What is English for Specific Purposes and How Do I Teach It?
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TEFL. TOEFL. TOEIC. IELTS. EFL. ESL. EAP.
No, this is not a code to decipher or another language. In the field of English Language education, there are more acronyms and abbreviations than there are banana pancakes in Thailand. It can be downright confusing if you’ve just got a handle on the difference between EFL and ESL to then suddenly find there are loads more acronyms and abbreviations out there that you have absolutely no idea about. Even if you have already done a TEFL course you might not know what they all mean. In this piece we will ask what is English for Specific Purposes and how do I teach it?
Today, we’re going to talk about just one of these little guys that you might come across on your TEFL journey: ESP. ESP stands for extra-sensory perception….uh, except in this case. In the TEFL world, ESP stands for English for Specific Purposes and you might have to teach it at some point in your career. How can you teach a class you know nothing about? Don’t worry, you probably do, but you just don’t know you do.
What is English for Specific Purposes?
In a nutshell, an ESP course is a course which teaches the students English related to a specific discipline. This is in contrast to teaching General English which focuses on the English needed to communicate in general everyday situations. Rather it looks at the language used in a particular situation. This includes the language used in the discipline, the content and any related customs or practices.
Of course, a student learning English for a specific purpose will likely also need to know how to use and understand English in a more general context, but this is a secondary concern for these classes.
Who needs English for Specific Purposes?
English language learners who take ESP classes do so for a very specific purpose. They have a particular language goal in mind, related to their lives and often their jobs. ESP students already have some foundation of the language and are usually adults with higher levels of English. These students are usually highly motivated because their goal is clear. Many times, their work will depend on their English proficiency. As a result, their motivation and dedication levels are high.
Examples of ESP classes are English for Aviation (for air traffic controllers or pilots), English for Hospitality (for hotel staff), English for Tourism (for travel agents and tour guides), English for Medicine (for nurses, doctors and other medical staff), English for Banking, and Legal English. Business English and English for Academic Purposes are ESP courses but they are mainstream so have their own categories.
How to teach English for Specific Purposes
The first need that is important in an ESP class is a needs analysis. A needs analysis will tell the teacher exactly what language and skills the students need to know and why they need to know it. It will provide a background for the teacher so they have a better understanding of the necessity of the classes for their students. ESP classes will often focus on a particular language skill or particular language points, which is in contrast to General English classes which will be sure to include all four skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.
In contrast, ESP classes are more focused on specific language and contexts rather than grammar and language structures. In other words, instead of teaching the present perfect for past experiences, or phrasal verbs, an English for Hospitality teacher will focus on functional language such as greetings or dealing with customer problems. Any language work that comes out will be a result of necessity rather than focus.
One important aspect of teaching ESP which you must remember is that these lessons are essential for the learners for their daily lives. While they will naturally be highly motivated, they will expect you to be professional and knowledgeable. They will want to enjoy the learning situation but they will not want to do activities without a clear purpose or without a direct relation to their goal. They will also expect to see results. In other words, ESP classes are generally more serious than other classes – but that doesn’t mean they have to be boring!
Can I teach English for Specific Purposes?
There is no reason any TEFL teacher cannot teach any ESP class. There is no need to panic if you find yourself about to teach an ESP course related to a field you know nothing about. You do not need to have any experience in that field – just like you don’t need to be a businessman or –woman to teach Business English – though of course it will help if you do. If you don’t, all you need to do is do your research. These days there are books dedicated to specific ESP courses which you can use to identify the language and the skills needed for that particular class and as the basis for your lessons, just as you would any General English coursebook.
Read more: Can Only Businessmen Teach Business English?
Resources for teaching English for Specific Purposes
OneStopEnglish has a comprehensive section dedicated to teaching ESP. There are lesson plans related to English for Aviation, Oil, Marketing, Sales, Human Resources and many others. Some of the lessons require a subscription to access (which is a worthwhile investment), while others are free.
Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Macmillan are just three major publishers which offer coursebooks for many different ESP courses, as well as resources for Continuous Professional Development and online resources. Many other publishers do as well.
National Geographic Learning provides a number of online resources not only for General English but for Exam Preparation, Business English and ESP courses too.
Considerations when teaching English for Specific Purposes
Teaching ESP is a bit of a juggling act; it’s not the same as teaching a General English class. For the most part, you won’t be familiar with the content, which means you will have to do loads more research and preparation before your classes. The language is really important and, in some cases, can mean the difference between keeping and losing a job (in hospitality, for instance) or even life and death (in medicine or aviation). So it is vital that your students walk out of your classes with high levels of accuracy. Also, there might not be as much support in your institution with regards to your ESP classes, because there is a chance no one has taught that particular class before. Again the onus is on you as the teacher to find the resources that you need and prepare as best you can.
Teaching English for Specific Purposes can be tricky but it’s totally doable. Any TEFL teacher with the correct training will be able to handle an ESP class, if that means teaching air traffic controllers from Reunion, security guards from Angola or electrical engineers from South Korea.
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- If you think Everything TEFL Ltd has processed your personal information unlawfully.
If you think any of the above situations apply, we may ask you for an explanation and further information to verify this.
Right to object to processing
You have the right to object to the Everything TEFL Ltd processing your personal data in the following circumstances:
Personal information used for direct marketing
If we are using your personal information to send you direct marketing, you have the right to object at any time. If you exercise this right, we will stop processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes. However, we may keep your information on a “suppression list” to ensure your information is not added to any marketing lists at some point in the future.
Automated decision making and profiling
- ‘Profiling’ is the automated use of personal data held on a computer to analyse or predict things that have a legal effect, or other similarly significant effects, on the individual. Examples would include economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests and location. You have the right not to be subject to a solely automated decision (that is, a decision made electronically, with no human intervention), and this may include profiling (although there is no general right to object to profiling). If you are concerned the Everything TEFL Ltd has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, Everything TEFL Ltd is allowed to carry out automated decisions with no human intervention where you have given your explicit consent to this processing (although you have the right to withdraw your consent).
- We are also permitted to make automated decisions with no human intervention in the following circumstances:
- The automated decision is necessary to enter into, or perform a contract, or complete a contract involving you and the Everything TEFL Ltd.
- The automated decision is allowed under a law passed at the European Union level, or at the level of the European Union or EEA member state level (i.e., is allowed under national law). The law will provide safeguards to protect your rights and freedoms.
However, you still have a general right to object in both of the above circumstances, providing reasons why you think the processing is having a negative effect on you. If you do object, we will carefully consider your reasons, and decide whether to review the decision-making process in your specific case.
Right to data portability
- If you have provided your information to Everything TEFL Ltd, you have the right to request and receive a copy of that information in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format.
- You also have the right to ask us to send the information we hold about you to another organisation.
- There are some situations in which the right to data portability does not apply. For further information, please contact us.
Exercising your rights concerning the processing of your personal information
If you wish to exercise any of the above rights concerning the way in which we process your personal information, please contact:
Risk Management Team
Everything TEFL Ltd
28 – 32 Pembroke Street,
Republic of Ireland
Telephone: +353 (1) 554 6227
Email: [email protected]
Your right to complain to a national data protection regulator (data protection supervisory authority)
- If you think we have processed your personal information unfairly or unlawfully, or we have not complied with your rights under GDPR, you have the right to complain to a national data protection regulator.
- Complaints about how we process your personal information can be considered by the data protection regulator.