English teaching & learning! Tips, reflections & discussions!

Monday, June 25, 2012

5 tips for ESP teachers

Teaching ESP can be quite challenging, especially when you're not familar with the area of study which you're supposed to teach.

Dealing with the techinal jargon that refers to complex concepts is probably the worst part.

If you're facing this situation, here are some ideas based on my own experience:

1. Be clear about your role as a facilitator:

Students must be aware that you're a language teacher and not a specialist in the area. This can help you to avoid creating wrong expectations or future frustrations. 

2. Look at yourself as a permanent learner:

Teaching ESP can make even experienced EFL teachers stop and study  (more than we usually do) while preparing classes. This can help the teacher to understand what kind of difficulties the students are about to face.

3. Try to establish a partnership with other teachers or professionals: 

Having someone you can rely on and help you to understand the concepts of their area of study can make your life a lot easier and give you more confidence about the subjects that you're teaching and also clarify the real needs of the students.

4. Have good online resources and strategies: 

As for everything else in this digital world, Google is a very useful tool. Looking for images of machinery, for instance, has helped a lot to understand what they do and how they work. Another useful procedure is bookmarking the websites you found interesting. Do this on a regular basis and soon you'll have a good reference list.

5. Be persistent: 

It might drive you crazy in the very beggining, but it's just a matter of time until you have created your activities or designed your course. Once you have done it for the first time, things won't be that difficult anymore.

(Do you have anything to add to this list? Leave a comment!)


  1. Great tips,Jean! They are all useful to teach any language. #3 has been one of my favorites for the Portuguese Self-Study course.

    1. Thanks, Bené! Sometimes it's really difficult teaching vocabulary you are not familiar with... I had a difficult time teaching at a Logistics course this term... I'm glad I had some help from the teachers that work on this area...

  2. Nice job, man! I usually try all those steps. One of the best things in your blog besides the content is the length of the posts. Superb!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, brother! I try to be objective. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Found your post on Linguee's FB page. This is the most useful post on ESP I have read in a very long time! And pleasant to read too :)! I have a combined arts degree and am now teaching technical and business English to undergraduates. Although I always explain my "facilitator" role in the beginning of the semester, students seem to have forgotten all about it by the second week... ;) I'll start wearing a "facilitator" badge! Would you like one ;)
    Keep up the good work!!!

    1. Thanks for the positive feedback! I've been teaching ESP to Secretarial, Computing & Logistics courses for 3 years now, but they are kind of vocational courses, or 'technical' courses, as they're called here in Brazil, in which the students are usually beginners or lower intermediate. They seem to get the "facilitator" idea and when they demand a deeper explanation on a more specific topic, I ask for the help of my fellow teachers, who are specialists in their areas of study. I liked the idea of the "facilitator" badge, though. It might help! lol Once again, thanks for the feedback!

  4. By the way: it also helps to have a set of good textbooks around. Of course, for some "special purposes" these are hard to come by. I have been desperately looking for a good (and current!) book for my IT/multimedia students. Any tips?

    1. Well, I have this problem: I work with lower level students and most ESP textbooks are designed for at least intermediate students. So I need to adapt lots of things.

      Anyway, I have the following textbooks around here:

      English for Information Technology - Maja Olejniczack / Pearson-Longman.

      Information Technology (Workshop series) - Dinos Demetriades / Oxford University Press.

      Infotech: English for Computer Users - Santiago Remacha Esteras / Cambridge

      Basic English for Computing - Eric H. Glendinning & John McEwan / Oxford University Press.

      Hope it helps! Keep in touch! Cheers from Brazil!