The case for a new acronym esap
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The case for a new acronym esap l.jpg
The case for a new acronym ESAP

Increasingly English is being used as the teaching medium for BusinessStudies, Medicine, Engineering etc at Higher Education and Universitylevels.  This presents interesting challenges for the English teacherfaced with students who are not interested in learning English for its ownsake, but who are concerned to have sufficient command of English to help themprogress in their chosen careers. General English is being replaced byEnglish for Specific Purposes but within an atmosphere of English forAcademic Purposes. How can this best be done?

A general view l.jpg
A general view

Language teachers lack the expertise and confidence to teach subject specific conventions and content

Skills and language across a range of disciplines remain the same

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General English

Level driven: the main focus is on what a student can and cannot do now.

Student motives are varied and general. They may be interested in the language or want to enjoy the global community.

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the specific view

When English is taught, it should include:

• current specific needs

• wider needs (transferable skills and


• acknowledgement of future needs

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What do students say?

“We’ve been learning English for 6 years and

we’re still doing the verb to be.”

(Lack of interest / progression)

“I’d like more time to speak and practise the

language. I forget it straight after the lesson.”


“Different teachers tell us different things.

(Lack of faith in the teacher – or is it the book?)

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Which means ...

Students are generally goal-orientated.

Students might not know what they need, but they do know what they don’t need.

Our materials and methods should reflect this.

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The acronyms







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English study at university





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EAP provides …

• Discourse structures and vocabulary

spanning all academic fields

• General skills to help decode and

construct text in appropriate


i.e., Bottom Up skills

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Themes based on areas of human knowledge

  • not quirky

  • not imaginary

  • not ‘one-off’ human interest stories

  • not ‘teen’ topics

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Listening: to lectures

Speaking: seminars, tutorials

Reading: for research

Writing: essays, assignments

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Listening and taking notes

  • not interactive listening

  • not ‘eavesdropping’

  • not multiple listening

  • not ‘after doing’ comprehension questions

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This seems like a simple ...

but there is no simple …

In the next two lectures, we’re...

to look at theories of …

This week, I’m going to talk...

theories from Ancient…

Next, theories from …

theory from a Russian scientist, …

...agree about learning. However...







Islamic scholars

Ivan Pavlov

(contrary view)

How do we learn?

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Top down bottom up listening

How do we learn?

This seems like a simple …

but there is no simple …

In the next two lectures, we’re …

… to look at theories of …

I’m going to talk about …

… from Ancient …

Next, theories from …

A Russian scientist, …

… agree about learning. However

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Speaking from research

  • not phatic communion

  • not every function that can be thought of

  • not convergent, ‘what I know / think’

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Reading for research

  • not reading for pleasure

  • not every and any text type

  • not ‘after doing’ comprehension questions

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Reading to Writing






Eap writing l.jpg

Writing in academic genres

  • not first person

  • not informal postcards, letters

  • not convergent, ‘what I know / think’

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analytical not impressionistic

objective not subjective

intellectual not emotional

serious not conversational

impersonal not personal

formal not colloquial

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Teaching writing: top down

  • Researching

  • Structuring research notes

  • Understanding models

  • Organising information into paragraphs

  • Writing topic sentences

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The TOWER of Production






audience, purpose, content

information from research, knowledge, opinion

appropriate writing plan

writing for the writer – cohesion

writing for the reader – coherence

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We can start with a few facts ...

75% - 85% of EAP is in …

… the present (including passives)

10% - 15% of EAP is in …

… the past (including passives)

5% - 10% of EAP uses …

… modals

(Source: Various inc. Longman Grammar of Written and Spoken English)

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And ...

90% of EAP is in the simple aspect

7% of EAP is in the perfect aspect

3% of EAP is in the progressive aspect

0.5% of EAP is in the perfect progressive aspect

(Source: Longman Grammar of Written and Spoken English)

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EAP Grammar

the complex noun phrase

clause joining

clause embedding

prepositional phrases

stance adverbials

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How does ESAP differ from EAP material?

  • Content-centred approach to promote more meaningful learning

  • teaches students to cope with input texts in their discipline (lectures, research articles, etc.)

  • Addresses variations within disciplines

    - different skills, conventions, lexis and register

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ESAP students need …


to use specific information from the field to

check and develop arguments and theories

Building background knowledge



English for Specific Academic Purposes

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ESAPWhat background knowledge?

• What is the discipline?

• What are its branches?

• What does a practitioner do?

• What is the history of the discipline?

• Who are the great people in the discipline – biography?

• What are the great works in the discipline – references?

• What are the basic principles / knowledge in the discipline?

• What are the current issues?

• What are the contentious issues?

• Are there any Health and Safety issues (if relevant)?

• How do you distinguish fact from opinion in the discipline?

• What might the future hold?

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Disciplinary variations:

Disciplines see reality in different ways

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ESAP Learning tasks

Humanities & social sciences

Analysing & synthesizing from

multiple sources

Science and technology

Describing procedures, defining

procedures, planning solutions

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ESAP Lexis and collocation

Common core ignores multiple meanings

Consist means ‘stay the same’ in the social sciences and ‘composed of’ in the sciences

Volume means “book’ in applied linguistics and ‘quantity’ in biology

Abstract means ‘remove’ in engineering and ‘theoretical’ in social sciences

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ESAP Reporting conventions

Social sciences;

Verbs which refer to writing activities: discuss, hypothesize, suggest, argue

Engineers and scientists:

Verbs which refer to research activities: observe, discover, show, analyse, etc

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Self-mention (per 1,000 words)

Philosophy 5.5

Marketing 5.5

Applied Linguistics 4.5

Sociology 4.3

Physics 4.1

Biology 3.4

Electrical engineering 3.3

Mechanical engineering 1.0

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Stance features (per 1000 words)

Philosophy 42.8

Sociology 31.1

App Ling 37.2

Marketing 39.5

Physics 25.0

Mech Eng 19.8

Elec Eng 21.6

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Citations per 1000 words

Biology 15.5

Sociology 12.5

Philosophy 10.8

Applied Linguistics 10.8

Marketing 10.1

Electronic Engineering 8.4

Physics 7.4

Mechanical Engineering 7.3

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Some implications for teaching..

Use target-language authentic texts

Encourage analysis

Encourage critical thinking

Encourage reflection

Use authentic models

Use expert informants

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and ....................

S What we teach in any kind of content based course is not the content itself but some form of the discourse of that content.

ESAP should equip students with the vocabulary and skills they need to enable them to study their chosen discipline in the most effective way.