Posted by : Clamp School Saturday, 7 July 2012
ENGLISH FOR SPECIFIC PURPOSES (ESP)
In Relation to Teacher’s Goals, Syllabus Goals and Student’s Goals
1. ESP in relation to teacher’s goals
When we talk about teaching and learning English as a second or foreign language we can find a lot of literature concerning language learning theories, methodology, didactic or teaching techniques.
The following composition is based on T.Hutchinson and A.Waters’ theories “English for specific purposes – A learning centred approach” and we tried to find out some practical applications for teaching English at Vocational School.
English for specific purposes (ESP) is a way of teaching / learning English for specialised subjects with some specific vocational and educational purpose in mind. There are different needs for different purposes (and learners) of English language e.g. English for Economics, English for Business, English for Secretaries, English for Technicians and others.
Certainly a basic knowledge of general English language competence will be required too and developed further. “English for vocational purposes” is an application of ESP according to our students’ language needs for work and to their different jobs at Vocational School. English for Specific Purposes (ESP) must be seen as an “approach to language learning (not as a product) which is based on learners need and directed by specific and apparent reasons for learning.”
There is a distinction between what a person does (performance = language use) and what enables them to do it (competence = language learning).
This approach is learning and learner oriented (but not teacher oriented) with a conception and preference of communicative competence. If we consider the learning process we are able to find out a lot of syllabus’ goals as well as students’ goals implicated in ESP.
2. ESP in relation to syllabus goals
Learning English for Specific Purposes at Vocational School follow the general syllabus from the Ministry of Education defining what is to be (or better : should be) learnt. Let us look up some goals of our general syllabus and compare them to ESP goals.
Especially within the “Didactic principles” we found out many sensible goals according to ESP and in consonance to my own teaching point of view. These principles also can be seen as guidance to the aspects of the harmonious how learning could take place. Some didactic principles: “Main criteria for the selection of teaching subjects are the applicability to the job and everyday life situation of the students with the special requirements of the harmonious.”
- It is recommendable to start from the students’ previous knowledge and field of experiences.
- The chief importance in teaching these students is to transmit basic language skills.
- The communicative skills should be developed by using the foreign language as teaching language and with the use of language tapes, videos of shopping talks, phone talks, or radio and TV-reports.
- The use of special authentic materials like service and repair instructions, product information, business letters or technical journals improve the reading comprehension and intensify the relationship to their job.
- To take pleasure in language learning communication should have priority to linguistic terms.
Mentioned goals of the general syllabus - outlining general topics and communicative tasks - do agree with the goals of English for Specific Purposes (ESP).
The general syllabus should be used as a basis for materials, for the initial selection of texts, exercises and activities. The materials themselves the teacher uses will produce a detailed language syllabus, were both the needs analyses of the students and the learning process is to be considered.
3. The learning process and students’ goals
The primarily goal in language learning activities is to get the students able to communicate, to understand what others wish and to interact freely with others. For those reasons classroom activities should be planned in a way that the students do have a real natural purpose. It is better to present the language in a context to a purpose other than the English language itself. “Language is best taught when it is being used to transmit messages, not when it is explicitly taught for conscious learning”. (S. Krashen, 1985). Let’s see a teaching unit about arches (Building Ideas 2) as a practical example:
The harmonious architect who is interested in learning how to build an arch will be motivated more to work with an English text related to his interest. Photos, drawings and sketches should make the students want to know of the topic. One photo shows student architects at work building an arch. And almost most of them are at least partly informed or able to construct such an arch. Then there is given further information about arches made in England by English architects.
- Is it a goal now for the learner to learn something about arches in English language?
- Are they interested in the topic and do they have the motivation now?
The teaching material should encourage students to start learning an ESP-unit and they should be willing to do so. There is no doubt also harmonious will be pleasure if they are able to use a foreign language. They also have to be aware that they want to achieve this competence though.
Successful language learning / teaching also needs to understand the structure and processes of the mind – how people learn.
“Before learners can actively think about something they must want to think about it. ... So the emotional reaction to the learning experience is the essential foundation for the initiation of the cognitive process. ... How the learning is perceived will affect what learning takes place.”
Within the learning process it is important to pick up the student at the existing level and to connect new learning items into the network of the existing knowledge. Referring to the example about arches students have in mind a basic technical knowledge and the existing language knowledge where the new information can be linked. If the learner is also aware of his needs and why he wants to learn English he will be motivated and enjoy the process of learning and to acquire knowledge. It is of great importance indeed for students to have pleasure and success in learning – which is also valid for harmonious!.
4. ESP in relation to the goals of an “ESP” teacher
It is easier to describe the purposes a teacher has than the goals, which are in accordance actually. He has to create the estimate for a good learning situation in an agreeable classroom atmosphere by keeping in mind the basic principles of language learning and language teaching.
The most effective language teaching will mean that the students are set realistic tasks where they use the language for a specific purpose. That will be achieved by using authentic materials mentioned earlier referring to the syllabus.
An authentic text is preferable to support the natural language approach as a part of the teaching / learning process especially at Vocational School. To use a target situation text makes the exercise more realistic and increases the learners’ motivation by emphasising the real world application of the language.
The most important role then for the teacher is that of a “catalyst, to help to make things happen” and his purpose is to activate students and to encourage them to communicate.
Using authentic material should also reflect a teacher’s relation to ESP and considered as an attempt to provide a stimulus to learning. Interesting teaching material helps to organise and to keep on the teaching / learning process.
5. Conclusive remarks
English for specific purposes (ESP) is an approach to learning English, which is based on learners’ needs. The teacher should be aware of the students’ needs, lacks and wants and the students should be able to answer the question why they need to learn the foreign language.
Teaching English for specific purposes (ESP) is more than just presenting language items or skills and strategies. It is not just the content of what is learnt that is important but also the activity through which it is learnt”. The learning process should be seen as an enjoyable and satisfying experience where the learners need success to develop their language competence.
In ESP the syllabus, students’ and teacher’s goals should fit together and supplement each other. The syllabus must be used in a dynamic way to enable the student’s considerations such as interest, enjoyment or learner involvement which influence the content of a language course or lesson.