Two large parts of ESP are English to Business, and English to Scientists. My expertise is on English to the Scientists, but you will find some general material here on course design and the role of the teacher.
The role of the teacher, and classroom management
Most of my students will end up teaching TEFL to teenagers at some point. Therefore this double lecture is popular. After the introduction, there is a long list of characteristics of a good teacher, and another list concerning tips for classroom management. These lists are my handouts in class. Afterwards there is a commentary on these points, as if I were lecturing, though usually I lecture this from memory, and follow the leads of the class discussions.
Frequently I find that the ideas are NOT accepted. I challenge my students to be willing to think and evaluate for themselves, to make their own mind up, but to give me a fair hearing first. The most common disagreement is that while it might work in Britain it would not work here. Frequently I find it is those in the class with teaching experience who are most likely to agree with me.
As a taster: have you ever tried to teach classes who will never stop talking? Here I present an easy workable solution.
Principles of ESP course design
When asked to write an ESP course, which principles will guide your decisions? Here are mine.
1. Content difficulty should equal normal subject courses
2. Content should lead language
3. Exercises as well as the material should be authentic
4. Massive exposure to content and language
5. Authentically long texts
6. Exploit communication gaps
7. Draw ideas from content teachers
8. Elaborate, but never simplify
9. Train students to handle difficult texts
10. Consider using translation as a scaffold for weaker students
11. Speed up learning by using data from language comparisons
12. Focus on extracting meaningful information not on language points
13. Write three syllabuses
a. Content syllabus - related to the ways the subject teachers
divide up their speciality
b. Language syllabus
c. Learning/skills syllabus
14. Ideally another subject should be taught in English. As a minimum,
subject courses should set readings in English.
The following articles are in rough order of my course in ESP, plus some extra material.
1. The Mountains of ESP
You must hear the audio of this, for it begins with a story, leads into the two cultures picture, and finishes with the fact that I am bi-cultural therefore well equipped to help Arts students to teach English to scientists. I begin with acting out the first part, then highlighting the problems raised and the fact that in the course I will present solutions.
Article: File: mountains.pdf
2. The question of Audience Revised 1 Nov 2009
The main players in ESP, undergraduates, postgraduates, arts trained teachers, the administration. The problem of deferred motivation of undergraduates. How can a language teacher understand other subjects?
1 November 2009. The material has been rearranged. There is a new example - coping with the expectations of of postgraduates. A major addition is that the distinction between language for topic, and language for level of difficulty, has been clarified.
3. The common ground between Humanities and Science
The common ground of history, biographies, illness, modern developments, ethics, and economics. All these areas can be exploited by arts teachers working with science students.
4. What is ESP? (very rough lecture notes)
A basic lecture covering the history of ESP and the characteristics of ESP. It is a supplemented version of Hutchinson & Waters chapter 1.
5 and 6 . The growth of ESP - theories of learning and language descriptions New file: 1 November 2009
This lecture looks briefly at some of the major trends in the history of ESP including register analysis, discourse analysis, needs analysis, skills and strategies, and genre analysis. Since genre analysis is new to most of my students I briefly introduce Swales’ 1990 three move “Create a Research Space” framework, and compare it, with examples, of the more well known IMRAD format. (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion). File: growth.pdf
7. The nature of science and the effect on attitude and language
This is quite a detailed lecture contrasting the traditional view of science, as exemplified by Hodson 1986, and the view which dominates ESP - Social Constructivism, as exemplified by Sutton 1996. The reasons for this lecture are several.
Firstly, to introduce my students to these two contrasting
viewpoints and to make them aware that both exist.
Secondly, to familiarise them with the dominant approach of the
scientists they will one day teach.
Fleming noticed something unusual - which finally led to the development of antibiotics. This example is updated. An experiment which went ‘wrong’ and was investigated led to the major discovery of tunnelling nanotubes.
Contrary to the idea that scientists construct reality, I present ‘Cold Fusion’ as an example where scientists wished it were true but were eventually forced to dismiss it by the evidence.
I conclude with an example from my own research of how two languages define a ‘line’ totally differently, and argue that the underlying reality does not change - only the preferred cultural classification.
8. Characteristics of the language of science
A traditional lecture covering the views of Strevens, Ewer and Widdowson. File: characteristcs-language-science.pdf
9. A question of terminology
3 November 2009 Added the variable of topics
24 November 2009. Clarified the structure of semi/sub-technical vocabulary and applied a framework used for faux amis by van Roey, Granger & Swallow (1988).
24 December 2009 Brief comment added on the views of Cheng & Nation (2003, 2004). See Reviews section for a full article.
Linguists still have not agreed a common terminology to distinguish common only words from sub-technical or semi-technical words from specialised words. They also fail to distinguish between general topics and basic English, specialised topics and advanced English. This is discussed in detail, including the views of Newmark and Vinay & Darbelnet 1977.
10. Science as a Universal language
This article grapples with the question of the universality of the language of science as expounded by HG Widdowson. A thorough critique is provided. Though the material uses old references, I see no evidence that the field of ESP has moved on since this material was first written in 1992. File: universal-language.pdf
11. Non-verbals in English and French at baccalaureate level: documentation of some differences
One of the main arguments to defend Science as a Universal Language is that the non-verbals such as symbols and equations are international. This article - an expansion of work published in the ESP Journal I 1996, presents detailed evidence of two languages at High School level. Such differences may have changed somewhat, since there is a trend for scientists to conform to English usage. But, the material gives many examples where there are clear differences. As such it provides interesting material for ESP courses in Francophone countries. File: nonverbals.pdf
12. Words in the language of science at pre-university level: a study of meanings and cultures in English and French
French speaking scientists desiring to work in English often have recourse to bi-lingual technical dictionaries. Yet despite the acknowledged need for encyclopedic information sufficient to distinguish between degrees of equivalence (Bergenholtz & Tarp 1995:27), very little detailed work has been done. This article reports some of the results of a study of the baccalaureate science curriculum in French, and the information presented indicates some the major areas where encyclopedic information is needed. In all these areas there were significant differences between English and French. The words come from the areas of chemical terminology, definitions, eponyms, affixes, and false cognates. The culturally dependent nature of the science is highlighted.
13. Factors working towards and against constancy in the language of science.
There is a certain amount of constancy between languages for the language of science. This essay studies some of the trends and forces involved which promote and work against this constancy. The work needs updating, which would make a nice MA thesis for someone!!
14. Vocabulary in ESP
The basic concepts of high frequency vocabulary, the academic word list, and low frequency words are introduced. The lack of attention to semi-technical words and to faux amis is highlighted, despite their known importance to learners. A summary of inflectional and derivational affixes is provided. There is a discussion of learning vocabulary lists, and learning words as phrases.
15. Needs Analysis File: needsanalysis.pdf
Updated 7 December 2009
Target Situation analysis. A study of the situations in which the language is used. This provides a guide as to what to teach.
Present Situation analysis. What are the students like at the beginning of the course?
Lacks analysis / deficiency analysis. Students are evaluated to see what language they lack. Commonly, a diagnostic test is used in the analysis.
Learning Needs analysis / strategy analysis, in terms of language, learning skills, autonomy etc
Constraints analysis. The limitations in the actual teaching context are identified.
Pedagogic Needs analysis, a term which groups together Lacks analysis, Learning needs analysis and Constraints analysis
Wants/Subjective Needs analysis. The teacher finds out what the learners think they want to learn.
16. Syllabus design
Having done the Needs Analysis, the syllabus must be planned. The theoretical framework is explained in the article on authenticity. Here the three most important syllabuses in ESP are outlined:
The content syllabus - related to the speciality of the students
The language syllabus - related to the language needs of the students
The skills syllabus - related to those used in the speciality
17. Authentic lesson material in ESP
First published 28 November 2009. Modified 24 February 2010
This is an important essay in which major points are made and justified. Apparently learners are motivated to learn mainly the English they need. Therefore teachers must use ‘authentic’ materials rather than materials which are simplified or materials that are specially written for the learner. But authentic materials are often seen as too difficult for the students and the teacher.
In fact, the situation is not as simple as meets the eye.
It is much easier nowadays to find authentic material that is specialised in content but not advanced in language. With the internet there has been an expansion in the genres, and a trend towards less difficult English. Difficult topics are possible if the English teacher is willing to set exercises which ask students to explain them. It is far better to elaborate than to simplify. We should be providing authentic activities (instead of the traditional activities such as Cloze tests) as well as authentic texts
18. Materials evaluation - brief lecture notes
It is common enough in ESP that teachers will have to choose their own textbook. I am assuming that normally the decision to use a textbook will involve discussion with other colleagues. It is far easier to discuss materials selection when objective criteria are established and agreed.
19. ESP teachers MUST teach specialist content
First published 5 January 2010
Content must lead language teaching. Materials and tasks must be authentic. The language teacher can teach content and exploit the expertise of the subject colleagues and students. We must avoid humiliating students by using material below their professional level. The article concludes with two detailed suggestions based on medical topics which were widely reported in the news in November and December 2009. File: content.pdf