What’s ESP?

English for Specific Purposes (ESP) is a broad-diverse field of English language teaching with several subtitles including technology and science, medical, legal English, Academic English, Business English and English for tourism. In the 1960s, it was particularly associated with the notion of a special language or register. Through the growth of the economy, technological developments and global mobility, migration and general movement from one country to another, there has been a need for learning and teaching English in these specific disciplines.

Later development have included a communicative view of language as applied to ESP, recognition of the importance of needs analysis procedures and an increasing focus on appropriate approach to language learning which is based on learner needs.

Stevens (1988) states that the absolute characteristics are that ESP consists of English language teaching which is:

  • designed to meet the specified needs of learner;
  • related in content to particular disciplines, occupations and activities;
  • centred on the language appropriate to those activities as regards syntax, lexis, discourse, semantics and so on, and analysis of this course.
  • in contrast with “General English.”

Dudley-Evans and St John (1988), ten years later, defined the absolute characteristics of ESP as designed to meet specific needs of the learner and makes use of the underlying methodology and activities of the disciplines it serves. They state that definition of ESP should reflect the fact that much ESP teaching, especially where it is differs from that used General Purpose English teaching. In the variable characteristics of ESP, there are some key points of Dudley-Evans and St John, which are that;

  • ESP may be related to or designed for specific disciplines.
  • ESP may use, in specific teaching situations, a different methodology from that of general English;
  • ESP is likely to be designed for adult learners, either at tertiary level institution or in a professional work situation.
  • ESP is generally designed for intermediate or advanced students. Most ESP courses assume basic knowledge of the language system, but it can be used with beginners.

References:
Dudley-Evans, T & St John (1988) Developments in English for Specific Purposes, CUP, Cambridge
Stevens, P (1988) ESP after twenty years: A re-apraisal. In M Tickoo (Ed), ESP: State of the Art (pp. 1-13) Singapore: SEAMEO Regional Centre.
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