge and skills required in employment-related contexts.

Current reports emphasize that the unacceptably high rates of youth unemployment across the European Union are mainly due to employers’ dissatisfaction with applicants’ skills, rather than to the lack of availability of jobs in the continent. By way of example, 27 % of vacancies were left open in 2014 because employers could not find employees with the right skills and more than half of employers were dissatisfied by their workforce’s skill levels (Mourshed/Patel/Suder 2014). For the European Union, this percentage rises to 40 % (European Commission 2016). However, and interestingly enough, 74 % of education providers “were ←12 | 13→confident that their graduates were prepared for work” (Mourshed/Patel/Suder 2014: 2). This not only shows the disparities between job market needs and the training offered, but is a clear indicator for education providers and policy makers to provide solutions that allow graduates to build the core and transversal (also, transferable) skills that are expected and required to grow in the labour market – in this book some of them are: foreign language skills, pronunciation skills, literacy skills, intercultural skills, knowledge transfer skills or entrepreneurial skills.

The connection between internationalisation and employability has attracted the attention of current literature (e.g., Jones 2013, 2016; Brandenburg 2014; Ripmeester 2016; Coelen/Gribble 2020) and is also put forward in this volume. There are many factors that make a student globally employable, and thanks to the so-called international experience (Jones 2013) many graduates have the possibility of becoming equipped with the transferable skills required in today’s job market. As recently reported in different contexts around the world (see Coelen/Gribble 2020), international experiences of all kinds (i.e., transnational education, internationalisation at home, intra-degree mobility or learning abroad, and full degree mobility) contribute to aligning graduates’ transversal skills with those skills sought and valued by employers. The internationalisation of higher education is, thus, partly viewed as “a response to work environments which are increasingly globally integrated” (Gribble/Coelen 2020: 1).

Very probably, the possibility of students spending a time period of study abroad (via mobility programmes) has been at the centre of most discussions regarding higher education internationalisation and employability. The European Commission (see Brandenburg 2014) investigated the effects of Erasmus mobility programmes upon students’ skills and employability, and gathered 78,891 responses to a number of surveys distributed among higher education institutions and employers across 34 countries. The Commission’s main findings revealed that “Erasmus students are in better position to find their first job and to enhance their career development” (Brandenburg 2014: 14), and data showed that:

on average, mobility students have better employability skills after a stay abroad than 70 % of all students;

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81 % of Erasmus students perceive an improvement in their transversal skills upon return; and

64 % of employers consider an international experience as important for recruitment, and 92 % are looking for transversal skills that are developed thanks to the international experience.

Nevertheless, as already noted, internationalisation is viewed in this volume as comprehensive; therefore, it extends the scope of internationalisation beyond mobility programmes to embrace other activities, some of them developed at a local level, that show the thrust and the many facets of this area of enquiry. Part two in this book also shows that internationalisation is not just a students’ issue, but also concerns staff and academics.

Besides increasing employability rates and enhancing labour quality, today’s society has many other social challenges that need to be addressed: climate change, precarity and poverty, government transparency and corruption, religious and large scale conflicts, aging and discrimination, birth rate, fake information, to name a few. Applied Linguistics does also have to add to the investigation of these social changes. In this volume, migration mobility and gender inequality are two challenges covered from the viewpoint of how discourse is constructed (by young people and experts) to either boost or reduce its impact on public opinion and society in general.

3 Structure, themes and contents of this volume

This volume brings together research on current key areas within Applied Linguistics: knowledge transfer, internationalisation and social challenges (including employability as, very probably, one of the most important challenges today). As noted in the introduction, these are not independent, but overlapping areas, and the twelve chapters in this volume have been organised according to the intention that prevails or features most prominently in each study.

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3.1 Knowledge transfer

The first part contains four chapters that show the very diverse opportunities that knowledge transfer dynamics can offer to Applied Linguistics researchers. Chapter one aims to demonstrate that linguistics currently offers promising avenues of research, with application in a variety of disciplines ranging from computational science to biomedicine. Ricardo Mairal-Usón and Pamela Faber examine the ways Applied Linguistics can contribute to the new social challenges of this 21st century as defined in two relevant documents (the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Development of Sustainable Goals) adopted in 2015 by Heads of State and Government at a special United Nations summit. In particular, four key areas are discussed in depth: (i) the impact of the digital and information revolution upon discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, lexical semantics and pragmatics research as supported by Internet data and computation analysis tools; (ii) human-machine interaction as applied to text mining, speech recognition systems, intelligent search engines or sentiment analysis; (iii) the human brain and neurodegenerative diseases that cause major mental and linguistic deficits; (iv) biolinguistics and the evolution of language and biolinguistics.

A good example of how applied linguists and industry can develop their activities in view of mutually beneficial collaborations is found in chapter two. Here, Sven Tarp explores the application of information technologies to the writing and editing of texts either in a mother tongue or a foreign language. He focuses on digital integrated writing assistants as tools that are integrated into text-processing programmes and provide assistance to users when engaged in writing texts, speed up the process or support the learning of a new language. As detailed in this chapter, writing assistants work on digital devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) and have several important functionalities. The work carried out and the usefulness of this tool are presented in Sections 5–7 of this chapter. Here, Write Assistant, a tool developed by the Danish high-tech company Ordbogen A/S (a provider of language services and online dictionaries), is presented and explained in detail. I truly believe that both lexicographers and dictionary users will find this chapter most ←15 | 16→illuminating given that, in Tarp’s words, “[w];;riting assistants are here to stay” (page 71).

Following on from this, Jonás Fouz-González looks into the relationship between Applied Linguistics and technology capabilities – this time, technology as implemented in language classrooms. By focusing on the mobile-assisted language learning offered by software applications, this chapter analyses the potential of a commercial smartphone app to first explore how technology can enhance pronunciation training in foreign language contexts. Then, Fouz-González explores learners’ views about the usability and suitability of this particular app for autonomous foreign language learning, and gathers a number of recommendations on how to improve app-based training that can be useful to both teachers and app developers alike.

In the last chapter of this part, Carmen Sancho Guinda digs into entrepreneurship as one of the key lifelong learning competencies fostered in Europe by the Bologna Process and very often linked to notions like innovation and knowledge transfer. This chapter analyses student output at the very first stage of the Actúa-UPM contest (a competition of business ideas among schools and promoted by the Technical University of Madrid) so as to detect communicative needs and establish the bases for a permanent collaboration between language and content teachers. Sancho Guinda discusses the type of communication that is required and the register and tone that are expected in the contest forms, and takes three persuasive strategies from Classical Rhetoric (namely logos, ethos, pathos) as a baseline for her analysis of discursive features. Her main conclusion points at the stylistic hybridity of entrepreneurial discourse with features of promotional interlanguage – that is, “features of engineering writing (restrained persuasion and nominalisation), academic writing (little explicit evaluation, low emotivity, and formality) and computer-mediated communication (author foregrounding and emotional marketing)” (page 127).

3.2 Internationalisation

The second part brings together four chapters that make internationalisation the core of the discussions. This is appropriately opened by ←16 | 17→Elspeth Jones, who builds on her extensive previous work on this topic to address the real and potential outcomes of a transformational form of internationalisation for higher education students living and working in multicultural societies in today’s interconnected globalised world. Jones encourages us “to reflect on previous practice and to broaden internationalisation efforts from what may have been a rather narrow focus” (page 136) which extends beyond students’ mobility programmes and includes all stakeholders. Thus, this chapter is an excellent example of how the key areas in this volume intersect. It explores the ways in which international experience developed through study, work placement or volunteering can develop the kinds of transversal skills that are highly sought and valued by employers. This idea is further developed with the examination of the role of languages in internationalisation and the window of opportunity offered by interculturalisation at home initiatives, which suggest that “language study is not the only route to intercultural communicative competence, nor is a period of study abroad a prerequisite” (page 151).


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (March)
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 344 pp., 27 fig. b/w, 14 tables.

Biographical notes

Ana Bocanegra-Valle (Volume editor)

Ana Bocanegra-Valle is a senior lecturer at the University of Cadiz (Spain). Her main research interests include ESP/EAP methodology and education (in particular, needs analysis, materials design and interculturality); English for research publication purposes; ESP/EAP genres and discourse and Maritime English as a particular branch of ESP.


Title: Applied Linguistics and Knowledge Transfer