English for Specific Purposes

As English became a lingua franca worldwide, particularly in fields such as business and science, there developed a need to focus on the language needs of those people using English as an international language and to develop programs specifically to meet their needs. English for Specific Purposes (ESP) classes focus on both the structure and lexis needed for a particular field as well as the types of activities that the student is expected to perform within the profession.

Strategy of English for Specific Purposes

English Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Grade Level: Secondary to Adult

  • The first step in ESP is to do a needs analysis of the field or profession in which the students will be working.
  • From the needs analysis, find the activities that the students will be required to do in English within their field. Activities might include giving speeches, reading journals, conducting board meetings, and so on.
  • Also include in the curriculum vocabulary, structure, spoken discourse, and rhetorical patterns that are specific to the students’ field and future tasks.
Applications and Examples of English for Specific Purposes

Creating a Small Business
This activity could be used either for business students or art and design students.

  • Students are put into groups.
  • As a group, students decide which small business they would like to start. They might choose a restaurant, a travel agency, a clothing store, or any other small business.
  • Students decide what will need to be done to start a small business such as:
a. How to find funding
b. Where to locate the business
c. How to advertise
d. How to design and decorate the establishment
The areas of focus might depend on the specialty of the students. For example, business students might decide to concentrate on the financial aspects of the business, whereas art and design students might decide to concentrate on the design of advertising and the establishment.
  • Each group of students presents its business plan to the other students in the class, who can respond to the plan as potential investors might. The other students should be encouraged to ask questions of the presenting group regarding the business plan. Finally, the “investors” can explain why they would or would not approve the plan.

Preparing to Write about Art
This lesson teaches students art terminology and descriptive adjectives to help them write a critique
of a piece of art.

  • Students are introduced to the art design elements of line, shape, space, light, color, and texture through the viewing of visual representations that show different uses of the elements.
  • Students are given a reproduction of a painting and asked to analyze its design elements. Students can present their analysis orally or in writing.
  • Students choose different pages of a text that describes a piece of art. Students underline or write the descriptive adjectives. Students share their words with the class while the teacher writes them on the board.
  • The teacher then shows students a variety of art reproductions. For each reproduction, students must give one or two descriptive adjectives. Students cannot repeat what other students have said. This is to encourage students to come up with more words that can be used to describe the same object.
  • Students are then assigned to write a description of a piece of art.
Strengths of English for Specific Purposes
  • Students’ real and specific needs are met.
  • Authentic materials are used.
  • ESP courses tend to be short and intense because of the narrow focus.
Weaknesses of English for Specific Purposes
  • Classes may be so narrowly focused that the broader needs of some students are not met.
  • The time, effort, and cooperation needed to do a good needs analysis may not always be available.