As far as teaching students who are working, I'm terribly disappointed with the published materials for English for Special Purposes (ESP). Our school wanted to start several various ESP programs and we did a review of all the books available.
Cambridge's Information Technology ESP book, embarrassingly, has vocabulary including for "floppy disk". It is typical of many books on the market. (1) Out of date information. These books get old and are not updated. (2) Out of touch. IT people nearly always have a good technical vocabulary and perhaps to a lesser extent so do other professionals.
Of all the ESPs the biggest one and the one that attracts the most efforts of publishers is Business English. Even with Business English it is difficult to find material that is truly suitable for office workers.
I am about to start another year of teaching at an American logistics company that has centers in over 40 countries. Here is a typical Email that represents the type of English they need. This is written by one of my next students there:
Dear Mr. Cao(ABC Co.), Polly(DEF Ltd.), Charles(GHI Inc.) and Daniel(JKL),
Greetings from Susan Lau, MNO Guangzhou.
Per PQ's e-mail below, I believe you already come into production the Holiday POPs. As you know, MNO need to repack and allocate the POPs to more than 400 RST Stores in Mainland China.
Usually, we will do the following when POPs ETA MNO:
- Combine some POPs to one carton to save packaging materials. (e.g. We usually put the Translite, Standee and Hanging Mobile into one Standee wrap)
- Ask some Temp. Helper on the POP allocation(to reduce Over Time Pay for
- Catch Normal Routing Delivery to DCs, then from DC to Stores(to save delivery cost)
- 2 days repack in SUMS for 400+ stores
Therefore, we need your cooperation to deliver the POPs to MNO on or before Dec. 27, 2004. Otherwise, some POPs will be delivered by Express mail, this will bring on high delivery cost.
Any query or comments please feel free to call me or send me an E-mail.
Manager Trainee - MNO(GZ)
BERL Services (Guangzhou) Ltd.
Most business people have difficulty with basic English. Students should probably focus on basic English until the upper-intermediate level. At that point the technical vocabulary they need is often particular to their specific type of business and their particular company and it is unlikely that a business book will even come close to it.
What is the solution? Something the publishers have no interest in giving us.
The ultimate ESP teacher tool would be a computer program that drove a flexible template based course generator. It would be strong on basic functions and notions and grammar practice (as is needed in the sample above) and allow teachers to easily insert the vocabulary and themes needed by the ESP teacher.
Photo: My student, a manager of a cold storage logistics company, visiting one of the top supermarkets in the city with me, learning and practicing her English about...well, cold storage.