I have been supervising MA TESOL and Applied Linguistics students this summer as they write their dissertations and I have most recently been marking them. May of the students have focussed on ESP (both EAP and EOP) for their research, but most of them have concentrated on general English (EGP). I also attended a Business English conference in the summer. I saw some interesting presentations at the conference and have have seen some interesting MA studies and it has made me realise that the distinction between EGP and ESP may not be so clear.
Many general English teachers or courses seem to take the needs and interests of the students very seriously and try to tailor the courses to match these needs. They consider what they are doing to be general English. In contrast many ESP (EAP and EOP) courses or teachers do not. They often seem to take a published EOP or EAP textbook and use it without a proper needs analysis. They think that is what ESP is. I have often wondered why, for example, English for hotel workers is considered to be ESP, but English for tourists staying in the hotel is not!
So it would seem to me that the important distinction we need to make is not between ESP and EGP, but between teachers and courses that take the interests and needs of their students seriously and those that do not.
ESP books are rare, but Routledge have recently published a series called: Routledge Introductions to English for Specific Purposes, edited by Brian Paltridge and Sue Starfield – well know joint editors of the Handbook for English for Specific Purposes (Wiley, 2013).
According to the blurb: Routledge Introductions to English for Specific Purposes provide a comprehensive and contemporary overview of various topics within the area of English for specific purposes, written by leading academics in the field. Aimed at postgraduate students in applied linguistics, English language teaching and TESOL, as well as pre- and in-service teachers, these books outline the issues that are central to understanding and teaching English for specific purposes, and provide examples of innovative classroom tasks and techniques for teachers to draw on in their professional practice. Continue reading →
At the ESP Special Interest Group (SIG) meeting at the IATEFL conference in Brighton this year, there seemed to be some lack of agreement as to whether EAP was a type of ESP. This was shown in several presentations – and committee discussions – when ESP seemed to be contrasted with EAP. People would say and write things such as “In ESP and EAP” and “it is true in ESP, but what about EAP?”
In a piece of work that a student handed in recently, I found the following sentences. The assignment was for a research methods course and the task was to analyse some questionnaire data using IBM SPSS Statistics. Continue reading →
I have recently received a large amount of work from my students of international business that is very messy, very badly organised – pages in the wrong order, tables not fitting on the page, even pages upside down and at 90 degrees. I have been wondering why. Most of the students I am thinking of were second or third language speakers of English and there seemed to be an inverse correlation between English language competence and quality of presentation of work , but I do not think it is direct. It has reminded me of several other experiences I have had and I wonder if there is a connection. Continue reading →
I remember a number of years ago, after a morning of evaluating student oral presentations with a colleague and wondering why they sometimes said strange things, I mentioned that it seemed to me that people lost their common sense when they were speaking a language they were not very confident in. My colleague – who was a good linguist and had never experiences such issues – disagreed. Continue reading →
I’ve often quoted Frank Smith when discussing writing. In Writing and the writer, Smith distinguishes between “composition” and “transcription” in writing. “Composition” is deciding what you want to say, and “transcription” is what you have to do to say it. His advice is “The rule is simple: Composition and transcription must be separated, and transcription must come last. It is asking too much of anyone, and especially of students trying to improve all aspects of their writing ability, to expect that they can concern themselves with polished transcription at the same time that they are trying to compose. The effort to concentrate on spelling, handwriting, and punctuation at the same time that one is struggling with ideas and their expression not only interferes with composition but creates the least favorable situation in which to develop transcription skills as well” (Smith, 1982, p. 24).
After watching Juzo Itami’s 1995 film Shizukana seikatsu (A quiet life) recently I decided to read Nobel prize winner Kenzaburu Oe – on whose novel the film is based. In his novel The Changeling, he deals with a similar situation: Continue reading →
I’ve just returned from the IATEFL English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Special Interest Group (SIG) Pre-Conference Event (PCE) in Birmingham, UK.
The theme of the PCE was tensions and debates in ESP and EAP.
As usual it was a very interesting day with teachers from many parts of the world discussing how they go about trying to meet the academic and professional linguistic needs of their students, sometimes with limited resources. Continue reading →
I’ve been asked to give a short talk at the next BALEAP PIM on the the history of BALEAP PIMs (Professional Issues Meetings). As I was preparing this, I thought it would be interesting to see how the topics, as shown by the titles of the presentations, have changed over the years. Continue reading →