К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2011
Автор: Ольховская Елена Дмитриевна
As with most developments in human activity, English for Specific
Purposes was not a planned and coherent movement, but rather a phenomenon that
grew out of a number of converging trends. These trends have operated in a
variety of ways around the world.
The end of the Second World War in 1945 announced an age of enormous
and unprecedented expansion in scientific, technical and economic activity on
an international scale. This expansion created a world unified and dominated by
two forces — technology and commerce — which in their relentless progress soon
generated a demand for an international language. For various reasons, most
notably the economic power of the United States in the post-war world, this
role fell to English.
The effect was to create a whole new mass of people wanting to learn
English, not for the pleasure or prestige of knowing the language, but because
English was the key to the international currencies of technology and commerce.
Previously the reasons for learning English (or any other language) had not
been well defined. A knowledge of a foreign language had been generally
regarded as a sign of a well-rounded education, but few had really questioned
why it was necessary. Learning a language was, so to speak, its own justification.
But as English became the accepted international language of technology and commerce,
it created a new generation of learners who knew specifically why they were
learning a language - businessmen and -women who wanted to sell their products,
mechanics who had to read instruction manuals, doctors who needed to keep up
with developments in their field and a whole range of students whose course of
study included textbooks and journals only available in English. All these and
many others needed English and, most importantly, they knew why they needed it.
The teaching of
English for Specific Purposes has generally been seen as a separate activity
within English Language Teaching, and English for Specific Purposes (ESP) research
as an identifiable component of applied linguistic research. Tony Dudley-Evans
and Maggie Jo St John believe that for some of its teaching ESP has developed
its own methodology, and its research clearly draws on research from various
disciplines in addition to applied linguistics. This openness to the insights
of other disciplines is a key distinguishing feature of ESP which is seen as
underlying much of the practice and research.
If ESP has
sometimes moved away from trends in general English Language Teaching, it has
always retained its emphasis on practical outcomes. The main concerns of ESP
have always been, and remain, with needs analysis, text analysis, and preparing
learners to communicate effectively in the tasks prescribed by their study or
work situation. It is often said that ESP lacks an underlying theory. A theory
of ESP could be outlined based on either the specific nature of the texts that
learners require knowledge of, or on the basis of the needs-related nature of
the teaching. It is, however, interesting and significant that so much of the
writing has concentrated on the procedures of ESP and on relating course design
to learners' specific needs rather than on theoretical matters.
The study of
languages for specific purposes has had a long and interesting history going
back, some would say, as far as the Roman and Greek Empires. Since the 1960s, ESP has become a vital and innovative activity within the Teaching of
English as a Foreign or Second Language movement (TEFL/TESL) (4). For much of its
early life ESP was dominated by the teaching of English for Academic Purposes;
most of the materials produced, the course descriptions written and the
research carried out were in the area of English for Academic Purposes. English
for Occupational purposes played an important but nevertheless smaller role. In
recent years, however, the massive expansion of international business has led
to a huge growth in the area of English for Business Purposes. Within ESP the
largest sector for published materials is now that of Business English, and
there is a burgeoning interest from teachers, publishers and companies in this
ESP is part
of a more general movement of teaching Language for Specific Purposes. LSP has
focused on the teaching of languages such as French and German for specific purposes,
as well as English. In many situations the approaches used are very similar to
those used in ESP; some, however, place a much greater emphasis on the learning
A definition of ESP
To get a better
understanding of the notion of ESP we are going to look at four definitions of
ESP found in the literature.
Waters (5) see ESP as an approach rather than a product, by which
they mean that ESP does not involve a particular kind of language, teaching
material or methodology. They suggest that 'the foundation of ESP is the simple
question: Why does this learner need to learn a foreign language?' The answer
to this question relates to the learners, the language required and the learning
context, and thus establishes the primacy of need in ESP. Need is defined by
the reasons for which the student is learning English, which will vary from
study purposes such as following a postgraduate course in an English-speaking
country to work purposes such as participating in business meetings or taking
hotel bookings. These purposes are the starting points which determine the
language to be taught.
definition of ESP makes a distinction between four absolute characteristics and
two variable characteristics. The absolute characteristics are that ESP
consists of English Language Teaching which is:
- designed to meet
specified needs of the learner;
- related in
content (that is in its themes and topics) to particular disciplines, occupations
- centred on
language appropriate to those activities in syntax, lexis, discourse, semantics
and so on, and analysis of the discourse;
- in contrast with
characteristics are that ESP:
- may be
restricted as to the learning skills to be learned (for example reading only);
- may not be
taught according to any pre-ordained methodology.
Robinson (6) also
accepts the primacy of needs analysis in defining ESP. Her definition is based
on two key defining criteria and a number of characteristics that are generally
found to be true of ESP. Her key criteria are that ESP is 'normally
goal-directed', and that ESP courses develop from a needs analysis, which
'aims to specify as closely as possible what exactly it is that students
have to do through the medium of English. Her characteristics are that ESP
courses are generally constrained by a limited time period, in which
their objectives have to be achieved, and are taught to adults in homogeneous
classes in terms of the work or specialist studies that the students are
has validity but also weaknesses, either in the definition or in the features
described. Strevens' definition is the most comprehensive of the three already
quoted, but can lead to a certain confusion. By referring to content in the
second absolute characteristic it may confirm the false impression held by many
teachers that ESP is always and necessarily related directly to subject content.
Robinson’s mention of ‘homogeneous classes’ as a characteristic of ESP may lead
to the same conclusion. Much ESP work is, by contrast, based on the notion of a
‘common-core’ of language and skills that belong to all academic disciplines or
cut across the whole activity of business. ESP teaching does not necessarily
have to be related to content but it should always reflect the underlying
concepts and activities of the broad discipline. Thus English for Academic
Purposes (EAP), whether it is directly related to the specific disciplines that
students are studying or not, should make use of the essentially
problem-solving methodology of academic study (8). Similarly, Business English
teaching should reflect the business context in which business meetings or
negotiations take place (1,2).
It is believed
that a definition of ESP should reflect the fact that much ESP teaching, especially
where it is specifically linked to a particular profession or discipline, makes
use of a methodology that differs from that used in General Purpose English
teaching. Methodology here is referring to the nature of the interaction
between the ESP teacher and the learners. In more general ESP classes the
interaction may be similar to that in a General Purpose English class; in the
more specific ESP classes, however, the teacher sometimes becomes more like a
language consultant, enjoying equal status with the learners who have their own
expertise in the subject matter.
consideration all the characteristics of ESP and drawbacks Tony Dudley-Evans
and Maggie Jo St. John developed the fourth definition, where they stress two aspects
of ESP methodology: all ESP teaching should reflect the methodology of the disciplines
and professions it serves; and in more specific ESP teaching the nature of the
interaction between the teacher and learner may be very different from that in a general English class. This is what they mean when they say that specific
ESP teaching has its own methodology.
believe that language should be included as a defining feature of ESP. While
the specified needs arising from needs analysis relate to activities that
students need to carry out (rather than language), a key assumption of ESP is
that these activities generate and depend on registers, genres and associated
language that students need to be able to manipulate in order to carry out the
In the definition
absolute and variable characteristics are used. The definition is:
- ESP is designed
to meet specific needs of the learner;
- ESP makes use of
the underlying methodology and activities of the disciplines it serves;
- ESP is centred
on the language (grammar, lexis, register), skills, discourse and genres
appropriate to these activities.
- ESP may be
related to or designed for specific disciplines;
- ESP may use, in
specific teaching situations, a different methodology from that of general
- ESP is likely to
be designed for adult learners, either at a tertiary level institution or in a
professional work situation. It could, however, be used for learners at
secondary school level;
- 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.
agree with this definition and take it as the most perfect one.
Classification of ESP
ESP has traditionally been divided into two main areas: English for
Academic Purposes (EAP) and English for Occupational Purposes (EOP). The
classification is generally presented in a tree diagram as in figure 1/1 (taken
from Robinson, 6: 3-4).
The diagram has, as well as the division into EAP and EOP, a
useful division of courses according to when they take place. These
distinctions are very important as they will affect the degree of specificity
that is appropriate to the course. A pre-experience or pre-study course will
probably rule out any specific work related to the actual discipline or work as
students will not yet have the required familiarity with the content, while
courses that run parallel to or follow the course of study in the educational
institution or workplace will provide the opportunity for specific or integrated
Another typical tree diagram for ESP, which divides EAP and EOP
according to discipline or professional area, is shown in figure 1.2.
In EAP, English for Science and Technology (EST) has been the main
area, but English for Medical Purposes (EMP) and English for Legal Purposes
(ELP) have always had their place. Recently the academic study of business,
finance, banking, economics and accounting has become increasingly important,
especially on Masters in Business Administration (MBA) courses, but, as yet, no
specific acronym has become established for such courses.
The term EOP refers to English that is not for academic purposes;
it includes professional purposes in administration, medicine, law and business,
and vocational purposes for non-professionals in work or pre-work situations.
It can be thus distinguished between studying the language and discourse of,
for example, medicine for academic purposes, which is designed for medical
students, and studying for occupational (professional) purposes, which
is designed for practicing doctors.
This classification places English for Business Purposes (EBP) as
a category within EOP. EBP is sometimes seen as separate from EOP as it involves
a lot of General English as well as Specific Purpose English, and also because
it is such a large and important category. A business purpose is, however, an
occupational purpose, so it is logical to see it as part of EOP.
Within English for Vocational Purposes (EVP) there are two
sub-sections: Vocational English, which is concerned with the language
of training for specific trades or occupations, and Pre-Vocational English,
which is concerned with finding a job and interview skills. It also deals with succeeding
in a job through an understanding of employer expectations and policies.
Charles, M. 1994. Layered negotiations in business: interdependencies between
discourse and the business relationship. Unpublished PhD thesis, The University
Charles, M. 1996. Business negotiations: interdependencies between discourse
and the business relationship. English for Specific Purposes, 15: 19-36.
Dudley-Evans, T. and St. John, M. J. 1998. Developments in English for
specific purposes: A multi-disciplinary approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Howatt, A. P. R. 1984. A History of English Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hutchinson, T. and A. Waters. 1987. English for Specific Purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Robinson, P. 1991. ESP Today: a Practitioner’s Guide. Hemel Hempstead:
Prentice Hall International.
Strevens, P. 1988. ESP after twenty years: a re-appraisal. In M. Tickoo (Ed.) ESP:
State of the Art. Singapore: SEAMEO Regional Language Centre.
Widdowson, H. 1983. Learning Purpose and Language Use. Oxford: Oxford Unive rsity Press.
К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2011