English for Specific Purposes (ESP) is an approach to English language teaching which focuses on certain professional or academic contexts and settings. It has become increasingly popular in recent years as an effective way of teaching English to learners with specific career or educational objectives. In this article we’ll discuss what ESP is and how you can teach it.
What is English for Specific Purposes?
English for Specific Purposes refers to the teaching and learning of English language skills for specific academic or professional purposes. Its function is to help learners develop the language skills they need to communicate effectively in specific fields or professions, such as business, engineering, or medicine.
ESP students typically fall into two categories. They are either in higher education and need to use English to study a particular subject or field. Or they are professionals who need to use English in their work, such as doctors, lawyers, or business executives.
As a result, students wanting to study ESP can come from a variety of different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. They can also have vastly different levels of English language proficiency. However, one thing they do have in common is that they all tend to be non-native speakers who are learning English as a second or foreign language.
Nevertheless, ESP should not be confused with ESL. The meaning of ESL is English as a Second Language. Teaching ESL refers to the teaching of English as a second language to non-native speakers in native English speaking countries. ESL is therefore a general term. The topics of the lessons can be very broad and cover all areas of English learning.
In contrast, ESP is focused on a specific subject area that the student wants to improve in. This is reflected in its content and teaching methods.
Examples of English for Specific Purposes
English for Aviation
English for aviation is a specialized form of English used in the aviation industry. This is for communication between pilots, air traffic controllers, and ground crew. It is standardized internationally to ensure that all pilots and air traffic controllers can understand one another, regardless of their native language.
English for aviation lessons are designed to teach students the specific language and terminology used in the aviation industry. They can include topics such as standard phraseology, communication techniques, and language skills needed for effective communication in the aviation environment.
English for Banking
English for banking is unsurprisingly for use in the banking industry. It can include topics such as financial terminology, customer service language, and communication skills that are specific to the banking industry.
It is taught through training programs specifically designed for bankers and other finance professionals. The primary aim is to improve communication between bank employees, customers, and other stakeholders.
English for Hospitality
English for hospitality is for hospitality professionals, such as hotel staff and restaurant employees. It can include topics such as customer service language, hotel industry terminology, and communication skills specific to the hospitality industry itself.
The common goal of most ESP courses on English for hospitality is to improve communication between hotel staff, guests, and customers.
English for Medicine
English for medicine focuses on the communication between healthcare professionals and patients. Doctors, nurses and other medical staff often require classes if they plan on going to work abroad in an English speaking country. Non-native speaking students attending medical school can also benefit from English for Medicine classes.
In medicine, effective communication is essential for providing high-quality patient care. English for medicine can include topics such as medical terminology, patient communication skills, and language used in medical documentation. These skills can be taught in English language courses or training programs specifically designed for healthcare professionals.
Medical English can be a challenge for students, especially when it comes to learning medical terminologies. However, with the right teaching strategies you can make a major difference and help them memorize what they need to.
English for Tourism
Travel agents, tour guides and hotel staff usually study English for tourism, but it can equally be studied by non-native speakers planning on traveling and working abroad. It can include topics such as customer service language and tourism industry terminology.
Legal English, also known as English for legal purposes or legal language, is a specialized form of English used in the legal field for communication between legal professionals. Think lawyers and barristers.
Legal English is used internationally to ensure that all parties involved in legal proceedings can understand one another, regardless of their native language. It can include topics such as legal terminology, drafting legal documents, and communication skills specific to the legal industry.
Learn how to teach Legal English.
Other Notable Mentions
Business English and English for Academic Purposes are also ESP courses. However, these are big enough fields to be recognized under their own categories and TEFL acronyms.
How to teach English for Specific Purposes
ESP is all about designing and delivering course material that is tailored to the specific needs of English students in a particular specialized field or profession.
Within an ESP course, ESP lessons generally involve teaching English learners the vocabulary and language used in these specialized fields. So, rather than focusing on teaching grammar and language structures, it concentrates more on language in the context of the specific subject. More general English learning is then integrated within this. This works well because the goal of ESP is to help learners communicate effectively and accurately in their chosen field or profession using the English language.
To this end, ESP combines subject matter and English language teaching. Such a combination is highly motivating because students are able to apply what they learn in their English classes to their main field of study or work. Being able to use the vocabulary and structures that they learn in a meaningful context only reinforces what is taught in class. This increases their desire to learn more.
To teach English for Specific Purposes effectively, you need to tap into this. So, the first thing you need to do is to establish the objectives of the student. The best way to do this is by having an initial consultation with them and then doing a needs analysis. The needs analysis identifies which language skills are most important to them within their specific subject. The lessons can then be designed accordingly.
For example, an ESP program could emphasize the development of communication skills in students who are preparing to work in the legal profession. Alternatively, it might promote the development of specific vocabulary if the student is involved in banking.
You can always check with the students if they like your proposed syllabus. Students studying any form of ESP are usually there for their jobs or studies. This makes them keen to learn and progress towards their specific purpose. As a result of this, they’ll often be willing to provide feedback that can help you enhance the lessons.
Should you teach English for Specific Purposes?
Teaching English for specific purposes can be a rewarding and interesting way to teach English as a second language. It also happens to be a lucrative form of teaching English if you have expertise within a particular niche. And, even if you don’t currently possess sufficient expertise there is nothing stopping you identifying a niche and learning it. Yes, you may require additional training to acquire specialized knowledge and teach effectively, but a number of TEFL course providers offer specific courses for this.
If you can offer your English teaching services within a niche, this can help make you a lot more marketable. People with specific needs look for specialists, and English students are no different. So, if you ever plan to go freelance as an independent English teacher, ESP is a great option. By creating a brand around you and your offering, it is much easier to create a unique teacher website or profile that students are drawn to.
ESPecially for You
In summary, teaching ESP could be a good fit for you if you have a background in a specific field or are interested in helping students achieve specific language goals. However, it is important to keep in mind that teaching ESP often requires a more specialized knowledge base. This may require additional training, but if you are willing to put in the effort the rewards can be great.
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