|by Jan Dougherty Hortas
As we enter a new millennium, the ability and the need to understand and
communicate with each other has become increasingly important, at times even urgent.
An international exchange of ideas - from environmental issues such as the thinning ozone
layer and the warming of the planet, to medical topics such as genetic engineering, to
political crises - is essential.
To meet these communication needs, more and more
individuals have highly specific academic and professional reasons for seeking to improve
their language skills: for these students, usually adults, courses that fall under the
heading English for
Specific Purposes (ESP) hold particular appeal.
ESP programs focus on developing communicative competence
in a specific field, such as aviation,
business or technology.
Some courses prepare students for various academic
programs: English for Science and
Technology, and Pre-MBA English.
Others prepare students for work in fields such as law, medicine, engineering, tourism or graphic design. Many courses now
focus on the Internet, how to use its vast web of information for academic or professional
purposes, and what ethics and conventions govern use of that information.
Who should enroll in ESP programs?
Generally, older, more advanced students should consider ESP instead of a more general
English language course. Students should note, however, that most courses assume a
strong English language background. Many require that applicants be at a High
Intermediate or Advanced level of skill.
Learning by Example
makes use of the case studies approach which it pioneered. Students read about
actual situations in the business world and discuss them in class, often role-playing as
At Yale University, leaders of the Business Seminar make
frequent use of computers and offer field trips to small businesses and the New York Stock
Program lengths vary: at the University of
Pennsylvania, special two-week courses for managers provide extensive
practice in negotiation strategies using business simulations.
Often universities, usually through an Intensive English Language Institute, will arrange
short- or long-term ESP programs for groups. Universities such as San Diego State in
California underscore that tail or-made programs can be arranged. If a university
does not offer the specific instruction you seek, inquire about the possibility of
developing such a program.
As air travel and the Internet continue to bring us closer
together, erasing the distance of time and space, communication through a common language
becomes a pressing need. These English for Specific Purposes courses present unique
ways to fill that need.