Stephen van Vlack Sookmyung Women’s University Graduate School of TESOL

What are the four stages of ESP?

The development of ESP as a specific approach in English Language Teaching (ELT) is the result of four basic stages. The approach which we now call ESP developed as a direct result of developments in these different areas listed below. In the same vein, ESP is reliant on using the same types of analysis. When developing and ultimately conducting in ESP course the designer needs to go through and make a thorough analysis using all these different considerations.

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The basic idea behind register analysis is something that we already talked about in class last week, namely, that in different situations people will shift into different registers. This is the basic idea and it is an idea which has been around since the 1960s. At the time researchers began to become more interested in social aspects of language and what they found was that a single individual in the course of a day would change the way they spoke many, many different times.

In fact every time these test subjects entered a new situation their language would change to better suit the situation in which they now found themselves. Register analysis is a study of such changes. Now in the course of investigating is what researchers also found was that many of these changes were related to occupations or, in a more general sense, actions. It is important to remember that actions don’t occur individually but occur with groups so groups to a certain extent are defined by the actions they take or engage in together.

An important indicator membership in any group would be the ability to shift your register into the group approved register. This means that different groups are going to use obviously different vocabulary items, but are also going to need to use formulaic expressions as well as maybe even different structural uses of language. All this is patterned behavior and group members will quickly be able to see based on their language use who is in and who is out of the group.

How ESP has dealt with this is somewhat unique in that while register analysis is not a new idea the idea of actually teaching different registers for, again specific purposes, is unique. In ESP one of the major goals in developing a particular curriculum is to train students in the forms they will actually need (a particular register) in a specific situation or group in which they might need to work or function. Plus, training books for mechanics, computer engineers, and even academics are developed following the basic idea of register. In order to do this, however, one first needs to analyze the register. In ESP practitioner needs to get a fairly good idea of how the register which they will be trying to teach is actually composed.

Analysis Rhetorical or what is often called discourse analysis takes the idea of register analysis and brings it up to the next level. While register analysis often focuses on specific vocabulary items and sentence level grammar and structure, rhetorical analysis deals with how language is organized above the sentence level. The key word here is organization.

As with register analysis it was noticed quite some time ago that different professions require people to organize their language use differently. This organization relates both to spoken and two written language. For spoken language were basically thinking about transactions. It is certainly true that different professions require people to engage in different types of transactions and Saints transactions are often formulaic it should certainly be possible for teachers to introduce specific transactional formulas to their students who will ultimately need to use these for their own personal gain.

In written form we are talking about how writing is organized and structured. For example writing narratives (what we can call creative writing) requires different structure than writing reports, expository writing, linguistic analysis, or any other specific type of field. Students who have been in this program for while should certainly have noticed that books written on different topics or in different subject areas will be written in different styles. When we are thinking about rhetorical analysis this is what we’re really talking about, different organizational styles. An important part of ESP is training students to be able to emulate these organizational styles or the specific organizational style they are going to need for their either current job or future job.

A target situation analysis relates not to the specific forms are how these forms might be organized, as discussed above, but to the actual things that a student might need to do. In this way we can see that the target situation analysis is very closely linked to a needs analysis, but is a little more general.

A target situation analysis focuses on the situations in which people find themselves and how they would need to react both linguistically and extra linguistically in such situations to succeed or excel. While before focused analyses discussed above are often achieved through a generalized and often hypothetical view of usage patterns, the target situation analysis is often highly personalized. It may need to be fitted specifically to just one person and the job in which they need to do which will indicate situations which they will find themselves. It is here where forms are matched to specific functions.

In looking at skills and strategies what the ESP practitioner is doing is trying to find out how a student is going to be able to benefit the most from the above analyses. What the teacher is concerned about is internal processing. It is important to realize how students will actually go about learning these different elements and what strategies they will need to employ in order to actually use them in the necessary situations. So, here the ESP practitioner is really worried about how they can actually turn knowledge into performance. In order to do this a skills approach is implemented.

What is the fifth stage that Hutchinson and Waters mention and how does it differ from the other phases?

The fifth stage that Hutchinson and Waters mentioned is the stage all of learner centeredness. We talked a fair bit about this last week, mentioning also how this is a mainstay of the ESP approach. To can think of learner centeredness a little bit differently than some of the other above-mentioned steps because it is more of a guiding force than an absolute necessity in ESP.

It is rarely possible to teach English in a teacher centered way, but in the ESP approach this is definitely frowned upon. So, as I mentioned last week, while all language teaching endeavors put some sort of lip service to learner centeredness ESP really pushes the idea almost to the point of being founded on the idea. Learner centeredness is a new and different aspect of ESP. This approach tries to discover and use research in mechanisms for general learning. This is a main departure from the attested linguistic argument and is definitely within the framework of the `language as a skill` approach. The rest of the ESP book is also devoted to describing this and giving us a model for it, so we will have to wait and see what it entails exactly.

How is it that ESP is an approach and not a product?

The ESP focus on actual practice and not necessarily the product of such practice makes the ESP approach very different from standard approaches to teaching English. Certainly everywhere, but particularly in Korea teachers, learners, and their parents are all fixated on the product of other learning, as measured in formal exams. This is definitely not part of the ESP approach to language learning a language teaching.

The main philosophy of ESP is similar to that of a task based approach. In ESP what a teacher is focusing on is putting a student into a specific situation and seeing how they react in that situation. There is no particular best way to react. There are all different types of ways, some of which are more successful in some of which are less successful. Certainly an ESP teacher wants to get their students to move of the latter, so to speak, and find more successful solutions to situations, but really the fact that the students can respond in any way to a specific situation is a good sign in ESP.

ESP is not a based on a particular language product, but is based on an approach to teaching designed around specific goals and needs. In ESP it is the practice and not necessarily the language produced which practitioners or teachers need to analyze or pay much attention to. Success is measured based on a more holistic, task-based basis. Of course, feedback is given, but the main focus in ESP is on the tasks themselves and whether the students manage to fulfill the tasks in any way, shape, or form. Everything else is secondary. That is the basis of ESP.

How is the language of business different form other language uses?

As we have mentioned previously, ESP courses are generally very highly focused. The business world, however, is a different story. The key word to focus on here is world. Business touches all aspects of the world and is very hard to be broken down into nice, neat little groupings like we might do for ESP (English for Teaching, for example). The repercussions of this observation will be that it is hard to set up business courses that are as specifically focused as ESP courses. Also, the content in business is going to be a tricky matter as well because each company does things a little differently.

Business is not a science as such with highly specified rules and theories (economics is, but business is something much bigger and more vague). As a result, content should probably be avoided and replaced by a focus on specific skill getting and strategy development and well as some general communicative goals. This creates a very different paradigm than ESL.

Who are the target learner s for business English and how do they differ?

The basic learners for business English are either students/people who are planning to work in the business field (pre-experienced people) or (experienced) workers in companies. The difference between how the business English teacher deals with these two groups lies primarily in the degree of specificity of their respective needs. Pre-experienced people are those who are still studying, possibly business management but maybe something else, and they have an interest in possibly joining the greater business world in the future, after graduation. They really have no idea what their goals are. They just want to learn business English, whatever that is so they can get a leg up on the competition.

What they do is not highly specified because they are not yet sure what their specific needs are. Experienced people are those who are already active in the business world. They have accrued a certain amount of experience in a highly specified field (their job) and have a very good idea of what it is they want to get out of the course because they know what they do and what they need to do better.. The goals of experienced learners will be very clear and they will already have a well-developed cognitive structure as relates to their current or past jobs.

Where is business English typically taught?

This might seem like a stupid question and maybe even an obvious question, but the obvious answer is that business English is very often not taught in schools and, not only not taught in schools but is often not taught in language institutes or hagwons either. Very often business English is taught in companies or special business organizations, such as the Federation for Korean Industries (FKI). This is an important distinction to make because it means that teachers of business are often very much on their own.

They do not have resources available to them that schoolteachers or hagwon teachers have. This includes things as simple as a photocopy machine and as difficult as student recruiting. The environment in which a business English teacher will teach often lacks basic amenities like a chalkboard, an OHP, or been projector. The company will often lump all the different employees together into one business English class, making it very hard to know exactly what to teach. Of course the business in this teacher will not know what the students are in advance so it makes it very hard to actually plan course in advance.

Materials development can also be much more difficult because often such places do not want to use commercial books. A business English instructor will often need to create all their own materials themselves. Business and was teachers often need to move around a lot from one place to the other, catering to the specific customer’s needs rather than waiting for students to come to them in a classroom. All these different potential challenges make teaching business English a very stressful endeavor indeed.

What does it take to be a teacher of business English?

Looking at the above list of challenges for business English teachers we can simply say that a business English teacher needs to be much more independent and resourceful than standard teachers of General English. Things are much less fixed and individual attention is more important. A business in the teacher must therefore have very good selling skills because more than any other type of teacher they are selling themselves and their knowledge not only of the business world but of their knowledge of English. Companies are fickle employers and want teachers to look the part.

Business English teachers need to look like business people and successful business people at that because really they are. Most business and was teachers run their own personal business. We can maybe think of them as really high-priced private tutors.

What is often emphasized in business English and how is this done?

In the book, much of what the authors describe relates to lowering the affective filter. That, while useful and good is, in and of itself, not the crux of the communicative approach. The communicative approach is one founded on the basis of integrating and building the curriculum around certain functions.

In a communicative class, often these function float in the air without a real purpose. In a business English course we want to take this idea of building our class around functions, but the functions must have a clear and direct purpose, either in the real world or the academic world. Business English teachers create tasks with real world communicative purposes. The idea being that the students should be able to go out right after class and use what they have practiced.

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Stephen van Vlack Sookmyung Women’s University Graduate School of TESOL. (2016, Dec 25). Retrieved from