What is English for Specific Purposes?

Group of teachers in a meeting

Teaching English as a Foreign Language comes in many forms. On any given day, you might be teaching 5-year old Chinese students the days of the week, or teen Spanish students how to order food at a restaurant, or German adults how to take the IELTS exam. When you start out on your TEFL career you have no idea where it will lead you, and that is half the fun of what we do. One TEFL situation you might not yet be familiar with is ESP, or teaching English for Specific Purposes. Let’s look at what teaching ESP means, and what resources there are at your disposal.

TEFL teacher teaching english for a specific purpose

Teaching English for Specific Purposes

Teaching English for Specific Purposes is a blanket term used to refer to a number of different EFL classes. Students take these classes because they need English to accomplish a specific goal. While General English and Conversational English classes are great for the student who needs English to live in an English-speaking environment or communicate with English speakers in a general situation, there are times when our students need to focus on a particular kind of English for their needs.

English for Academic Purposes

English for Academic Purposes, or EAP, is popular all over the world. Many people want to study at an English-medium college or university and they need EAP classes to help them do this. In order to study well at an English-medium university, there are a number of skills students need above and beyond a general understanding of English. Remember, you are not teaching your students the subject they are going to study, but rather how to survive an academic environment in general. Many EAP courses are given at universities, or you might find yourself teaching them at a language school or high school.

English for Academic Purposes can include:

  • taking notes
  • writing an essay
  • academic vocabulary
  • giving presentations

Resources of teaching English for Academic Purposes:

Read more: What is English for Academic Purposes?

Business English

While some TEFL teachers dream of teaching cute kindergarteners, some of us can’t stand the idea and would much rather be in a boardroom. If this is you then you should think about teaching Business English. Business English is still a wide label as there are many different aspects of business that we can cover during our Business English lessons. Teaching Business English means teaching language related to business, teaching general English when necessary, as well as touching on corporate culture.

Business English can include:

  • how to speak on the phone
  • how to chair a meeting
  • how to write an email
  • how to give a presentation
  • how to network effectively

Many Business English students go to language schools and academies for 1-to-1 lessons. This could be at the language school or you might need to go to their place of work. Business English lessons are often easy to find as an independent teacher, as you could even work for a company and work in-house. There are also numerous opportunities to teach Business English online.

Resources for teaching Business English:

Read more: 7 Tips for Teaching Business English Like a Professional

English for Tourism and Hospitality

English is the international language of travel and tourism is a massive industry. Any of our students who are already in or who are studying towards working in the tourism and hospitality industry need to make sure their English is of a high enough standard for their job. These students will take lessons in a language school or privately. Some resorts and hotels offer in-house training for their staff. Bear in mind these lessons will vary considerably depending on which staff you are teaching – waitrons, cleaning staff, receptionists, groundskeepers and so on.

English for Tourism and Hospitality can include:

  • meeting and greeting guests
  • taking bookings
  • dealing with requests and complaints
  • taking food orders
  • how to write an email

Resources for teaching English for Tourism and Hospitality:

  • English for International Tourism – Iwonna Dubicka and Margaret O’Keefe
  • Hotel and Hospitality English – Mike Seymour

English for Medicine

As you can imagine, medical English is a tricky one. There are lots of terms that are difficult to learn, and it is extremely important that the medical student learns accurate language! But that doesn’t mean that you need to be a medical professional to teach English for Medicine. The medical staff themselves will be familiar with all the jargon that they need. What they will need help with is dealing with patients and other medical staff. This could be for doctors, nurses, or even dentists.

English for Medicine can include:

  • understanding patients’ explanation of symptoms
  • communicating diagnoses and treatments
  • giving advice
  • giving instructions
  • writing reports

Resources for teaching English for Medicine:

  • Professional English in Use: Medicine – Eric H. Glendinning and Ron Howard
  • English in Medicine – Eric H. Glendinning and Beverly A. S. Holmstrom

Legal English

Let’s be real: legal English is difficult to understand even for native English speakers. Legal English differs from natural English in terms of vocabulary, syntax and semantics, among other things. This is in spoken English, but written legal English is different as well. There are many different aspects to legal English which lawyers need to be familiar with in order to practise effectively in an English-speaking legal system. There are a series of English exams – the UK TOLES – for lawyers and law students. In the case of Legal English, it helps tremendously for teachers to have some sort of experience with lawyers or the legal profession to teach Legal English lessons.

Legal English can include:

  • understanding contracts
  • introduction to finance
  • how to write a legal letter
  • the language of company law
  • employment laws

Resources for teaching Legal English

English for Aviation

Aviation English is another important ESP course, as you can imagine! Aviation English teaches English communication skills for pilots and air traffic controllers. Of course, it can also involve flight attendants, industry professionals and engineers. Aviation English is both highly specialised while also needing to incorporate an element of General English too. The level of English of aviation professionals is monitored by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), so teachers will help their students reach and maintain the required Level 4 on the ICAO English for Aviation Test.

Aviation English can include:

  • interactive simulations
  • pronunciation and accents
  • how to describe the weather
  • how to identify airport signage
  • ground operations

Resources for teaching Aviation English:

Feeling overwhelmed yet? You might be wondering how on earth you can teach a speciality if you have no experience in that field. Well, that is where the beauty of being a teacher is. Even though you might never have flown a plane before, you are certainly aware of the language pilots use and you would understand many of the terms they use. Even though you might not be a receptionist, you are likely to have communicated with one in a hotel. Even though you aren’t a doctor, you would still understand any non-medical terminology medical staff use. All it will take is a bit of extra research and planning on your part to make sure you are comfortable with the target language of the lesson and the lesson materials, and you’re A for Away with any English for Specific Purposes lesson.

The post What is English for Specific Purposes? appeared first on The TEFL Academy Blog.

I have been traveling and teaching ESL abroad ever since I graduated university. This life choice has taken me around the world and allowed me to experience cultures and meet people that I did not know existed.

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