Many ESL teachers are interested in expanding the types of classes they give but are quickly disheartened with the idea to teach Business English or Finance English as they don’t feel like they know enough about the topic.
However, speaking from our vast experience in the English language sector in Madrid, we at TtMadrid can tell you – you do not need to be an expert in finance in order to teach finance English or an expert in business to teach Business English.
English for Specific Purposes
English for Specific Purposes (ESP) is an area of teaching & learning English that focuses on helping students to develop their English communication skills in specific disciplines, such as finance, marketing, management, human resources, engineering or strategic thinking.
Instead of focusing on grammar rules and vocabulary, priority is given to mastering the communicative requirements of a particular professional field. This approach and focus on language communication training allow students to improve relevant communication and professional skills and, by doing so, meet the language needs of their field of expertise.
In any given field, technical knowledge is clearly important, but it cannot be demonstrated without excellent communication skills. After all, being successful in the workplace sometimes has more to do with how well you can communicate than what you can actually do. In fact, research suggests that employers in several professional fields consider communication skills to be of greater value than technical skills when it comes to both finding a new job and landing a promotion.
If you are a good English teacher, you have the will and the ability to learn quickly and you’re quick on your feet when it comes to creating materials that meet the needs of your students, you can be a very successful ESP teacher.
TtMadrid top tip for teaching English for specific purposes
To teach ESP you might think that you need to know as much as the students about the topic, which is simply not true. Having some basic knowledge (and wanting to learn more about it) is important, but not essential.
Instead, design your classes in a way that your student(s) become the teacher and have to explain elements of the topic to you in English. You will then help them to correct and improve the way in which they have explained it: vocabulary that they have used, structures that they have put together, etc.
This helps them to understand how to communicate the topic with a non-native and you can help to remove some of those fossilized errors they might constantly commit.
What do I need in order to become a successful ESP teacher?
Be hungry for learning
We have established that you do not need to be an expert in business in order to teach Business English. However, you need to have a working knowledge of the basics so that means learning, researching and then having conversations about this topic. It’s incredibly interesting and rewarding to help students to be able to communicate about those topics and to learn about them at the same time.
Be able to think on your feet
ESP is not particularly great for teachers that like to stick to the plan all the time. Because of the nature of the lessons, there will be many moments in which the conversation goes off on a tangent. Embrace those moments, because that means that your students need to talk about that particular topic at that particular moment. Try to look for opportunities to teach new vocab or grammar that emerges during those conversations, even if it’s got nothing to do with your target language.
I hope that these tips will help you to feel more comfortable with the idea of teaching Business English, Medical English or any other form of English for Specific Purposes. Check out our blog on How to Prepare your ESL Students for the Cambridge Exams or follow our Facebook page for more tips on teaching English.