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Teaching English for Specific Purposes (ESP) as a Non-expert

Teaching English for Specific Purposes (ESP) as a Non-expert

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Published by JoelRiveraMora

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Published by: JoelRiveraMora on Apr 21, 2014
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Cambridge English Teacher © Cambridge University Press and Cambridge English Language Assessment 2014
Teaching English for Specific Purposes ESP) as a non-expert
 Explore teachers’ insecurities about teaching ESP
 Raise teachers’ professional confidence
Materials required:
 Appropriate for:
 Teachers with any level of experience New teachers of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) often feel guilty that they don’t know enough about an ESP field to help their students: how can I teach something that I don’t even understand myself? And they panic that they are going to look foolish if they can’t answer their students’ questions. Teaching ESP is never an easy option – you certainly need to be brave. But it’s not as bad as it first seems, and there’s really no need to feel guilty or stupid. There’s much, much more to teaching ESP than long lists of vocabulary. If your students really need to know what a particular word means, they can buy a dictionary or look it up on the Internet. What they need from you is much deeper. As an English teacher, you already know quite a lot from your experiences of teaching general English:
 You know how English works (e.g. grammar, pronunciation, collocations, etc.) – this accounts for a large part of what students can learn from you;
 You know how effective language learning works, and can organise a course to maximise that learning;
Classroom management:
 You know how to motivate students, how to make lessons fun and engaging, how to build fluency and confidence, how to manage discipline, etc. These skills and strengths are needed in exactly the same way in ESP as in other English courses. Your students need you to be a brilliant teacher, not a dictionary.
Cambridge English Teacher © Cambridge University Press and Cambridge English Language Assessment 2014
Of course, there’s plenty you can (and should) do to develop your specialist knowledge, but after a few lessons you’ll be surprised at how much you’ve improved. You just need to work hard, do your best and, above all feel proud of yourself.
1. Read these teacher comments about teaching ESP. What advice would you give to each teacher?
 “I find the idea of teaching legal English terrifying. I mean, I don’t know anything about law, so how on earth am I supposed to lead a class on legal English? As soon as the students realise that I’m not an expert, they’ll lose all confidence in me!”
 “My technical English class is really hard – the students keep asking me questions that I can’t answer: How do you say X in English? What’s the difference between Y and Z? I feel really stupid when I have to keep saying ‘I don’t know’.”
 “My students are paying my school a lot of money for their financial English course, which really puts pressure on me. I mean, I feel guilty about not giving them good value for money – but how can I, when I’m not an expert?” 2. Read about two ESP teachers. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each teacher? What can they each learn from the other? Teacher A spent some years teaching teenagers in a high school before switching to technical English at a university. While teaching teenagers, she had to work very hard to manage discipline and keep the students motivated. Teacher B trained as an engineer, and has a deep understanding of most engineering fields. He spent some time teaching engineering at a technical college before switching to technical English. He’s never taught English before, but feels that he knows the language well enough to teach it.

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