Tuesday, November 11, 2008

ESP: English For Specific Needs

Epsilonians.... a directive from your KJ (not Khairy Jamaludin), read on....

English suited for specific needs


MY LAST article on gender-free language generated a lot of discussion and even questions. One question that was raised was “What is ESP?”

I rejoiced at the question because it is a subject that is close to my heart and a topic that I believe needs some discussion.

If people are about to enter university in a country where they will pursue tertiary studies in English, there is the strong possibility that they will attend an English course that is designed to help them become more comfortable with language that is used in their particular course – English for Academic Purposes.

However, since the 1970s (some theorists argue it was the 1960s) when English for Specific Purposes [ESP] was introduced, this term (while still in use) has been replaced by a myriad of courses some of which are entitled:

·English for Business
·English for Nursing
·English for Hospitality
·English for Law
·English for Finance and so on ... The list is growing longer as I write (and as ESOL book publishers wake up to the reality that more and more people want to learn English for their specific purpose)!

These different courses or syllabuses are designed to meet the needs of learners who want to learn how to be able to speak and write in the context of their work rather than the standard General English which, in my opinion (and maybe a little unfairly) doesn’t say very much about its real ‘purpose’ particularly for working adults.

Interestingly enough, to cater for the increasing demand for English that is directly related to work, some examination bodies such as the University of Cambridge ESOL have even introduced examinations that test learners on their ability to use English in these different contexts.

For example, a recent addition is International Certificate in Financial English.
The oft-repeated statement “English continues to gather momentum around the world as the language of international communication” is no less true now and will continue to be repeated again and again as our world shrinks — particularly for vocational and professional purposes.
I am often told, “I want my employees to communicate in English.” To me, this means that they need to improve their English writing and speaking skills. My response generally is, “Tell me a little bit more about your organisation, the industry and the nature of their work so we can provide material that is directly related to their work or their future careers as General English may not be as effective for your employees.”

For example, every industry has its own vocabulary. One might even call it “Specialist Vocabulary” because it is specific to a particular type of work and relates directly to the needs of the learners.

Let me share with you an example. At my age, one tends to spend a little time in hospitals being checked for potential health hazards. So, you spend a few hours in the Reception areas of different departments looking around, reading and listening ... particularly if you are curious about everything.

All around, there are posters that read “International Patient Assistance” and you notice that the “patients” are of different nationalities. You hear different languages spoken and you realise that the hospital is now an international organisation.
The slogans almost sound like “Make Malaysia your health care destination” rather than “holiday” destination!

This means that they are catering for people from all over the world and must ensure that their employees are able to truly speak to their “customers” explaining procedures and services available, giving directions, explaining the use of equipment, etc, and even understanding the cultural differences without the use of an interpreter.

Another good example – some colleges are offering courses to students who are preparing to work in the hospitality industry. They learn different skills relating to the different areas or departments of the hotel – for example, using the hotel reservation system. But can they get their message across to English-speaking guests or understand their needs? Are they able to use more than the standard expressions of greeting, thanking, etc? Can they respond when the guest throws a curve ball at them or simply asks questions that are not in the manual?
In my mind, if we are truly serious about building confidence in our students’ ability to become more confident in English, we need to help them discover and explore English for their specific purpose.

I say, “It is time we started digging deeper into finding the English that is best suited for our specific needs!”

copy&paste from here

next post - auto publish in an hour (8:30am today)

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