Is there a specific method for ESP?

In the literature, it’s claimed that ESP is based on vocabulary or reading comprehension rather than learning a language structure or field. Many searches and discussions have been made about ESP. Hutchinson and Waters (1987) stated that ESP is not an approach it’s a product but this is debatable. Its syllabus, content and how to present are definitely different from general English learning. In the ESP classroom, learners are more likely required to be at intermediate level to be able to achieve their target. Therefore, learners are guided, observed and differentiated in ESP classrooms rather than teaching the target language word by word.

Language learning is not only acquiring grammatical structure but also its function. It is important for engineering students to be able to present their ideas or exchange their opinions or follow the technological development all over the world. Most universities all over the world have been offering ESP courses besides the general English lessons to boost their confidence in this field.

When we talk about specific methodology, we mean all language aspects from reading complex articles to making a presentation. Hutchinson and Waters (1987) claimed that there is no specific methodology for ESP. The same principles apply with ELT methodology in general. It can be arguable whether there is a specific methodology for ESP; my experience is that knowing General English methodology does not make a teacher successful in techniques that the teacher implements in the classroom. For example; if the teacher is not familiar with such specific subject matter as the blast furnace or power station, he won’t be able to want to prepare his own material for this matter. It is not always possible to find what material you want to use during the course in the coursebook. In ESP courses, the teacher has to put more effort than General English courses.

Dudley Evans and St John (1998) claimed that a strength of methodology is the way in which language learning and subject learning approaches can be integrated. They proposed two approaches: case studies and project work. They have stated that case studies integrate knowledge, skills, theory and any experience, especially in law, medicine, engineering and business. The only issue with case studies is the knowledge of the ESP teacher in the subject that he/she teaches. ESP teacher should work with the subject teacher if he/she doesn’t have a subject background.

In project work, unlike case studies, students find and stimulate the information. Motivation is higher. Dudley-Evans and St John points out that project work starts in the classroom and moves outside the classroom.

When I was asked to organise an ESP course for engineers I visited them in their workplace and found out what they did in their daily routine. That gave me an idea what to teach, but company asked me to teach some certain function of the target language according to the company’s needs. In my homogeneous group, I used content-based approach (CBA) as they were all from different department and different branches of engineering such as civil engineer, mechanical engineer, electronics engineer, and electrical engineer. In most CBA courses, the syllabus is derived from the content area and these obviously vary widely in detail and format. Richards and Rodgers (1996) say that it is typically only CBA following the theme-based model in which content and instructional sequence is chosen according to language learning goals. In CBA there are many activities. Stoller (1997) lists the activities as follows:
• Language skills improvement
• Vocabulary building
• Discourse organisation
• Communicative interaction
• Study skills
• Synthesis of content materials grammar
‘It is the teaching of content with little or no direct effort to teach the language separately from the content being taught’ (Krahnke 1987:65). Claims made for the advantages of courses based on content-based syllabus include that:
• They facilitate comprehension
• Content makes linguistic form more meaningful
• Content serves on the best basis for teaching the skill areas
• They address learners’ needs
• They allow for integration of the four skills
• They allow for use of authentic materials
(Brinton, Snow and Wesche 1989; Mohan 1986)

During the course the learners were encouraged to prepare a presentation about their daily routine or the production they made in the company. What method is chosen it depends on learners need and institution’s or company’s needs. There is no specific method but there will be a method you can chose the best for your own learners. Not only does it depend on needs but also expectations.

In the ESP classroom, information is usually transferred by reading a text or preparing a presentation which involves at least two or four skills. Therefore, it is appropriate to use an integrated skill approach (Dudley-Evans and St John, 1998).

There is no best method as Prabhu said in 1990. In ESP any method can be chosen to be used in the classroom according to the context, learners, and needs analysis, teaching standard and learning abilities. There is no difference between EFL and ESP in teaching method. However, ESP teachers need to integrate the content and the language.

Dudley Evans, T and M. J. St John. 1998. Developments in English for Specific Purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hutchinson, T. and A. Waters. 1987. English for Specific Purposes: A learning-centred Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Prabhu, N. S. 1990 There is no best method. Why? TESOL Quarterly. Volume 24, No 2, pp 161-176
Richards, J. and T. Rodgers. 2001. Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.
Brinton, D. M., Snow, M. A. and Wesche, M. B. 1989. Content-based Second Language Instruction. Boston: Heinle and Heinle Publishers.
Mohan, B. A. 1986. Language and Content. Addison, Wesley
Krahnke, K. 1987 Approaches to syllabus design for foreign language teaching. Washington, D.C., Center for Applied Linguistics/Eaglewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall
Stoller, F. L. 1997. Project work: A means to promote language content. English Teaching Forum, 35(4), 2.

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