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Custom Background to English for Specific Purposes essay paper sample

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Generally, English for Specific Purposes refers to learning or teaching English for a particular career or occupation. Unlike in general English (GE) where learners and teachers do not have the core reason for learning English, in ESP learners and teachers are directed by the demands of the career or occupation in question (Romo 27). Therefore, English taught in ESP for various careers and occupations is not the same at all. For instance, English taught to military students is different from that for dentistry students. Background of ESP can be traced back to early 1960s though it is believed to have started immediately after the Second World War. With recent globalization and international integration, communication and trade have become a necessity in ensuring global unity and development (Harding 45-48).

In china English is one the most famous international languages that is used in work places and in learning institutions. Students in china, both local and international students, are required to learn specific English as a means of doing their work efficiently, gaining, and developing appropriate knowledge and skills relevant to their careers. Extensive teaching of English started in early 1970s (Basturkmen 143-144). English language teaching (ELT) is very important in China’s education system and it is normally taught in primary and secondary levels of education.  With recent globalization and need for country to improve on their international relations, English for Specific Purposes has become one of the necessary languages taught in China’s higher institutions of learning search as universities and colleges.

Generally, ESP has grown drastically for the last ten years and questions have been raised on whether the quality of the English taught in universities all over the world meets demands of different careers and occupations. There are those who feel that ESP differs in different countries and this has been difficult for professionals working internationally (Richards & Rodgers 66).  It is therefore important for institutions of higher learning to constantly assess the approaches used in developing and implementing educational programs. ESP is not exceptional and relative to this study, China is currently evaluation teaching of ESP in its universities in order to improve it. China is aware that the nature of teaching concepts, methodological knowledge and nature of professional experience is changing incessantly (Gomez, 37). The number of students from other countries, who English is not their first language, is increasing in China universities and they have different needs and backgrounds. It is therefore crystal clear that there is need to modify approaches to teaching of English for Specific Purposes in China’s institutions of Higher learning (Yogman & Kaylani 316).

Therefore the review in this study basically focuses on determining the educational features of teaching ESP in the context of China Central University of Science and Technology. The core issue is to analyze and familiarize with factors that affect teaching of ESP and courses that require students to learn ESP as a compulsory subject (Master & Brinton 16). It also helps the course teachers and students in China and the general public in understanding English for Specific Purposes and its development. For instance, the review helps researchers in developing hypotheses that they will aim at confirming during the actual study.  Teachers will be informed on the trends of ESP in China hence being able to plan course designs that reflect the needs of their students. This will improve teaching of ESP in China Universities and even to other countries.

2.2 Studies Undertaken on ESP

There are different courses on ESP that are taught in different parts of the world. Generally, ESP is popular in countries where English is not a first language. These include South America countries, African countries, Middle Asia countries and countries from far Asia. There are various factors that determine the studies to be undertaken on ESP from different parts of the world. They include culture of the people, job occupations, needs of the peoples, areas of study in universities found in different countries, global intervention of among countries in terms of education and occupations among others. In most of the university from Asia and African countries, Nursing English, Flight Attendant English, Business English, Discourse English, Hotel Industry English, Legal English, Tourism English, Global EIL English,  Research English, Military English and Engineering English, just to mention a few (Carver 136).

Generally ESP courses mentioned above are among the ones offered in most of the universities in china that admit foreign students. Teaching of ESP in Central China University of Technology is a growing culture and the number of students taking such courses is increasing every day. The major challenges facing learning of ESP in the Central China university of Technology is lack of competent well experienced teachers, lack sufficient leaning materials and lack of maximum commitment from the students.  Generally, most of the teachers of ESP are those involved in teaching English as Second Language (ESL) (Johns & Dudley-Evans 263).  Coming up with teaching programs that reflect goals and objectives of the study is also a challenge since majority of the universities in China that offer ESP courses are left to develop their own syllabuses (Jones 74). Another challenge is lack of proper learning environment due to deep rooted influence of the Chinese traditional languages. On the side of students, majority of the students from China appear to be contented with their first languages and this is a major problem especially to those taking occupational ESP courses (Gatehouse 68-76).   

2.3 The Origins of English for Specific Purposes (ESP)

Though there is controversy about the origins of ESP, it is believed to be dated to early 1900. However, up to after the Second World War ESP was not readily accepted as subject to be taught in institutions as a specific field of study. ESP gained international popularity in late 1960s and early 1970s with many countries including it in their university and college syllabuses. Many countries introduced General English (GE) in their primary and secondary education levels to prepare students for ESP taught in higher institutions of learning. According to Hutchinson and Waters 1987, ESP became into existence basically due to the demands of the new society after the Second World War, revolution in linguistics and focus of the learner in teaching contributed greatly to the development of ESP (Johns & Dudley-Evans 263).  

By the time of the Second World War, English had spread to the almost all parts of the world. Research shows that most of the powerful countries after war were using English language for administration and other official tasks. Americans who emerged superpowers were using English language to address their subjects and this made general English to spread and many people were learning English as their second or foreign language. However, it is worth noting that a brave world had emerged after the Second World War and pressure was exerted to language teaching profession to deliver required goods as per the market demands. Consequently, English was put into scrutiny and the traditional and leisurely English taught in GE was found irrelevant leading to emergence of ESP.  After the introduction of ESP, English changed from a language that used to control it destiny to a language subject to the needs of market, learners and society at large (Basturkmen, 49).

Another factor that led to the emergence of ESP was revolution in linguistic that took place in the second half of the 20th century. Initially the core purpose of linguistics was to describe the rules of English usage with emphasis given only to the grammar part. However, with evolution in linguistics, it was realized that English used in one field of study was totally different from that used in another field. At the era of evolution, the most developing area of study was science and technology and English for Science and technology (EST) was among the first courses in ESP to be established. This was possible by analysing the linguistic characteristics of every specialist area of study and work hence developing several ESP programs (Richards & Rodgers 19).

The third factor that is claimed to have contributed to the origin of ESP was focus to the learner other than the previous English leaning where focus was basically given to teachers and the language itself. There were new developments in educational thinking in the late 20th century that are believed to have contributed to the rise ESP.  According to (Rodgers 18), emphasizing on the leaner’s needs in education led to the rise of ESP from GE, EFL that was taught to non- English speakers. It was realized that learners in different areas of study had different needs and interest that played a very important role in motivating their learning and consequently English causes that were relevant to learner’s needs and interests were established (Basturkmen, 49). The above combined factors give a clear explanation of the origin of ESP and its development.    

2.4 Key notions about ESP

There are four key notions about ESP namely, the meaning of the world ‘special’ in ESP, types of ESP, characteristics of ESP courses and the distinctions between the absolute and variable characteristics of ESP. Streven’s original definition of ESP, was based on identification of its absolute and variable characteristics. However, later on theorists Dudley and St John (1998) modified this definition to form their own. According to Streven’s definition, distinction between absolute and variable characteristics can be illustrated as follows:

Absolute characteristics of ESP

i.It is designed to meet specific needs of the learner

ii.Its contents are related to specific occupations and fields of study

iii.It normally contrasts features of GE

iv.Its syntax, discourse, lexis, semantics is centred on language appropriate to the area of study.

Variable characteristics of ESP

i.ESP is believed to be restricted to the language and skills to be  learned

ii.ESP is argued to be not taught in according to the predetermined teaching methodology but according to the demand of the course in question.

It should be noted that these characteristics were modified during 1997 Japan conference on ESP with Dudley-Evans coming with his own characteristics that somehow differed with Streven’s definition (Dudley-Evans 124-125).

2.4.1 Types of ESP

Generally there are three types of ESP as identified by David Carter, 1983 which include English as restricted language, English for specific topics and English for academic and occupational purposes. Starting with English as a restricted language, a good example is the language used by specialists such as air traffic controllers, police communication officers, waiters and other special professionals (Widdowson 56).  Such English is referred to as restricted since its effectiveness is only established only when used in its contexts. However such restrictions do not make it a language by itself since knowing a restricted language cannot enable one to communicate in a context outside their specialization.

English for Academic and occupational Purpose is another type of ESP that was identified by Carter (1983). In this type English is taught depending with the field of study in question and the occupational grounds. Under this type, English is further divided into three branches which are: English for Science and Technology (EST), English for Business and Economics (EBE) and lastly English for Social Studies (ESS). According to Hutchison and Waters (112-113), each of the above branches is further divided into two branches namely English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and English for Occupational Purposes (EOP).  A good example of EAP under the branch of ESP is English for Medical Studies while under the category of EST, A good example of EOP is English for technicians (Howard & Brown 120).

However, it is worth noting that there is no comprehensible distinction between EAP and EOP since individual can work and study at the same time. Similarly, there is likelihood that a language learnt by an individual as a student could b used at work place as he or she tries to show understanding of that profession. Therefore some researchers do not separate EAP and EOP but on the contrary, they put them under the same type of ESP. However, research has shown that EAP and EOP are different in terms of focus on notions of cognitive academic proficiency versus basic interpersonal skills (Sagliano & Stewart 85).

The other type of ESP as identified is English with specific topics. In this type, more emphasis is put on the topic and not the purpose of study. Scholars also argue that this type of ESP caters for future English needs. For instance, doctors and scientists may require special language to for activities such as international conferences, post graduate studies, working in foreign organizations.  All in all, this is not a separate type of ESP but an integral component of ESP courses that concentrates on situational language. This type of ESP has been established based on the understanding of the results and needs of the real language used in the intended workplace settings (Stryker & Leaver 68-72).

2.4.2Characteristics of ESP courses

There are three major characteristics of ESP namely self direction, authentic material and purpose orientation. Research shows that ESP courses should offered at an intermediate level of education such as in universities and colleges. It is evident that use if authentic learning materials is entirely feasible. It is important to have thorough evaluation of learning materials to be used in ESP learning, both modified and unmodified forms especially in self directed studies and research activities. There are many fields where students are required to carry out studies by themselves on the area of interest and ESP is very important when it comes to language preparation before the study (Echevarria & Graves 116).

On purpose orientation, when teaching ESP simulation of communicative tasks relative to the specialization in question. For instance, it is necessary for ESP students to participate in activities such as note taking, reading, writing and other preparatory tasks relative to their courses. For example, students learning English for Business courses are required to design and present ideas on business ventures, market research, and creating business logos as part of their learning. Students are supposed to present their findings to a panel using the appropriate ESP learnt in order to complete their course. The other feature common in ESP courses is self direction. Unlike in General English (GE) where teachers are responsible in determining what to be taught, in ESP, student have the freedom to determine what, how and when  to study depending on the demands of their area of study or occupations (Trimble & Drobnic 29-31). Here teachers have the responsibility to teach their students on learning strategies and how to acquire information in a new culture.

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