EVONLINE 2005 - Jan 17-Feb 26
the Transition from ESL to ESP
2 | Week 3 | Week
4 | Week 5 | Week
6 | Weblog | Yahoo!Group
Every week well summarize some of the themes that
came up, and ask for your comments. Thank you for your participation!
Here are some issues participants raised during
, in addition to the
specific topics of definition and needs assessment. If you have
any thoughts or practical suggestions to answer these questions
now or during the coming weeks, please share your ideas. Margaret
van Naerssen, the "guest lecturer" this week.
Margaret van Naerssen
I've looked over the 4-5 postings so far. I have a few thoughts.
I think Irina's suggestion of of having learners themselves do
self-assesments of proficiency, having them consider what they
want to do with English in the future,are important strategies
in terms of getting learners to become a partof focussing the
course and of recognizing "where" they are. We need
to recognize what the learners bring, who they are, what they
want. We need to distinguish, however, between "wants"
and "needs". We also realize that if they do not immediately
need English in real life situations, it may be hard for them
to be very precise in identifying needs.
--Are they taking an academic course in English in their area
of specialization? If so, an ESP instructor could work with the
content instructor to support the learners' English needs in that
--If they are trying to improve their English proficiency so
they can study abroad, this may represent needs that are too broad
to be captured under the principles of ESP.
I also strongly believe that in designing ALL courses we should
be looking at needs. Courses should be needs driven, not book
--The needs may be general, diffuse.
--They may be defined by the language policies of an institution
or province or country.
--The needs may be for personal enrichment.
--The needs may reflect a general perceived future need.
But these types of needs differ from what is strictly intepreted
--Needs assessment is a core feature of ESP.
--In ESP language is a tool for real, actual, usual concurrent
needs or needs that are very near in time.
--In ESP language is a tool needed to specifically help do one's
work or for specific professional/vocational preparation.
--In ESP language is NOT studied as a general subject, but rather
as a tool.
I think this is long enough for the moment.
Narghiskern in Germany brought up the problems of student
level and expertise:
Especially with pre-intermediate students I have the feeling
doing ESP (using Business English coursebooks) hinders them from
learning rather than helping them
My personal problem with ESP is that most of the time I don't
know anything or much about the area of my students. And it seems
an impossible task to read/learn enough about all those areas
to be able help the student with special/technical vocabulary
Basically the question is: How can I help my students learn something
that I don't know???
Here there are two problems.
- At what level can we, or should we, start using ESP/EAP? How
can we decide if students who have limited mastery of the basics
are ready for it?
- How can we develop enough expertise to teach ESP in a useful
way? Debby Lee will address this next week- but what to do in
a class where students are in the same general field but not the
Lalita Deb in Mozambique said,
Classes usually have between thirty and forty students, with,
unfortunately, only two or three females
Students are anything
between 22 and 55 years old! If we're lucky, we might have 10 to
15 in a class of 30 that are serious about becoming teachers
There is also a serious shortage of resources available to us here.
[In one setting] the only material available to us are what we,
the teachers, have collected over the years and whatever donors
might have sent in, which is not always what we need. There are
no computers for the students and the one for the teachers in the
department doesn't have internet access
Not all programs have equal or even adequate resources.
-How can teachers compensate for large, heterogeneous classes and
lack of computer access, materials, etc. ?
-How can we remember, when we discuss methods and policy, to keep
in mind the different conditions in which people teach?
Irina in Ukraine asks,
The only question is HOW to teach students? Personally I
am using task-based learning centred approach in teaching/learning
promoting learners autonomy, but many teachers think that topic/
notion-oriented approach is the only appropriate one. Any comments?
She also asks, Is it possible for non-native teacher of English
teach specific topics not being an expert in the field? What approaches
do you use while teaching ESP/EAP?
What levels are your students? Are they native speakers? I am interested
in teaching EFL non-native students by non-native teacher.
Here too there are two questions:
- How can we decide on what teaching methods to use?
- How can we take into consideration the needs of non-native teachers
and students? Do we need to adapt our methodology, and if so, how?
Evan in Singapore has a very specific question relating
to Business English:
One area of interest for me at the moment is the issue of
ethics in BE / ESP teaching. For example, we spend lot of time gathering
information about our students and their environments, but I'm not
sure that all of us are particularly ethical about how we handle
the data. Do we tell our students exactly how the data will be used,
for example? Do we have procedures in place to ensure confidentiality
- Do people have suggestions for dealing with data gathered from
- What ethical guidelines should we adhere to about using this data
(other than for research, where the guidelines are already established?)
Anrisa in the U.S. writes,
Through one of my students, I got involved in tutoring nuns
at a Taiwanese Buddhist Monastery. I am using the same books that
I do at [an Intensive English Program], but, obviously, there are
considerable differences in goals and needs. I hope that this workshop
can help me learn how to adapt/develop materials to really serve
the needs of the nuns.
Some student populations are so specialized that its unlikely
there are materials already developed for them.
- How can we do needs assessment and materials development for
very specialized populations?
- Does anyone have experience teaching similar students of any religion,
and do they have suggestions?
Parisa in Iran said,
The most demanding skill in Iranian universities is reading
comprehension ability. I always wonder what might differentiate
between ESP and GE and whether ESP is the extreme end of GE or not
When students begin to read texts written for a specialized professional
audience in English, they encounter the same problems native speaker
undergraduates do, plus the added problems of reading in L2.
- How can we help future professionals learn to read proficiently
in their field?
- Should we start by improving reading skills (GE) or is the best
way to do this is by helping them read specialized texts (EAP?)
- What do reading specialists have to say?
Belen Vazquez Conde said,
As a colleague said, students sometimes don't feel interested
or don't notice the importance of the [ESP] subject. For this problem
I try to do games, or give them a lot of interesting websites so
they can acquire the specific purpose.
- What else can we do to spark students interest in ESP: