This post was written by Susan Weymouth

Are you looking for a new buzzword to impress the directors at your next job interview? We have talked before about how many acronyms there are in teaching English as a foreign language. Here is another one that you may have been reading or hearing about – ESP. No, that’s not extrasensory perception. In TEFL it is English for Specific Purposes. What is it? English for Specific Purposes (ESP) is the development of instructional programs, including both curriculum and teaching approaches, which are designed specifically for the way the learner plans to use English. Have you heard of Medical English or Legal English? How about English to help students write essays for university entrance examinations? Have you seen training programs for the staffs of restaurants in tourist areas? Each of these represents a facet of English for Specific Purposes: English for Occupational Purposes and for English for Academic Purposes.

For many teachers working in an English-speaking country, ESP may be almost synonymous with programs associated with helping students raise proficiency scores in order to enter university programs or supporting their progress through their university programs. Many universities outside English-speaking countries have Academic English programs to prepare learners for studying abroad. Other international institutions provide AEPs (Academic English Programs) around the world that provide a pathway to their specific counterparts in other parts of the globe.

English for Occupational Purposes courses focus on the language needed for professional or staff positions around the world. Some specific purposes, such as Business English, are broad enough that you can find many resources and materials already developed for them. Yet, even within those fields, good teachers adapt their work for their students. An English course for financial traders who work on the phone will be different than the one for hospital administrators who use English for writing reports and proposals.

All students have the right to say their situations are unique. Our ability to respond to their requests in meaningful ways can make the difference between a full or an empty classroom, a long-term contract or a quick cancellation. Learning about ESP will make you a better and more employable teacher.

Check out more EFL job tips on BridgeTEFL's resource page!