English for Specific Purposes or ESP has come to light as a distinct
discipline since 1960’s. Its emergence was the result of many events like the Second
World War in 1945, the rapid development in science and technology, the growing
use of English as the lingua franca in the fields of science, technology and
business, shifting power to the some oil-rich countries like USA and a lot of international
students studying in UK, USA, and Australia. Hutchinson and Waters 1 state
that in ESP context, the consequence of the historical events led to the
situation that a number of people around the world wanted to learn English
language as the key language in the fields of science, technology and commerce.
The teaching movement of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) has started as a result
of learners’ needs based on their occupation or job necessities. After the
flowering years of ESP in 1960s, ESP has become an important and crucial
activity within the Teaching of English as a Foreign or Second Language
movement (TEFL/TESL) as described by Howatt 2

Hutchinson and Waters 1 define that ESP is an approach and not a
product to language learning and it is stand on learners’ need. What they are
going to say is that ESP does not include a special kind of language, teaching
material or methodology”. They suggest that the basis of ESP includes the
learners, the language required and the learning contexts which are stand on
the priorty of need in ESP. Strevens 3 gives a definition of ESP, which differentiates
between four absolute characteristics and two variable characteristics .

Robinson 4 stresses on the importance of needs analysis in
defining ESP. Her definition is based on two key defining criteria and a number
of characteristics that are important aspects for ESP. Her key criteria are
that “ESP is normally goal-directed’ and that ESP courses develop from a needs
analysis, which aims to specify as closely as possible what exactly it is that
students have to do through the medium of English” 4, p3. Her characteristics
are that ESP courses are generally constrained by a limited time period in
which their objectives have to be achieved, and are taught to adults in
‘homogeneous classes’ in terms of the work or specialist studies that the
students are involved in. Robinson 4 delineates that ESP as an enterprise,
which involves education, training and practice, and drawing upon three major
realms of knowledge: language, pedagogy and the students’ specialist areas of

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Dudley-Evans & St John 5 provide their definition of ESP.
They also use absolute and variable characteristics of ESP as Strevens 3
centers on defining ESP.

Absolute characteristics:

1. ESP is designed to meet specific needs of the learner;

2. ESP makes use of the underlying methodology and activities of
the disciplines it serves;

3. ESP is centered on the language (grammar. Lexis, register),
skills, discourse and genres appropriate to those activities.

Variable characteristics:

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 used for learners at secondary school level;

4. ESP is generally designed for intermediate or advanced students.
Most ESP courses assume basic knowledge of the language system, but it can be
used with beginners.

The definition that Dudley-Evans & St John 5 provides is obviously
influenced by that of Strevens 3 and they have included more variable
characteristics. Their division of ESP into absolute and variable
characteristics, in particular, is very helpful in resolving arguments about
what is and is not ESP.

ESP has traditionally been divided into three branches such as
English for Science and Technology (EST), English for Business and Economics
(EBE), and English for Social Science (ESS). These Branches are classified into
two main sub branches such as English for Academic Purposes or EAP and English
for Occupational Purposes or EOP 1-5. EAP (English for Academic Purposes) stands
for any English teaching that relates to academic study needs 4,5.
Dudley-Evans & St John 5 argue that in the area of English for Academic
Purposes (EAP), English for Science and Technology (EST) has been identified as
the focal area, but English for Medical Purposes (EMP) and English for Legal
Purposes (ELP) have always gained their places. More recently, English for
Management, Finance, and Economics (EMFE) has widely been necessary to Master
of Business Administration (MBA) courses. According to Robinson 4, p21, “EOP
(English for Occupational Purposes) involves work-related needs and training”.
Dudley-Evans & St. John 5 clarify that the term, EOP includes
professional purposes in administration, medicine, law and business, and
vocational purposes for non-professionals in work or pre-work situations. For
example, English for Medical Purposes (EMP) is a course concentrating on training
doctors and English for Business Purposes (EBP) is developed for communicative
functioning of English in business contexts. According to Hutchinson and Waters
(1, p17, “EOP is also known as EVP (English for Vocational Purposes) and VESL
(Vocational English as a Second Language)”.


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