Chapter 19 - English for specific purposes  pp. 131-136

English for specific purposes

By Tony Dudley-Evans

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English for specific purposes (ESP) has for about 30 years been a separate branch of English Language Teaching. It has developed its own approaches, materials and methodology and is generally seen as a very active, even ‘feisty’ movement that has had considerable influence over the more general activities of TESOL and applied linguistics.

ESP has always seen itself as materials-driven and as a classroom-based activity concerned with practical outcomes. Most writing about ESP is concerned with aspects of teaching, materials production and text analysis rather than with the development of a theory of ESP.



The key defining feature of ESP is that its teaching and materials are founded on the results of needs analysis. The first questions when starting preparation for teaching an ESP course is almost always: What do students need to do with English? Which of the skills do they need to master and how well? Which genres do they need to master, either for comprehension or production purposes? Various commentators (notably Brumfit 1984a) have remarked that needs analysis is not exclusive to ESP and that much general TESOL – especially when following the communicative approach – is based on needs analysis. However, in ESP one can be more precise about learners' needs; their needs are defined by a learning or occupational situation in which English plays a key role (see Chapter 18).