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

Mastery of Speech (1919)

My daughter was recently given a series of 8 books with the title Mastery of Speech, written by Frederick Law and published in New York in 1919.
It is described as: A course in Eight Parts on General Speech, Business Talking and Public Speaking, What to Say and How to Say It under All Conditions.
The titles of the eight books are:

  • Book One: How to Speak Correctly and Pleasingly
  • Book Two: How to Use Words Correctly
  • Book Three: How to Speak Well Under All Ordinary Conditions
  • Book Four: How to Speak in Daily Business Life
  • Book Five: How to Speak under Trying Conditions
  • Book Six: How to Speak In Private Life and in Public Places
  • Book Seven: How to Speak on Public Occasions
  • Book Eight: How to Find Material for Talking and Speaking

Book 4 might be useful in ESP business contexts! Books 5, 6 & 8 might be useful in EAP situations! Continue reading


The issue of proofreading is often discussed on various discussion lists. As far as I am concerned, proofreading is the reading of early drafts of a piece of work to correct errors. The extent to which EAP teachers should be involved in the proofreading of student work is controversial: see, for example, Turner (2010); Harwood, Austin, & Macauley  (2010).

I do not, though, think that as EAP or ESP teachers or lecturers we should be involved in proofreading. Continue reading

“The Harvard System” of referencing.

I was recently working with a group of students who had been asked to write a list of references using The Harvard System. The students asked me how to reference a particular source type. I wasn’t sure exactly what the lecturer wanted so I asked him. He was a little annoyed and simply told me to tell the students to use The Harvard System, not realising that there is no such thing, and that such pieces of advice are not helpful. By that I mean that there is no definitive documented version, so he needs to be more specific. Continue reading


I’ve just returned from the IATEFL English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Special Interest Group (SIG) Pre-Conference Event (PCE). I cannot handle – or afford – the whole conference!



The theme of the PCE was ESP and Learning Technologies: What can we learn?

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

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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Teaching EAP at Low Levels.

It is often believed that EAP can only be taught at advanced levels and that lower level students need a course in general English before they start their EAP course.

Before we can discuss this, however, it is important to understand what we mean by general English. General English means different things to different people. To some people it is survival English; to others it is conversational English. However, in the context of EAP, it is often used to mean the core of grammar and vocabulary that is common to all registers. It is often believed that this common core must be mastered before more specific  aspects of the language can be learned. Continue reading