March 2003 -- Volume 6, Number 4
English for Specific Purposes
English for Specific Purposes
Thomas Orr, Ed. (2002)
Alexandria, VA: TESOL
ISBN 0-939791-95-1 (paper)
$29.95 (member $24.95)
For the lasttwenty five years, the field of English for Specific purposes (ESP) has been growing, but many practitioners still feel they are walking in the dark. Over the last few years, publishers have offered a number of books bringing out new insights and approaches from a number of theoretical perspectives. However, most teachers still missed a text that showed others' experiences and approached the issue realistically. These twelve experiences constitute a good starting point in this field. The 12 contributions Orr compiles illustrate ESP's strong points and a few problems still open to improvement in the near future. The book addresses twelve cases which broadly illustrate the different realities ESP teachers face every day in a variety of regions (from the US to Spain or Hong Kong), including various contexts (ESL and EFL) and content subject areas (Tourism, Shipbuilding or Medicine). Orr has divided the book into two clearly separated parts. Part 1 provides valuable insights into university ESP teaching, while Part 2 shows the use in the workplace. These two perspectives complement each other and are linked by a brief, concise but crystal clear introduction that justifies and guides the reader though the different texts. Therefore, Orr's compilation of cases facilitates a solid but also entertaining approach to the field of ESP.
Part 1, ESP for Language Learners in the University shows how some projects and programs are run in educational contexts. In chapter 1, An ESP Program for Students of Law, Christine Feak and Susan Reinhardt describe a program for Non-Native Speaking Law students at the University of Michigan, discuss the "evolving framework and curriculum of the program" (p. 7) and provide some guidelines for prospective programs of the very same nature. In Chapter 2, An ESP Program for Students of Nursing, Virginia Hussin describes how to use genre analysis in task-based learning. This chapter provides a variety of strategies and shows a collection of real examples of oral discourse to orientate the reader. Chapter 3, An ESP Program for Students of Business, Frances Boyd approaches one of the most typical fields in ESP by describing the three types of business English learners and the programs that best suit them. Chapter 4, An ESP Program for Students of Tourism (Simon Magennis) explains that despite the common need and use of English for the Travel, Hotel and Tourism industry, it is one of the least addressed varieties of ESP making clear the limited amount of textbooks in the field. He also claims that this field should receive more attention from publishers with the hope that the increase of students will call the publishing companies' attention towards this issue. In this chapter, Magennis gives details (especially in the "Practical Ideas" section) and documents the evolution of his teaching over three years at the Instituto Superior de Assistentes e Interpretes in Porto (Portugal). Chapter 5, An ESP Program for Students of Shipbuilding, is especially interesting as foreign language instruction for engineering has always been one of the hardest matters in ESP due to the lack of instructional materials. Elena Lopez Torres and Maria Dolores Perea Barbera present an innovative teaching program which puts together language learning and the use of new technologies. [-1-] They also emphasize the difficulty of English teachers in unknown topics such as shipbuilding. Based on a needs analysis study and a content-based approach, their program is centred on a set of technical topics and is not only well planned and organized, but also entertaining. Finally, in An ESP Program for International Teaching Assistants (chapter 6) Dean Papajohn, Jane Alsberg, Barbara Blair, and Barbara Willenborg bring out one of the worst problems for many university institutions across the United States, the university Teaching Assistants' (sometimes) low foreign language proficiency. After giving a historical insight into the issue outlining their special need for instruction in language and culture, their paper describes the current introductory situation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and how their department runs TA training through a Presemester Orientation program. Their Practical Ideas are fulfilling and they also make clear the often-ignored idea that is very important to have realistic expectations towards the ESL / ESP students.
In the Second part, Orr includes six more chapters which present programs in the workplace. First, in chapter 7, An ESP Program for International Medical Graduates in Residency, Susan Eggly explains that ESP in workplaces is very much aimed at either remedying a perceived lack or deficiency, or even at obtaining special certification (as the one given by the Educational Commission on Foreign Medical Graduates (IMGs) or TOEFL / TSE for the foreign TAs addressed in the previous chapter). The program emphasizes oral skills, due to the special doctor-patient relationship. In this training, the three major assets become interviewing, culture and the instructor's authority. Chapter 8 studies An ESP Program for Management in the Horse-Racing Business as described by Rob Baxter, Tim Boswood, and Anne Pierson-Smith in Hong Kong, who focused on specific language and highly specific documents especially designed for the client. For this training, as in most other ESP situations in this book, Baxter mostly used case studies involving video and new technologies. The program evaluation was received from senior managers and participants that helped to refine the program in order to meet their needs. Among the most interesting features of this chapter is the authors' approach to persuasive writing based on an initial problem need for a communication plan to produce the appropriate writing piece, and the changing role of participants becoming tutors of their own work (p. 131). One important implicit conclusion is that ESP must not only teach the language, but also help learners to develop their own sense and values towards the field. Likewise, Judith Gordon in her chapter, An ESP Program for Entry-Level Manufacturing Workers, mentions the fact that ESP language programs may also be valuable to transmit the necessary skills to perform professional duties. The writer claims that this dual approach can benefit both the company and, all in all, the workers' performance. Paula García addresses the same issue but her chapter, An ESP Program for Union Members in 25 Factories, adds the always difficult problem of finding and training the right staff that, most times, is not specialized in the field of teaching but in language education. Hence they require additional information on topics of which they know little or nothing. It is also interesting to mention the underlying idea of cooperative language teaching among the different teachers in the twenty-five companies and how they receive support through monthly teacher meetings. Sometimes ESP is also related to the personnel attending international conferences, meetings and presentations. This is the case presented in chapter 11, An ESP Program for Brewers. Liliana Orsi and Patricia Orsi address their work with executives and the difficulties most ESP instructors come across. They suggest that despite the difficulties it is better to work with real materials which can be easily accessible and more meaningful to professionals who are familiar with their daily use. The last chapter, An ESP Program for a Home-Cleaning Service by Patricia Noden, describes a "professional survival" program mainly for Spanish-speaking cleaning women. In this case the final goal was to provide the minimum required skills to perform their duties where hired. As Noden recommends (p. 203) it is crucial to view the matters from the other's perspective.[-1-]
The book also includes 175 bibliographic references at the end. Besides, each chapter has an annotated biography of each author, valuable facts under the heading of "Practical Ideas," syllabi, the needs analysis, organization of each program and suggestions for materials, teaching methodology and instructional approach.
English for Specific Purposes is a very valuable overview of the very many different realities existing behind the ESP label. It provides general ideas on how to approach each situation, examples of experiences, clues and tips for prospective teachers in the field and useful "Practical Ideas" for classroom practice. Moreover, it is handy and easy to follow and read.
I would not hesitate to recommend this book to EFL / ESL teachers, prospective or practising ESP researchers or anyone interested in ESP. It is excellent as a foundation handbook, as a compilation of excellent ideas, and as a qualified informative tool for ESP teachers who are already working in the field but want to be better, get further or serve more.
Editor's note: For more information see: http://www.tesol.org/pubs/catalog/previews/951.html
Dr. Jesus Garcia Laborda
Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (Spain)
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