English for artificial intelligence specialists

I used to teach university students, whose major was Artificial Intelligence. English wasn’t the main subject for them, however, they had to read professional and academic literature and listen to different lectures in English as most of the information on this topic is in English. And sometimes they even had to give presentations on this topic. Moreover, half of them were planning to take Master’s degree abroad so they had to develop their Academic English skills. I realized I couldn’t take a general course for them and had to tailor…from scratch. How to do it?

Step 1

First of all, I tested the group to see their level. They were Upper-Intermediate students.

Step 2

Then, I created a syllabus. We had 3 hours (4 academic hours) of English per week. I included General English topics for grammar and vocabulary, Academic English exercises and English for Artificial Intelligence.

The syllabus

→I always sent students articles and videos on Artificial Intelligence as homework and we started every lesson with the discussion of what they’ve read and listened to, what they’ve learnt, what else they know on this topic. We compared how it’s similar or different to what’s going on in Russia and so on.

I looked for articled and videos on such websites as Elsevier, The New York Times, The Scientist, The Guardian, New Scientist, Science Daily, BBC, Robotics tomorrow, TED, Ed.TED and many others. I chose them as the language and the material is modern and contemporary. This area is progressing so quickly, probably, like no other, so to keep up you need to be aware of everything what’s going on in this sphere, what new technologies are being developed. Moreover, it enriches the vocabulary on a familiar topic. From time to time the students sent me the material they found interesting or they had to read or listen to for their major subjects and we worked with it as well.

→ Frequently I asked them to prepare presentations on the topics they’re interested in or have to deal with in their studies. For example, Machine Learning, Robotics, Computer vision, Natural Language Processing, AI in English language learning, Internet of Things, Recommender Systems, etc. And they really enjoyed sharing and discussing new information with others. In addition, this kind of Project-based work really enhanced their speaking, listening, reading, writing skills along with presentation, analytical, and synthetic skills.

→ I also included Academic English activities to give the student practice with academic vocabulary and develop their research and critical thinking skills. I used Oxford Academic Vocabulary Practice, Q Skills for success, Oxford EAP.  I think Academic English is highly important for all university students as they have to do a lot of academic work: read literature, listen to lectures, write essays and assignments, give presentations. And to do this properly they do need a good knowledge of language and certain skills, such as skimming, scanning, doing research in English and etc.

→ Combining General, Academic English and English for Artificial Intelligence really helped my students when they had to deal with English outside of the classroom: give real presentations on conferences and seminars on Artificial Intelligence, continue their studies, do research work and many other things.

I also recommend you have a look at some AI programmes in international universities. There can be free online video courses and lectures as in MIT, for example. You can set a discussion about one particular lecture or divide the videos among the students to watch and share with others. Podcasts are a good resource for discussion and vocabulary building too. You can find the lists here and here.

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