LSP4EMP Conference

Photo by Najib Samatar on Unsplash

Conference: LSP4Employability Conference AKA Languages for Specific Purposes for Employability Conference

Date: 10 & 11 May 2022

Location: Université libre de Bruxelles, Solbosch Campus, Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management 

Images in this post are used with permission and are by Jean-François Desoutter unless otherwise stated. 


This conference formed part of the activities of the LSP for Employability project conducted by Université libre de Bruxelles in Brussels, Belgium; Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies in Jelgava, Latvia; and WSB University in Toruń, Poland.

LSP means Languages for Specific Purposes, for example, legal English and medical English.  Students who study LSP are studying language suitable for their area of study or for work. This project looked at how to design LSP curricula in a way which enhances the employability of students. 

In this write up I’ve tried to give an accurate overview of the talks I attended, if you are an author of a talk and have any comments to add (or photos) please do so in the comment section below or drop me an email:

Welcome session

Presenter: David Best (Université libre de Bruxelles, Academic Coordinator for English – ULB Langues, Brussels)

David Best gave a warm introduction to the conference and set out the agenda for the two days.  David’s conference-organising experience gained throughout his presidency of the European Legal English Teachers Association (EULETA) clearly paid off; the conference was well-organised, with a good balance of time for presentations and networking.

Sessions ran in parallel with participants choosing to attend whichever sessions they preferred. Having recently read The Culture Map by Erin Meyer (which I highly recommend), I chose to attend many of the sessions on culture. This was incidentally also the easy option of staying in the same room throughout the conference.

Talks which I unfortunately missed which were happening in the other room were:

  • Jean-François Desoutter (ULB): Languages and careers
  • Anna Vintere and Ilze Laurinaite (Education Innovations Transfer Centre, Latvia): Comparative study on professional English language skills for better performance
  • Eva Rudolfová ( Masaryk University, Czechia): Creating an employability-centered course curriculum
  • Magdalena Zubiel (WSB University, Poland): The role of personal experience in the neural processing of action-related language
  • Seadna O’Maoldomhnaigh (Institut Mines-Télécom Business School, France): World of Warcraft – A gamified approach to teaching English for professional purposes
  • Jessica van Ginneken (ULB): The modular Dutch course for the master’s in economics
  • Dita Hochmanová (Masaryk University, Czechia): Designing a task-based course for special educators
  • Anna Wasilewska (University of Gdansk, Poland): Skills of the future – how we should teach English for higher employability

Skilling the self: Language skills for employable graduates 

Presenter: Simon O’Donovan Teacher Trainer & Educator for English as a Second Language
– ULB Langues, Brussels)

Simon stated that his students were increasingly anxious about what skills they need to enter an increasingly uncertain job market. Simon advocated for using democratic teaching methods to allow students to have a say in setting their own curriculum. Simon described how he uses authentic texts in his own teaching (referring to techniques of entextualisation and indexing) but highlighted that as teachers, we must be aware that students place a level of importance on these texts which may not be warranted. 

Training learners for lifelong learning: a case study of an autonomous ESP course 

Presenter:  Kelsey Hull (English Language and Pedagogical Advisor – ULB Langues, Brussels)

Kelsey showed how she developed an online course on Moodle for architect students at ULB when LSP became a requirement for the course. Students for this new ESP course were given a set of objectives and asked to rank which ones were important for them. This in turn defined how they would study. They could access a range of activities online, and they engaged in reflective activities for assessment. 

How to improve your communication skills to succeed in a culturally diverse workplace 

Presenter: Ewa Krawczyk, (Bydgoszcz University of Science and Technology, Poland)

Ewa shared her personal experience of working in multi-cultural environments and explained how is difficult to separate language and culture as language and culture are intertwined – referring to Agar, M.H. (2017). Culture: How to Make it Work in the World of Hybrids. New York, Rowman & Littlefield.

Therefore cultural competence is an important aspect of language learning and essential for work.  She shared her tips on improving communication in a culturally diverse workplace. For example, she stressed that sometimes inappropriate use of language, e.g. being direct in a culture that has a preference for indirect communication, could lead to misunderstandings and conflict. 

Promoting cross-cultural awareness in the professional English course in business administrative studies

Presenter: Tatjana Sinkus (Latvia University Life Sciences and Technologies) 

Tatjana stressed the need for cultural competence in the workplace and presented how she teaches cultural awareness in her course. For example, one exercise she does with students is to consider the ‘cultural iceberg’ where students brainstorm what aspects of culture are visible and invisible and how to deal with these differences. 

The cultural iceberg comes from a theorist called Edward T. Hall, you can find out more about it here.

Unlock your cultural intelligence with the Gapsmoov culture decoder

Presenters: Thibaut Issindou and Louis Pruvost (Gapsmoov)

This presentation showcased the impressive Gapsmoov Culture Decoder. This is a digital learning platform for intercultural management. On the platform, you can compare your own culture to the culture of another and see where differences lie. You can then watch videos to make educate yourself on the differences to ensure better communication. 

Keynote speaker

Presenter: Tatjana Babrauskiene (Employment, Social Affairs & Citizenship (EESC) Head of International Relations (Lithuanian Education & Science Trade Union))

Tatjana explained about her work and discussed the need for students to be equipped with relevant skills for employment. She also described a Commission initiative to develop individual learning accounts and the use of micro-credentials in the EU. Further info here

University training in Spanish as a Foreign Language (SFL) for future professionals

Presenter: Magdalena Jimenez (Universita’ di Roma Tre & “Tor Vergata”, Italy)

Magdalena showed a project she runs with her Spanish and Italian students in Italy. Students are tasked with creating a video news report with a partner and the results are that students use creativity, language skills, and develop cross-cultural awareness. 

Foreign languages and employability in the European Union 

Presenter: Paulina Pietrzyk-Kowalec (WSB University in Warsaw, Poland) 

 Paulina gave a speech about the importance of languages and soft skills for employability. 

Teaching English for networking: using small talk to build professional relationships 

Presenter: Louise Kulbicki (me!) and Natasha Costello 

I co-presented with Natasha with the aim to provide some practical activities that teachers could use in their own classes when teaching small talk. The activities were adapted from our forthcoming book – Practical English Language Skills for Lawyers: Improving Your Legal English.


I didn’t manage to catch a photo of us presenting – so here we are in the main square in Brussels! (Photo my own). 

Showcasing LSP4Emp output materials & panel discussion

Magdalena Zawiszewska gave an introduction to the project highlighting how the project had emerged during a coffee break at a conference in Krakow. After a successful application for ERASMUS+ funding, the teams held events, carried out research, and produced e-learning materials.

I was particularly interested to learn that according to their research, employers rate the following skills highly:  participating in meetings, networking, dealing with clients, writing correspondence, talking on the phone, gathering information and carrying out research, and reading specialist texts. These are skills Natasha and I have included in our forthcoming book. We had decided to include these skills in our book due to our experience of what our students often request us to teach in our legal English lessons. So it was reassuring to also see research confirming our choices.  

Following this introduction, each team presented a module they had created for the e-learning materials. The research results and activities are published in the Teacher’s Manual available for free here and you can also find the three modules online here

Universite Libre de Bruxelles

David Albert Best, PhD, Assistant Professor
Hugh Murphy, a lecturer
Alexander Hugh Raymond, a lecturer
Alexander Tabor, a lecturer

This team presented their module aimed at getting a job with a range of online activities related to job applications and interviews. They highlighted some resources teachers can use to make lessons more interactive:

Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies

Inese Ozola, PhD, Assistant Professor
Joseph Jack Horgan, a lecturer
Tatjana Sinkus, PhD, Assistant Professor
Baiba Pusinska, a lecture
Ilze Laurinaite, a lecturer

This team presented their module on cross-cultural communication. They showed a range of activities such as videos with scenarios highlighting cultural differences. 

WSB University in Toruń

Agnieszka Chęś, PhD
Agnieszka Rosińska, a lecturer

Magdalena Zawiszewska, a lecturer
Magdalena Zubiel, PhD, Assistant Professor

This team presented their module on teamwork and creativity. There are activities on design thinking and exercises related to working remotely. 

Keynote speakers

Presenter: Valter Mavrič (Directorate-General for Translation, European Parliament) 

Valter explained how the Directorate-General for Translation operates. He explained how the work has changed over time as nowadays, translators don’t simply work on paper, they also produce podcasts and videos. 
Valter explained that there is a commitment to publish materials in plain language and that a challenge is firstly, what plain language means across 24 different countries and cultures. 
Valter shared some helpful resources:
You can follow the DG for Translation here on Twitter: @translation_eu 

Presenter: Ana Carla Pereira (Expert: Employment and Social Adviser, European Commission (Cabinet of Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights)

Ana highlighted the need for languages in employment. She mentioned that employers increasingly require employees to have language skills and that statistics show that employees with language skills are generally better paid. She cited some statistics which are available on the European Centre for Development and Vocational Training, Skills Intelligence ‘Skills Panorama’ website

After the conference

Following the conference, we went to La Brouette restaurant, in the heart of Brussels Grand Place and ate traditional Belgian food. This was followed by a cultural walking tour of some key sites.