miércoles, 29 de junio de 2016




WHY TEACHING  ENGLISH FOR SPECIFIC PURPOSES AT UNIVERSITIES?
                                                                        By Zarela Cruz
                                                                                                                                              


Wouldn’t it be great to have the chance to study English for Academic purposes while being at university? Of course, it would be. In itself it is a very important comparative advantange in terms of marketing, but as we well know, English studies are postponed by students who most of the times consider it is just a requirement to fullfill, either to graduate or to get their Master’s degree.



Below, some basic concepts and FAQ  that will allow you discover the potential of this field:



DEFINITION: ESP is defined to meet specific needs of the learners and is centered on the corresponding language in terms of grammar, lexis, register, study skills and discourse.(1) An important aspect to take into account is the fact that ESP is generally designed for intermediate or advanced students since it is assumed that students have some prior knowledge of the language to make the most of it, otherwise it will be restricted to a set of isolated phrases and long lists of words, as indeed, is taught in some universities. At least this is what I concluded from getting information from some public and private university students in Lima and provinces. 



HOW IS ESP (ENGLISH FOR SPECIF PURPOSES) IS DIFFERENT FROM ESL (ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE)? The most important difference is the learner since they need it to communicate at work or with work-related issues. It is mostly based on teaching language in a particular context which is related to the learners’ field of knowledge. There is nothing more motivating for a student than to put the language into practice in a meaningul situation to them. This reinforces and increases their inner motivation.

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE ESP TEACHER? A teacher must be experienced. This will allow them to exploit the academic background not only in teaching strategies but also in designing lessons for specific academic fields. Ideally, the teacher must be a source of information for the student.

DOES THE ESP STUDENT HAVE ANY RESPONSIBILITY IN THEIR LEARNING? Of course they do! They bring to class their subject matter knowledge and must be commited to develop their language knowledge and skills and use them in authentic contexts paying attention to cultural aspects as well. This is the most effective way to become fluent in their fields.

And now a few questions to reflect on: Are you interested in becoming a ESP teacher? Are you up to take a ESP course? If so, what do you expect from them?

I do expect that instead of discouraging you from becoming an ESP teacher or student, this article turns into a wake-up call to redefine your own goals regarding the teaching and learning of English and realize the many advantages it has when studying it during your upper studies or tertiary education.

Let us know what you think and share your experience with us!

References
English for Specific Purposes: What does it mean? Why is it different?

Teaching English for Specific Purposes (ESP)


Biodata
Zarela Cruz graduated from Ricardo Palma University as a translator.  She also finished her masters studies in Linguistics and took some specialization diplomas in English and Spanish: Higher Education, Virtual Courses Design, and Spanish for Foreigners. She has also completed a number of certificates:  Teaching the Working Adult, Online, Hybrid and Blended Education, among other self-study courses.   During her more than 20 years teaching experience, she has taught different courses, programs and levels. This article aims not only to encourage other teachers to specialize in one field to teach ESP courses but also professionals to keep improving their knowledge of the language.


27 comentarios:

  1. Very interesting article!! I relate to it because I have met -a lot of- people that aren't aware of the importance of learning the English they need for their professional develpment. Once they are out in the market they realize that. I teach English and work in a Human Resources Consulting firm. Sometimes, I assess the candidates' English, and, in most cases, they have an intermediate level of English, but they just don't know the register and terminology used in their professional area, so they lose job opportunities because of that. An ESP couse could give them a lot of new -and better-opportunities. I am definitely interested in taking an ESP course, I find it very interesting and I think is a great option for teachers too.
    Regards,

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    1. Nice to have you back, Danitza! Thanks for sharing your experience! You pointed out something very important: an ESP course makes the difference when looking for a job!
      Needless to say, it is also a good alternative for teachers to keep making progress in their career ladders. Until soon! ZC

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  2. I never understood why in Peru undergraduates do not need a high level of English in order to finish university. Back in London I learned business English because my career was going to be within a Marketing with Management field, this is an advantage for me as having more business language than more for academic purposes.

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    1. Let me tell you that you are not alone! Like you, we also find some inconsistencies regarding the needs of the market and what students are taught. Gustavo Yamada wrote an interesting article about education at universities and the needs of the market. Unfortunately, the teaching of English was not discussed there. Hopefully, we find someone who pays more attention to this point which has been neglected for quite a long time. Thank you for post! Regards.ZC

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  3. This is a really interesting article and I feel totally identified with this topic. As a translator, we know how important registers are when speaking and the jargon different careers have. Unfortunately, many professionals don't take these aspects into account and they neglect their learning of English. I think that English courses should be tailored according to the academic field students pursue in Peruvian universities or colleges.
    Actually, I must say that being a ESP teacher is not that easy (it's a personal experience). I have started to teach English to a group of graphic designers and 3D animators, and I must say that it's completely different from what I thought. I've never been a technology lover, but now I see myself looking for videos about animation, special softwares, modeling, etc. I have to admit that although I'm their teacher, I learn a lot with them!
    Thanks for the article. It just came in handy for me!
    Regards!

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    1. You are right. Translators that become teachers have definitely a comparative advantage since they are more sensitive to the multiple meaning of the words, pragmatics, connotation among other important aspects regarding the use of vocabulary.
      I could not agree more when you say that by teaching these students you are learning a lot; in fact, it is nice to see that someone is that humble to admit it.
      I am sure you will make the most of this experience -and who knows? Perhaps this field of expertise is on the cards for you! Happy teaching and learning!

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  4. I read this article and I remember the people who decided going abroad to study an ESL or ESP abroad and that number is huge nowadays! Particularly, I consider english learning is growing in our country and It's because academic interests. That's great, right? It means that more people are insterested in improving their language skills so they can perform in different situations not just at work but also in daily issues. I think people see english as a important tool to achieve their goals and that's great so the institucions will consider it in the same way.
    Thanks for the article!!

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    1. English has become a MUST nowadays, not only for academic reasons but also for the wide range of interest we have! On the other hand, the ones that have the chance to improve their English abroad will definitely be interested in studying a course which is related to their field. Hopefully, ESP keeps growing at universities as well. Thank you for following us and always be eager to share your opinion! Best. ZC

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  5. This is an awesome article! It has broaden my mind since I used to think studying ESL was enough. When it comes to learn languages, it is never enough. I will advice my friends and family to learn ESP, it would help them not only in their careers, also in their lives. Thanks for the tips!

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    1. Thanks to you Liz for both: sharing your enthusiasm for learning languages and for following us!
      As you may know, there is a considerable number of people who study English simply because they need to reach certain level of knowledge to graduate, but meanwhile they start paying attention to other programs and courses that are offered in the market and become interested in an ESP course. These courses definitely make the difference! Regards.ZC

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  6. This is an interesting article!! I think that most universities, at least here in Peru, just focus on studying basic English which, in my opinion, would not be as useful as if students learn ESP. There are so many different words and expressions people may need depending on their working environment. If we want students to take part in this, universities should be aware of the importance of ESP and try to hire good teachers who will be able to guide students in their professional field using another language. I really enjoy reading this article, it is such an important matter nowadays!

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    1. Lorena, you seem to share our concern regarding the study of ESP courses. It is true that there is a set language requirement to graduate, but mastering a field of knowledge will definitely have a positive impact on our professional life.Hopefully university students and authorities realize this soon as well! Keep following us! ZC

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  7. Most of my university classmates were not interested in English and until today they still don't use it. For me it was very useful because my job interview was in English. Sometimes, when I find a new job opportunity I want to recommend my friends but their level of English is very limited and they lose the opportunity or those who knew the language don't know technical words that are used in the job.
    I do consider taking ESP courses because it could improve my communication at work, but the teacher would have to know a lot about my field.

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    1. Not speaking a second language is definitely a drawback nowadays. A pity that your friends are not working on it! On the other hand, you are right: to teach an ESP course demands a lot of preparation and research and of course, knowing the field of expertise. Hopefully you find the course you are looking for soon! Thank you for following us! ZC

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  8. Interesting article! I do consider it as great program not only for specific subjects. I had the opportunity to work with a 74 old man, who gave up with english courses, and one of his dreams were''An specific english course for mines''. Sadly, at the of the day, he got an allergie to the english language, because during those times he did not know anything about ESP. So...that is why ESP is good choice to don't be disappointed with this amazing language.

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    1. A pity that your coworker did not find his dream course! Perhaps in that time ESP courses were not given as much importance as they are nowadays. The language of mining is very specific and is definitely worth to give a try, especially if you live and work in a mining area. It will also allow you read the latest publications regarding this field. Thank you for sharing your experience with us! ZC

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  9. Very interesting article ! I wish more people would read this, particularly undergraduates. I remember seing some friends of mine willing to pay someone else to do their English homework because "they didn't have time for that". It makes me sad to see how little interest that have towards English, that is not being realistic. As someone who will probably become a ESP teacher someday, it worries me a lot. Someday they would see how usefull it can actually be and they will regret not taking it seriously.
    However, I'm still looking forward to achieving my goal and get to learn about new fields from my future students which will be great for me as a translator as well.

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    1. Even when this blog is aimed at English teachers, I couldn't agree more with you regarding the lack of information undergraduates seem to have about English as a language. As I pointed out before, studying English now is a must, hence taking an ESP course will make the difference not only in their CVs but also in their command of the language. Great post! Keep following us! ZC

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  10. People think that studying an ESL course is enough. I have friends who right now are studying English just because they need to graduate. Now that I've noticed (thanks to this article) how important is to take an ESP course, I will convince them to take these courses.
    Of course, for me it is important to take an ESP course as soon as possible, because as a translator is very important to have knowledge of the areas where I'm going to specialize.

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    1. Unfortunately, this is a common misbelief, dear Ariana: studying English just to fullfill a requirement to graduate. However, I am confident that little by little undergraduate students and professionals will broaden their minds towards ESP courses.
      As you remarked in your post, ESP courses are really helpful for translators since they have to be aware of the terminology and jargon of each field. Thank you for following us! ZC

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  11. I really like this article! Sometimes I talk with my sister about her career (design) and she says phrases mixing Spanish and English. She says that are technical words that were remain in English, but when I ask her to explain the meaning of these words she doesn’t know. Now, I understand the importance of ESP courses and how much people can improve their competitiveness after taking one of these courses. I should show this article to my sister :D

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    1. Language evolves and incorporating words from another language (loans) shows it clearly. Your sister is probably right: what may sound Spanglish to you is the birth of a new jargon in her field. It is also clearly seen in fashion: words like Fashion Week and denim to say the least. Thank you for your post! Glad to see that you found the article useful. Hopefully your sister agrees with you. Regards. ZC

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  12. Great article, and it serves as a launching pad for anyone who is interested in the world of ESP.

    Regarding teachers, many of them are reluctant to dive into English for Specific Purposes for many reasons, but mostly because of fear. I have heard the same excuse from many colleagues: "I don't know anything about Business or Economics" or "it's scary." Although I have to admit sometimes teaching English for Business to some high executive from some big company might be intimidating, we have to remind ourselves that they are not there to learn about business or economics. They already know all about that! Our job as teachers is to help them achieve their personal and professional goals through meaningful material and through content related to their professional area. It is not just the motivation to learn English, but also the need to advance professionally.

    This is something prefessionals all around have started to realize. In a world in which speaking English is not an achievement but a necessity, it becomes imperative for them to develop abilities such as negotiation skills or delivering effective presentations. These Specific Purposes are the ones they will be using constantly and will probably end up defining their future.

    I look forward to reading more ESP-related articles! Congrats!


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    1. I really appreciate your post since you have stressed the importance of improving our language skills, either as teachers or students. What I liked the most was the fact that students may be the experts in a field, but we are the facilitators who will guide -and help them, to achieve their goals.That in itself makes the experience rewarding! Keep following us! More articles on ESP coming! ZC

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  13. I think knowing another language not only allows us to discover new perspectives but to communicate with people about something that we are passionate about. Using every day words works when we are not talking to experts on the field, but what about teachers from other countries or future colleagues_ how do we speak to them without sounding as if we knew nothing? I wish my university had an ESP class, but they only focus on ESL... The latter, doesn't always help students with no previous knowledge of the language to keep up with regular classes that send readings in English (applied to our fields). I hope everyone was as invested as you are on helping students communicate their passions through a course taught by someone with experience (of course not all the work has to come from the teacher but also from the student)

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    1. Yours is a very encouraging post! It allows us to see that students are becoming aware of the importance of taking ESP courses! It is high time that professors became more involved in designing courses that suit their students' needs. Best of luck! ZC

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