ESP and Autism?

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

“EAP is a waste of time”?

In several talks during the last few years, Stephen Krashen has stated that teaching EAP is a waste of time. I like Stephen Krashen and most of what he writes. So if he says that teaching EAP is a waste of time, the only conclusion that I can come to is that he must misunderstand what I think EAP is. As I do not think what I – and other people I know around the world – do is a waste of time! Continue reading

“There really is no need for needs analysis”?

Hugh Dellar – Twenty Things in Twenty Years

At the recent IATEFL conference in Harrogate, Hugh Dellar looked back on 20 years in the classroom and what he had learned. His broadly insightful presentation focused on “20 nuggets of hard-earned wisdom”. You can see it at:

This was a very interesting talk and many of the things he has learned in 20 years are similar to things I have realised – and written and talked about – after nearly 40 years in ELT.

Hugh’s 5th point, though “there really is no need for needs analysis” requires some comment as it is central to what I understand by ESP and EAP.
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EAP and Student Motivation

I have spent most of my life teaching ESP & EAP and in talks that I have given and courses that I have run, I’ve always given three strong reasons for teaching ESP or ESAP as opposed to general English or EGAP. The first is linguistic – different subjects use different language. There is a large amount of research evidence for this – see, for example, Hyland (2011, 2012).  The second is to do with knowledge transfer: the nearer you can get to the student’s ultimate reason for learning English, the more likely it will be that the student will be able to make use of what you are teaching in the new context (see, for example, Dias, Freedman, Medway & Paré, 1999; Willingham, 2007; James, 2014). The third is motivation. This is something that everyone seems to agree with – that students will be more motivated when the English course is directly related to their main subject course or professional needs  –  so I’ve never felt the need to justify it. Students do not see the learning of a subject separately from the learning of the language of that subject: Learning the content of a subject means learning the language of that subject. As Ushioda (1998) points out:

…the language learner, unlike the researcher, seems unlikely to perceive the motivation for language learning to be wholly independent of the motivation (or lack of motivation) for other areas of learning (p. 83).

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Analytic & Synthetic EAP

The title refers back to David Wilkins’s (1976) distinction between analytic and synthetic syllabuses. He argued that a synthetic language teaching strategy was one in which the different parts of the language were taught separately and step-by-step so that acquisition was a process of gradual accumulation of the parts until the whole structure of the language has been built up. The learner’s task was then, therefore,  to re-synthesize the language that has been broken down into smaller pieces with the aim of making his or her learning easier. Continue reading

ESP Training

I did some work for a well-known organisation recently. My job was to investigate ESP teaching in universities in the capital city and make recommendations. I spent a few days driving round the city, meeting teachers, lecturers, administrators, course directors, students, subject lecturers etc. and was generally very impressed. The ESP teachers knew what they were doing. They had talked to students, lecturers and course managers. They had examined students materials. They knew what the students had to read and to write and had analysed the required language and designed their courses accordingly. The only problem I could see was that the various universities did not talk to each other and so the main recommendation I made was that there should be ways in which the universities could talk to each other and share materials and ideas. Continue reading

Teaching EAP for No Obvious Reason.

I have just been reading an article in the latest issue of ELT Journal by Duncan Hunter and Richard Smith (Hunter & Smith, 2012) about Communicative Language Teaching. In the article, they take a historical view by studying the use of the term Communicative Language Teaching – or CLT in ELT Journal during the period between 1958 and 1986. I find it interesting as, in my view, EAP is Communicative Language Teaching par excellence. Since the early days, CLT had focussed strongly on the authentic language of communicative purpose as well the belief that learners need to use the language actively in order to learn. Hunter & Smith argue that precise academic definitions of CLT existed in early days and still do to some extent, and this was supported my many academic publications (see, for example, Brumfit & Johnson, 1979). However in the last 20 years or so publishers have so diluted the meaning of the term CLT that it is almost meaningless these days. As a consequence of this, perhaps be this will lead to the end of CLT as we know it. And I think that would be a shame. Continue reading