August 2012 issue

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ESP in the UK

While general English language programmes are beneficial, English for Specific Purposes (ESP) courses give clients an edge in the world of work. And in the UK, there are a range of institutions catering for various industry requirements, as Claire Twyman reports.

According to many, the UK’s English for Specific Purposes (ESP) market is thriving. Chris Moore at Specialist Language Courses agency highlights that many international industries, including aviation, have established industry-specific English language assessments, illustrating that in the global world of work, “English is the lingua franca [and] clear communication is vital”, as Moore puts it.

London’s Islington Centre for English provides a 12-week ESP course for budding lawyers, who gain an International Legal English Certificate at the end of their programme, a recognised Cambridge Esol qualification. The school’s Director, Tim Shoben, relates, “As a higher value course, we expect fewer students [who have] higher educational expectations. Evening courses seem to be more popular as they attract working professionals with clear career objectives.” Students also benefit from the native-English teacher, who has a law degree as well as experience in the field so can provide career guidance, he adds.

Also in the capital, London School of English’s ESP provision includes English with law, oil and gas and human resources. “[ESP courses] are extremely popular and a major part of the curriculum,” highlights Pete Thompson. Interestingly, each course is designed to suit people at varying stages of their careers. “For example,” he says, “We have a Young Lawyers course as well as Legal English for Commercial Lawyers for people who are further on in their career and have begun to specialise.” Because ESP courses are targeted at particular needs, he adds, “they are more efficient in terms of direct learning outcomes and are arguably therefore more cost effective to the client.”

The UK’s ESP courses are not always specifically related to one field, with Linguarama’s Bath school running an English for Meetings and Negotiations programme. “A lot of people have a good level of English but find it difficult to contribute spontaneously to meetings or get the nuances of what they mean in negotiations,” explains Geoff Monaghan. “This programme gives them the chance to do both in realistic situations with other professionals,” he says, adding that the programme attracts around 100 clients a year. The school also runs an English for Human Resources (HR) course, which attracts a range of nationalities. “[We often find students] carrying on discussions they started in lessons,” he enthuses. “Learning about HR practices in France, Japan, Morocco or Brazil is fascinating. It is also very often relevant to HR managers who work internationally, maybe for the first time.”

Commenting on Linguarama’s entire ESP course provision, Monaghan says, “The world our clients are working in changes rapidly and we have to reflect that in our training. We now use a lot more interactive and web-based materials.”

Also with wide ranging ESP offerings, including English for the medical, finance and journalism industries, St. Giles International schools in Brighton, Eastbourne and London provide programmes that “can be taken as stand alone one-to-one courses or combined with English for Professionals group classes”, as Jonathan Grubb, Director of Courses, relates. “In this [the latter] case, the learner can study general professional English in a mini group in the morning, and one-to-one ESP in the afternoon.” For students wishing to take up this option, there are various combinations of group and one-to-one classes available. “Four group classes together with two ESP classes per day – 30 classes a week in total – [is] a particularly popular option,” he says, adding that the courses are popular with the Japanese and US student markets.

Anglo-Continental in Bournemouth sees interest in ESP courses from around the world, reports Helena Weir. “In the last six months or so we have seen a greater level of interest from Japan, particularly in our executive options,” she relates. The school has run ESP courses since 1950, and current offerings include English for Sales and Marketing and English for Medical Practice. “A greater variety of specialised options are now requested, since clients have a more precise definition of expectations and topic areas,” she says. “Courses are frequently of shorter duration from traditional European markets, and of longer duration from emerging markets. Clients from European markets are now under more pressure to perform well and there has been increased interest from [Russia].”

As a number of contributors commented, there is a worldwide demand for ESP courses, as people are becoming more efficient at speaking English from a younger age. “The appeal of ESP, with its focus on adding communicative competence to traditional fluency and accuracy, looks set to increase,” Grubb concludes.

A glance at the UK’s ESP course provision

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