for Special Purposes
(also known as ESP
is something that is not usually covered in initial ESL/EFL training
courses, but it is something that students are starting to require more
As well as general English courses, more language schools are offering
specialist courses in subjects such as Legal English
, Accounting English
, Business English
, English for Medical Staff
Cambridge ESOL exams also offer special exams in Business English (BEC
Legal English (ILEC
Financial English (ICFE
and students want teachers who are experienced
in these areas to teach them.
Background knowledge and experience
if you are an experienced English teacher it is difficult to teach ESP
if you have no experience or knowledge of the subject.
English teachers worked in a business environment before becoming
teachers and this helps them greatly.
However, it is not
completely necessary, and as long as you do the research, a lot of
reading, and are confident you can teach the subject.
What do you need to teach?
that depends on the purpose.
It is usually practical
students need to know.
For example, specific vocabulary
they will need
in that area (particularly collocations that are unique to that kind of
and the four main skills of reading
will also need to be covered, but most students
studying ESP will have a reasonable level of grammar and general
Activities covering the four skills should be
to the subject.
For example, a course in financial
- Reading texts on the economic situation
- Listening to news about financial and
- Writing reports
courses may include:
- Language for managing meetings
- Making presentations
- Writing formal
letters or marketing materials
If possible, include visits to
appropriate places on your ESP courses.
For example, to a local
business, a hospital or a court.
If you can, arrange speakers to come in
and speak to your students that can make the lessons more interesting.
Direct your students to websites which have podcasts or news reports
about their subject, so they can study outside the classroom.
you are preparing your students for an exam, then make sure you know
the exam thoroughly yourself.
Study the format and try doing the exam
paper so you know the pitfalls the examiners try to create.
yourself in your students' shoes you will understand how to help them.
exam preparation classes, don't only give your students exam practice.
Break the tasks down into small sections and focus on technique but
also give them other tasks to do which practice the skills they
need in a non-exam, non-threatening way.
For example if they have to do
a discursive essay, you could ask them to have debates presenting the
case for and against an issue.
This way they get used to seeing things
from two different points of view without the stress of writing.
is, however, important to make sure your students do timed practice
exams so they know how to manage their time during the test.
should ideally be done at least twice.
such a variety of English for special purposes classes now that it is
impossible to give more than general guidelines.
But if you keep your
classes focused on the subject, varied and relevant, your students will
learn and will enjoy learning.
Teaching English for special purposes
isn't always easy, but it can be very rewarding.