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Improving English language performance of medical library professionals based on the “Specialist English as a foreign language for European Public Health” project approach Katarzyna Czabanowska , Ewa Nowak, Elzbieta Rys

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Improving English language performance of medical library professionals

based on the “Specialist English as a foreign language for European Public Health” project approach

Katarzyna Czabanowska, Ewa Nowak, Elzbieta Rys

Institute of Public Health Jagiellonian University Medical College - Information Studies Department, Medical Library Collegium Medicum Jagiellonian University

  • Abundance of existing resources
  • Health information resources (databases, www pages, electronic journals, e-books, printed publications) are in English
  • English as a lingua franca in the global communication,
  • Easy access limited by the language barrier.
  • Basic English competences are not a problem,
  • Specialized English poses difficulties less medical more other health related fields
  • Therefore there is a need to develop teaching resources in specialized English to facilitate professional work of medical information and library specialists.
  • Present an EU project „Specialised English in Public Health
  • Show how a medical library can be involved in decreasing language barriers,
  • Show how English teaching resources such as specialized teaching texts and glossaries can be used by medical libraries professionals and users
  • Discuss the advantages of multidisciplinary collaboration of library professionals
Specialised English in Public Health Project


  • University of Sheffield – School of Health and related Research (UK)
  • Jagiellonian University Medical College Institute of Public Health (PL) 
  • International House School of English (PL)
  • Language Centre MaastrichtUniversity(NL)
  • Kaunas University of Medicine (LT)
Objectives of the project

To develop Public Health English language course –which transcends the regular foreign language teaching and learning, makes it vocationally and professionally specific filling the gap between the language proficiency and professional proficiency in a foreign language

  • procedure for measuring the language needs(NAQ)
  • Public Health Dictionary covering seven PH disciplines both web-based and printed version
  • Public Health teaching program based on modules both web-based, printed with teachers’ manual
  • Tool which measures formally and informally acquired language competences Formal/Informal English Language Competence Acquisition Test (FIEL-CAT)
  • Integrating content and language
  • Multidisciplinary
  • Theory driven
  • Three actor perspective
  • Participatory
The project addresses:
  • Public Health students
  • Students of health related disciplines,
  • Public health teachers and trainers,
  • Language teachers
  • Information and library professionals
  • Public health professionals
  • Higher education establishments

country coordinators

Integrating content

and language

Working Groups

Coordination IPH JU







& UK



& PL



& LT



& NL




Needs Analysis






How medical library staff can be involved in decreasing language barriers?
  • Participation in the multidisciplinary project team
  • Being a part of the study on language needs analysis
  • Seeking on line resources which can facilitate content language teaching
  • Being involved in glossary development and terminology lists
  • Taking part in the assessment
2. Being a part of the study on language needs analysis
  • Target needs– what learners believe they need
  • Real current needs– what learners actually need the language for
  • Future, hypothetical needs – what learners may want the language for at some time in future
NA Study Design

The study addressed: content teachers, students, professionals and library specialists

The study assumed a mixed method approach (quan+qual) (Morse 2005)

NA questionnaire + open questions

Focus group interview

Results Qual:
  • Current needs

Specialised terminology(health discipline and information science),reading texts, indexing documents, basic communication, communication with other library professionals, ability to use specialised terms in the right context

  • Obstacles to fulfil current needs

Lack of: specialised courses for librarians, learning materials, specific dictionaries easy to use; difficult terminology, too low general English proficiency level, nobody to talk to, lack of time

  • Future needs

Ability to present in public,communication with native speakers, scientific communication, understanding content literature, acquiring information, continuous education, educating users

Preferred way of improving language skills

interactive course, e-learning,talking with a native speaker, going abroad for a scholarship, translating terms, using easily accessible and interesting internet resources

3.Seeking on- line resources which can facilitate content language teachingrepresenting:


  • Epidemiology & BiostatisticsHealth Policy
  • Economics & Finance
  • Environmental Health &Occupational Medicine
  • Health Promotion
  • Law & Ethics
  • Management
4. Being involved in the glossary development

Step I: developing a list of terms based on the on-line resources,identification of PH specialist terms in a sample of scientific articles representing 7 fields by students and specialists in Poland, Holland and Lithuania,adding the MeSH terms.

Step II: assigning discipline codes to the developed terms by experts and splitting the list into 7 specialist glossaries,

Step III: adding missing terms, unifying the definitions using quality criteria, reduction of overlaps, „Master lists” developed.

Step IV: adding short definitions in PL, LT using existent MesHtranslations,

Step V: language and dictionary experts adaptation, expert evaluation.

How English teaching resourcessuch as specialized teaching texts and glossaries can be used by medical library professionals and users?
  • English for Public Health in theElectronic Learning Environment
  • Self-study using on-line course
  • Access to vocabulary lists
  • Taking advantage of the developed resources in courses organized for medical librarians

aanbieden van syllabus

  • cursusorganisatie & communicatie
  • multimediale ondersteuning van zelfstudie
  • aanvullende tools
Advantages of multidsciplinary multicultural collaboration of library professionals
  • Getting acquainted with PH terminology,
  • Becoming more effective in searching Public Health field resulting in better and professional information support for the library users
  • Enhancing professional performance by the possibility of accessing the learning resources
  • Increasing language proficiency of the library professionals through participation in the project
  • Participation in international projects improves language competencies,
  • Library and information scientists should be an important and integral part of projects carried out by institutions,
  • Interdisciplinarity of library specialists requires the development of various specialist discipline language competences
integrating content and language teaching, bringing together Public Health specialists, English Language teachers andspecialists, library and information professionals in the development of teaching and learning materials contributes to creating a multi-purpose, dynamic, open, flexible, user-friendly and non-dogmatic learning and working environment