Investigating tasks in the context of business English : sources of difficulty and motivation from the learner’s perspective

Suk Ching Chan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Although communicative tasks are widely used in teaching such business English topics as meetings and negotiating, not many studies have explored how learners perceive these tasks. In the field of second language acquisition (SLA), a great deal of research has been conducted on tasks in general. However, research on business English tasks is rarely found in the literature either of SLA or of English for specific purposes (ESP). To fill this research gap, the present study examines task-based language learning in business English contexts. Specifically, it investigates some sources of difficulty and motivation that are associated with task-based language learning on a business English course and explores learners’ perceptions surrounding four tasks in the form of business meeting role-plays. Data for the study include pre- and post-task questionnaires and retrospective interviews. The study shows that learners’ perceptions of task difficulty and their motivation to work on a task are influenced not only by the design features of the task, but also by learner factors, such as their own motives, life histories and prior learning experiences. The study also shows that sociocultural SLA is highly relevant to research on task-based language learning in an ESP context and that future sociocultural studies of tasks can benefit from the use of task typologies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-63
Number of pages26
JournalLSP journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Business English
  • Business meeting role-plays
  • Task-based language learning
  • Task difficulty
  • Task motivation
  • Learner perceptions


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