Tourism and foreign languages – Sapientia University in Europe
In all respects our region is trying to catch up with western European countries. In regional development, one of the primary issues is to develop local tourism businesses. Szekelyland offers several programmes and organizes events where foreigners, and people who speak foreign languages, are warmly welcome. In order to welcome our guests properly, we must, as hosts, not only provide them with good accommodation and catering, but we also have to provide those who turn to us with full and reliable information. In order to do that, we need to be able to speak foreign languages, or at least, have the right sources which might help us in communicating with foreigners.
As research shows, which has been conducted by the Department of Humanities of Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania, Romania, the staff of local hotels, guest-houses and restaurants– with some exceptions – do not have the necessary foreign-language skills to be able to communicate effectively with their guests. An EU project, in which the Humanities Department of Sapientia University plays an active part, serves to improve this situation, to develop the language skills of those working in the tourism and catering sectors.
In the project, Romania is represented by a group of teachers from the Department, while other participant partners are from Croatia, the co-ordinator of the project, Latvia, Slovenia, Italy and England. The partners’ primary aim is to develop the general and specialized language skills of those employed in tourism and of tourism managers. This is to be done with the help of a web-based learning platform available in 12 languages, where tourism students and workers can find specialized learning material, vocabulary and sets of useful expressions necessary for their work. A further aim of the project is to prepare interactive maps showing three different scenes, typically visited by tourists (a village, a seaside town and a mountain resort) with all the important points of interest and the most important information related to them. These maps will be available in the languages of the six partner countries, as well as six other languages, i.e. in Croatian, Latvian, Slovenian, Italian, English, Hungarian, Romanian, German, French, Greek, Spanish and Russian. If a foreign guest makes enquiries about any of these points of interest, the user (e.g. the receptionist) can click on the relevant spot, and give them the necessary information, in any of the languages. Maybe they would like to know when the local shop is open, the time of Sunday mass, or how much a ski pass costs.
In these three tourist locations, as well as in a restaurant, several hundred typical questions and answers can be found. These will also be available, in all the 12 languages, in the form of computer software and smartphone apps, so that they can be instantly accessed by users when having a conversation with guests from abroad.
The computer software and the smartphone apps were presented by participants of the project to an audience made up of mainly foreign-language teachers, at the campus of Sapientia University in Miercurea Ciuc (Romania). These teachers were personally interested in the project, while many of them also teach secondary school pupils, who will be future employees in the tourism and catering sectors. Several teachers were present from Kájoni János Technological Vocational School, which offers specialized courses for tourism students. Others came from Márton Áron Secondary School, from Venczel József Vocational School, and from Soros Educational Center. Colleagues from Odorhei were also interested in our project.
At the beginning of the meeting, Dr. Zsuzsanna Ajtony, lecturer, the co-ordinator of the Sapientia team, greeted the participants and introduced the representatives of the partner countries. This was followed by a presentation of the project by Hilarija Lozančić Benić, the representative from Croatia. Dr. Ineta Luka, professor at Turiba University from Latvia, presented the results of a needs analysis carried out prior to the start of the project, which was prepared on the basis of the partners’ surveys. After this the Slovenian partners, Erna Vöröš and Dejan Petje, presented the learning material using the Moodle software. It will be open to anyone interested, as a teaching and learning aid both for language teachers and language learners. Finally, the English partner, David Sephton from Primrose Publishing, showed the participants the computer software, the interactive maps and the smartphone apps under construction. The invited teachers put questions to the presenters and were encouraged to try and later use the various materials. The meeting ended with an open discussion.
Dr. Zsuzsanna Ajtony,
lecturer at Department of Humanities,
Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania