English Language Webinars

Trinity organises events and various webinar series throughout the year. Most Trinity-organised events are free, but may require advance registration.

The Benefits and Limits of Highly Specialised ESP Courses in a Global Context

This session by Vicky Chan took place at the online Future of English Language Teaching Conference (FOELT), organised by Trinity College London and Regent’s University London. You can learn more about the annual event at trinitycollege.com/FOELT.


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For more than two decades, the trend in ESP course design and teaching materials has been towards target-situation driven ESP, with higher and higher levels of content derived from the learners’ specialisations being used in ESP teaching. This trend has resulted in a proliferation of commercially published textbooks aimed at a specific professional training market and an uneasy balance in ESP courses between teaching content aimed at language development and hybrid content aimed to strengthen both language abilities and professional discourse capacity. This approach to ESP teaching has face validity and high credibility with many stakeholders, but are ESP learners actually being well-served by this trend?


This presentation will examine the advantages and potential drawbacks of narrow gage ESP course and materials design, where teaching targets, materials and tasks are heavily content-based, when applied to learner groups in contexts where English is not widely used outside of workplace or academic situations. Data from learners in a variety of specialisms (firefighting, nursing, tourism & hospitality, art & design) and text analyses of learner writing for ESP tasks designed to replicate target situation genres requiring atypical lexis and structure were used to assess the usefulness and effectiveness of highly specialised ESP teaching. Results will help identify areas where content input is generative and areas of ‘ESP overreach’, where more generic language teaching targets may actually be more useful to the learners. This talk will be of interest to ESP teachers deciding how much specialist content to use in their teaching and teachers of workplace English working in an EFL context.

About the presenter

The presenter, Vicky Chan is currently an English instructor at the University of Macau. She received her MA in Applied Linguistics and her TESOL graduate certificate from Boston University. She has published papers on language perception and language proficiency assessment. Her research interests include language acquisition, multilingualism, and English teaching and learning.



Topics: English for Specific Purposes (ESP), The Future of English Language Teaching Conference, FOELT 2023


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