English for Specific Purpose (ESP): A New Means of Giving Back to Society
*Suman D C and Radheshyam Malla
We have been working in the field of English for Specific Purpose (ESP) since 2010 in Nepal. Being in this field, we have come across a number of opportunities as well as challenges. But, in this paper, we are going to discuss what ESP is and how it varies from General English. And most importantly, we are going to present how we have used ESP as a tool for giving back to society.
What is ESP?
From 1950s, English for Specific Purpose (ESP) has emerged as a new field of opportunities in English language teaching world. But in Nepal, there are limited numbers of courses which are provided as ESP to address the need of target learners. There are a few courses in colleges as ‘Business communication’ or ‘Business English’, which is incorporated in college level curriculum to develop students’ English language skills.
ESP is defined as “the branch of English language education which focuses on training in specific domains of English to accomplish specific academic or workplace tasks” (Orr 2005, 9). Similarly, Hutchinson et al. (1987:19) state, “ESP is an approach to language teaching in which all decisions as to content and method are based on the learner’s reason for learning”. Furthermore, According to Dudley-Evans(1997), ESP consists of the following ‘absolute’ and ‘variable’ characteristics:
1. ESP is defined to meet specific needs of the learners
2. ESP makes use of underlying methodology and activities of the discipline it serves
3. ESP is centered on the language appropriate to these activities in terms of grammar, lexis, register, study skills, discourse and genre.
1. ESP may be related to or designed for specific disciplines
2. ESP may use, in specific teaching situations, a different methodology from that of General English
3. ESP is likely to be designed for adult learners, either at a tertiary level institution or in a professional work situation. It could, however, be for learners at secondary school level
4. ESP is generally designed for intermediate or advanced students.
5. Most ESP courses assume some basic knowledge of the language system
And of course, it was totally different context where we decided to work. We have worked a lot in the field of General English; but English for Specific Purpose is a short term and learners oriented course, which is delivered through the methods that are effective. While contrasting ESP with General English, Hutchinson et al. (1987:53) say, “in theory nothing, in practice a great deal”. In other words, General English is pre-designed syllabus for a targeted group whereas ESP syllabus is designed after analyzing the needs of the target group.
Moreover ESP professionals are more than English language experts for their potential clients. Indeed, ESP practitioners must be ready to become journalists, researchers, and even mediators (Salas et al.,2013).
About the course
‘English For Nepalese Army’ program has been designed for a social cause, not for profit. This course has been recorded as ‘Serial Number 1: Basic English Language Course’. And it has many reasons to be innovative and practical. First of all, this course has been designed as a tribute to Nepalese Army who showed the humane effort during and after the massive earthquake that hit Nepal on 25th of April 2015. So, Institute of Professional Development and Research Center (IPDRC), an academic institution based in Kathmandu, formulated this course as our corporate social responsibility (CSR) for Nepalese Army to equip them with basic communicative skills in English Language.
When we determined to give back to society what we have, we thought of sharing the English language skills to a target group, Nepal Army. Then we decided to research on why and when Nepal Army officials have to use English language during their professional tasks.
First, as we have already stated that our security forces are responsible for the services the nation required during the natural disasters, they need to work closely with international teams. Then, there is a requirement to have a basic communication skill in common language such as English.
Secondly, we had an informal and formal discussion with a number of senior and junior army officers. They also expressed that they require English language skills during United Nations Peace Keeping mission. Apart from this, some senior officers advised us to integrate a social-psychological counseling session for the learners so that they can heal their trauma they faced during and after the earthquakes.
Thirdly, we an objective of indentifying the proficiency level of English Language and understanding how English can be of great help in their professional career and after their retirement we conducted a level test of English Language and interviewed the target group, 30 learners. We asked everyone, ‘Why and when do you need English Language?’ Some of them answered, ‘To guide our kids for their school assignments.’ Others answered, ‘For professional growth.’ A few of them stated that they needed English Language for post-service employment.
Then we designed a Level Test for the course: written and oral. In the level test, we assessed them on the basis of a few multiple choice grammar questions and a subjective writing task. Then we interviewed them one by one to figure out their level of English. For this, we used Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The results showed that the learners varied from level A2-B1.
(Source: https:// www.cambridgeenglish.org)
Objectives of the course
- The main objectives of this course are as follows:
- Learners can talk about themselves and other individuals.
- Learners will be able to provide direction in English language.
- Learners will learn to have basic negotiation skills in English.
- IPDRC will fulfill its corporate social responsibilities through this course.
Context, target group and execution
The course was designed for Nepal Army, Special Force, Maharajgunj, Kathmandu, Nepal. The number of participants was 30 officers holding different ranks and responsibilities in their respective battalion. Among them, 4 partakers were females and rest of the learners were male. The age of participants varied from 20 to 55. The project was executed at Para Training School’s training hall located in Maharajgunj, Kathmandu, Nepal.
The lessons were disseminated in 13 sessions. Each session covered 2 hours of time with 10 minutes break. The sessions were delivered from 27th October to 10th November 2015. The class was scheduled from 12 to 2 pm daily except Saturdays. The lessons were designed and delivered by two trained trainers. The instructors tried to use widely practiced means and methods from all around the world such as integrating information and communication technology (ICT), co-teaching, peer observation with regular follow ups and so on.
Mr. Radheshyam Malla delivering a session.
We extensively believe on regular assessment to evaluate the program rather than final written assessment. Though, we did not eliminate the final written tasks as a final evaluation. Here, we would like to borrow the idea of David Nunan( 1992) regarding assessment and evaluation. According to him, assessment refers to the processes and procedures whereby we determine what learners are able to do in the target language. He adds, “We may or may not assume that such abilities have been brought about by a program of study. Evaluation, on the other hand, refers to a wider range of processes which may or may not include assessment data.” (Nunan 1992, 185)
So, from the very beginning, we had designed and had practiced formative, a regular assessment, and summative, a final evaluation, to examine the learners’ learning outcomes. For instance, every reading, listening, writing and speaking activities were assesses by using readymade and integrated rubrics from http://rubistar.4teachers.org/. And every evaluation was followed by rewards to motivate learners. The performances were evaluated in various ways: individual, pair and group of 4 to 5 learners.
Finally, learners sat for a summative assessment: written and oral, which was followed by a course feedback form that was completed by the learners and returned to the instructors. For instance, we conducted a short written test of 45 minutes in which they answered 7 multiple choice grammar questions, 10 self generated completion bases vocabulary questions and thre subjective written tasks. And this written test was followed by an oral test in which every candidate was interviewed personally. In this interview, the assessors asked them the questions based on the topics they had discussed in the classroom.
The results showed that the students, who had hardly produced three sentences about themselves, families, profession, direction and future plans during level test, spoke around 11 sentences to describe about themselves. Similarly, two third of the total students confessed that the communication in English language was tougher as many of them attended government schools and they had no environment where they could enhance their English language skills. However, the learners reported that the course had enhanced their confidence level as well as it has equipped them with the ways to tackle the basic communication in English.
After the completion of the course, they felt ease to communicate and ask basic questions in English. They also realized that they could write and speak about the topics with fewer errors. One of the best examples of the improvement was that one of the female learners was encouraged to host the closing ceremony in English. In the end of the session, she and her two colleagues who shared their experiences were appreciated by senior officers.
As we have already stated the main clause of this program was to give a tribute to Nepal Army for their consistent efforts during massive earthquake in Nepal. The mode that IPDRC has posed to give back to the society has been highly praised by learners and senior officers in the closing ceremony, though the program was very short.
One of the students, we personally remember, spoke hardly two broken sentences when we had asked about him. At end of few sessions, he introduced himself fluently in front of the class by using 11 sentences with a few number of grammatical errors.
Another participant said that he had found herself with a better confidence level than earlier in terms of topics he discussed in the classroom. Many of the participants realized that learning English language was not that arduous as it was told and believed. Though the course was short, it enhanced their confidence and brought a number of changes in them. Senior officers who were invited to certificate awarding ceremony emphasized that learning English was medium to communicate anywhere where English is understood in different places and situations.
During closing ceremony on 10th November, one of the top army officers mentioned that the project was the first ever English Language training conducted in an army camp in Nepal. He added, “We are happy to collaborate with IPDRC in this historical achievement.”
At the end, all the participants requested the stake-holders to execute such projects on regular basis for their personal and professional growth.
IPDRC and Nepalese Army Official have been in regular touch for further projects. They have been discussing how they can collaborate in the future. Most importantly, we have launched an online class called ‘English for Nepal Army’ by using a social network, Facebook. We regularly post English language materials from various sources from American English and British Council. We follow up the posted materials with the exercises, and the learners post their answers as comments. We also post the material required by the students. For instance, one the candidates has requested for report writing resources for the professional purpose. Then we helped him with proper online resources. The feedback was positive to bring change in his profession. There are already more than 20 participants from Nepal Army in the virtual classroom. Apart from this, we have been operating a separate virtual classroom for Nepal Traffic Police in which there are more than 120 members till date.
English for Specific Purpose, which supplies with the specific demands of English language learners, has been accepted as one of the best tools of learning English language. The course is designed with a view to meeting the expectations that not only helps the learners develop their confidence but also assists them enhance their professionalism. English for Nepalese Army has been one of the examples to us. IPDRC which was established recently launched the program to regard the immense contribution made by Nepalese Army during post earthquake. During 26 hours session the learners were taught Basic English that would help them during and after their job. Most importantly, the institution took this initiation for a social cause and the course was offered for free acknowledging corporate social responsibility (CSR) and it is committed to do in the future as well.
Dudley-Evans, Tony (1998). Developments in English for Specific Purposes: A multi-
disciplinary approach. Cambridge University Press.
Hutchinson, T & Waters, A (1987). English for Specific Purposes: A learner-centered approach.
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Nunan, D. (1992). Research Methods in language Learning. Cambridge University Press.
Orr, T. (2005). Professional standards in English for Specific purpose. OnCUE 13 (1):9-16.
Salas, S, Mercado, LA, Ouedraogo, LH, and Musetti (2013). English for Specific purpose:
Negotiating Needs, Possibilities,and Promises.English Teaching Forum 51 (4): 12-19
(*Mr Suman D C is an English Language educator who has been teaching English to speakers of other language for more than 8 years. He is the Founder/Executive Officer of Institute of Professional Development and Research Center (IPDRC). Mr. D C has special interest in information and communication technology (ICT) in education, new literacies and English for Specific Purpose(ESP). He has authored number of articles for English national dailies and journals in Nepal. He is also a Life Member of a volunteer organization, Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA). He has been awarded E-Teacher Scholarship, a professional development course offered by University of Oregon, USA, that was funded by Regional English language Office (RELO), US Embassy, Nepal.
Mr Radheshyam Malla has had an MA and M Phil degree in English and has been actively involved in teaching English language schools, colleges and different academic institutions for more than two decades. He is the Founder/Chief Executive Officer of Institute of Professional Development and Research Center. Besides that, he is equally involved in social organizations. Since he has an interest in journalism, he worked as a host Himalayan Television, a national TV channel of Nepal and published articles in the national broadsheet newspapers.)