Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 16

Accepted Abstracts

English for Specific Purposes (ESP) in a University Context

Ana Cunha, Lusófona University (Portugal)


Language learning has for many years been considered crucial and in today’s globalized world English has become the lingua franca for communications in such key areas as politics and international relations, business and finance, culture, technology, science. So, the pressure to make students proficient in English rises exponentially giving rise to growing demand in the number of teachers of English as a foreign language.
Moreover, today’s society is so dependent on the creation and use of new knowledge that it has increasingly come to be known as knowledge society, characterized by complexity, integrability, reflexivity and interpretation (Vali, 2013), one in which education in a global context represents an essential pillar (Andreotti & de Souza, 2008). In this context, proficiency in English has shifted from being an asset in an individual’s set of skills and competences to being an inescapable necessity for anyone who wishes to advance their career and make an effective contribution to the co-construction of the world (Andreotti & de Souza, 2008). At the University level individuals who choose studying areas such as tourism, international relations, among others, expect learning English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and this rise of teaching ESP has changed the perception of teacher roles and has introduced new instructional needs. Whereas English for General Purposes (EGP) doesn’t focus on the learners’ needs but in general content, ESP is based on needs analysis (Woodrow, 2017) as its contents course are related to the subjects students are studying in their native language in preparation to their work on a specific area and within the communicative competence required on the second language, in this case English, to complete their instruction, but also based in real situations they have identified and clearly defined from the area of study chosen.
My research concerns students taking their BA in areas such as Tourism, Communication and International Relations, where ESP is offered as part of the course curriculum or as an optional subject, at a Portuguese Private University. The research focuses on a critical reflection on students` perceptions regarding this different learning experience and their expectations, and teachers’ perceptions and challenges they are facing, identifying and recognizing the ESP teachers diversified role and to acknowledge the challenge still stemming from the teaching of ESP, when curriculum design for specific academic and professional contexts is concerned.

Keywords: English as a foreign language teaching, ESP;

[1] Andreotti, V. & de Souza, L.M. (2008). Global Learning in the ‘Knowledge Society’. Four tools for discussion. ZEP : Zeitschrift für internationale Bildungsforschung und Entwicklungspädagogik, März 2008: 7-12.
[2] Vali, I. (2013). The role of education in the knowledge-based society. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 76 (2013): 388-392.
[3] Woodrow, Lindy (2017). Introducing Course Design in English for Specific Purposes. Routledge.

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