Teaching foreign languages including English as a second language has been one of the most important issues for decades. A number of approaches and methods are suggested by scholars to promote language learning and enhance students’ skills. In fact, some of those hypotheses proved their utility subsequent to their application in practice while other premises are still in the process of being explored through teaching. Nowadays, scientific works are carried out on specific branches of this foreign language because most of them have already been accomplished in the sphere of teaching General English. As the demand for learning the English language is growing continuously, the attention to specific branches of teaching it, to be more precise, English for Specific Purpose (ESP) is increasing as well. Now, language instructors are supposed to develop learners’ proficiency in a limited scope of working sphere rather than promoting proficiency in all areas of language learning. It means that doctors are expected to become aware of vocabulary pertaining to medical situations or engineers are confined to the lexemes that are merely related to their jobs. Moreover, a secretary who is just responsible for answering phone calls is not expected to master writing formal letters as she rarely needs to do it in reality. Therefore, ESP practitioners should develop teaching process in accordance with learners’ needs to reach success in teaching. In other words, they are supposed to know for what the learners are studying English and what kind of outcome should be reached at the end of the course.
The key factor of achieving an intended result at the end of ESP courses is to choose appropriate materials for teaching. Careful selection of sources is very important because learners are exposed to grasping needed data with the help of them. Indeed, the best approach suggested by a number of scholars is to use authentic materials that are defined as non-class intended sources. They are very important to enable learners to experience real English situations because they are not adapted or refined for teaching purposes. The vitality of utilizing these materials in classroom has already been claimed by language experts. In fact, carefully selected authentic teaching tools encourage learners to improve their skills and get involved in real life usage of the target language. Although the opinions concerning the importance of authentic sources in ESP teaching are diverse, most scholars firmly believe that these kinds of materials should be brought into ESP classrooms as they really assist in improving students’ language proficiency.
Regarding authentic materials as one of the crucial tools of ESP classes, Zorica Antic (2007), a teacher at the University of Nis, cites that “In ESP, the authentic world must be brought to the students, and they must learn to interact with the language as it is spoken and written in target situation” . However, even though there are many textbooks believed to be appropriate for ESP courses, Johns (1981) claims that no textbook can fulfill all demands of a specific situation. For this reason, teachers must rely on their own empirical knowledge while assessing the appropriateness of the material to develop language skills. In fact, not only teaching materials but also the place where the course is conducted is very crucial in teaching ESP. Various authors mention about conducting ESP courses as close to the workplace as possible. Crandell (1984) suggested making the classroom into a simulated workplace in order to integrate the language and “”specific purposes”. The workplace context also helps keep the focus more on the specific purpose and less on the language.
It has become obvious that ESP instructors at various academic institutions should also pay more attention to the specific intended area; otherwise, potential specialists can’t acquire adequate command of English in their spheres. Addressing to this issue, Lui Mei Yang (2001), an assistant ESP practitioner at English Department of Northwest Polytechnic University of China, states that “vocational educational colleges should keep serious eyes on the situation and put priority on job-oriented training rather than academic cultivation in curriculum design because vocational education has to change from supply-driven to demand-driven model in order to better serve and keep in steps with the development of industries which have increasing awareness of ESP skills of their potential technicians” .
A number of problems ESP teachers have generally been facing for decades encompass students’ poor English proficiency, their low interest and motivation in learning alongside with their passive performance during lessons. Worst of all, some students tend not to have autonomous learning ability, and they rely on teachers too much; thus, it is an ESP teacher who does most of the work by explaining everything and talking for over 90 % of the class time. Therefore, teachers often feel it very difficult to carry out their teaching plans and are eager to get out of such a difficult situation.
It is supposed that ESP should be taught by teachers who are experts in a specific area with a high level of English which could guarantee that an ESP instructor helps students with both technical content of a course as well as language issues. Moreover, a good ESP instructor should have a natural desire to keep abreast of the latest findings in science and technology. Therefore, the issue of how to motivate learners and provide their autonomy in ESP learning and how to find an effective way of exposing teachers to ESP oriented training is quite important.
One of the best methods of boosting learners’ communicative competence in ESP lessons is to make a use of communicative language teaching (CLT) which is defined by D. Nunan (1999) as “an emphasis on learning to communicate through interaction in the target language” . In fact, learning a language was previously regarded as knowing grammar structure of that language. Previously, learners could not communicate in the language freely due to most attention on theoretical issues of the language and a lack of practical application. Communicative language teaching created an opportunity to eliminate the barrier towards using a language successfully. Nowadays, CLT has enabled learners to utilize the language in real life situations, to be more precise, helped them to put theoretical knowledge into practice. As CLT encompasses a number of vital aspects including linguistic competence (grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation), pragmatic competence (discourse) or sociolinguistic competence (register), it is generally oriented to enhancing students’ communicative competence. Communicative language teaching is mostly concerned with engaging learners into real communications in the sphere of the target language. Therefore, CLT is highly advisable in ESP classes in order to increase learners’ motivation and enable them to cope with real life English easily and successfully.
To sum up, ESP practitioners should bear in mind the existence of a number of factors in establishing successful teaching process. Firstly, it is claimed that most attention should be paid to using a language in real situations (in practice) rather than language theories. Additionally, ESP teachers should bring a wide range of appropriate authentic sources as well as innovative technologies into classroom. Finally, they should strive to develop students’ critical thinking by illustrating real life examples considered to be one of the primary components of ESP courses.
- Crandell (1984). Needs assessment in occupation-specific VESL or how to decide what to teach. ESP journal. 3.2.143–152.
- Johns. A. M. (1981) The ESL student in the business communication class. Journal of business communication. 18.31–38.
- Lui Mei Yang (2001). English for Specific Purposes: International in scope, specific in purpose. State of the Art TESOL Essays. Teaching EFL // P. R. China
- Nunan D. (1999). Second Language Teaching and Learning. Boston: Heinle and Heinle Publishers, 1999.
- Zorica Antic (2007). Medicine and Biology Journal (vol. 14. No 3. pp 141–147). Forward in teaching English for Medical Purposes.