|English for Specific Purposes (ESP): Teaching English for Specific Purposes (Peace Corps, 1986, 110 p.)|
|Chapter One The teacher, the student, and English for specific purposes|
If you have had previous experience as a teacher of English as a
Foreign Language (EFL), your first question on receiving your current assignment
to teach ESP may be: "How is ESP different from EFL?" The major difference
between ESP and EFL lies in the learners and their purposes for learning
English. ESP students are adults who already have some familiarity with English
and are learning the language in order to communicate a set of professional
skills and to perform particular job-related functions. An ESP program is
therefore built on an assessment of purposes and needs and the functions for
which English is required .
ESP is part of a larger movement within language teaching away from a concentration on teaching grammar and language structures to an emphasis on language in context. ESP covers subjects ranging from accounting or computer science to tourism and business management. The ESP focus means that English is not taught as a subject divorced from the students' real world; instead, it is integrated into a subject matter area important to the learners.
EFL and ESP differ not only in the nature of the learner, but also in the scope of the goals of instruction. Whereas in EFL all four language skills; listening, reading, speaking, and writing, are stressed equally, in ESP a needs assessment determines which language skills are most needed by the students, and the program is focused accordingly. An ESP program, might, for example, stress the development of reading skills in students who are preparing for graduate work in engineering; or it might stress the development of conversational skills in students who are studying English in order to become tour guides.
ESP integrates subject matter and English language instruction. Such a combination is highly motivating because students are able to apply what they learn in their English classes to their major field of study, whether it be computer science, accounting, business management, economics, or tourism. Being able to use the vocabulary and structures that they learn in a meaningful context reinforces what is taught and increases students' motivation.
The students' abilities in their subject-matter fields, in turn, enhance their ability to acquire English. Subjectmatter knowledge gives them the context they need to understand the English of the classroom. The ESP class takes subject-matter content and shows students how the same information is expressed in English. The teacher can exploit the students' knowledge of the subject matter in helping them learn English faster.
Figure 1 summarizes what is meant by English for Specific Purposes. The "specific" in ESP refers to the specific purpose for learning. Students approach the learning of English through a field that is already known and relevant to them. This means that they are able to use what they learn in the ESP classroom right away in their work and studies. The ESP approach enhances the relevance of what the students are learning and enables them to use the English they know to learn even more English, since their interest in their field will motivate them to interact with speakers and texts.