ESP News

ESP News, Volume 15:1 (March 2010)

by User Not Found | 11/08/2011

ESP News
  • Leadership Updates
    • Message From the Chair
  • Articles and Announcements
    • Teaching in a "New" Language: Gathering and Using a Workplace Vocabulary
    • Porosity, Viscosity, Permeability: Reporting Observations from the Petroleum Lab
    • Medically Speaking: Rules for Curriculum Design

Leadership Updates

Message From the Chair

Shahid Abrar-ul-Hassan, PhD, Chair, ESPIS (2009-10), Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

Happy 2010!

We are getting closer to the 2010 TESOL Convention in Boston, which is the culmination of a 1-year term in our IS calendar. In the best traditions of the ESPIS, we are gearing up to maintain our significant presence in the convention through focused presentations, InterSections, Academic Sessions, and the ESPIS information and networking booth.

One important event is the ESPIS open meeting on Thursday (March 25) from 5 to 7 pm. The meeting is a forum for freewheeling discussions of what members want to see from the ESPIS. It’s a great opportunity for all ESPers to have some say in the future pursuits of ESPIS. I strongly encourage IS members who will be around to participate in this meeting. And, those of you who won’t make it to the convention can, by all means, send their ideas to us anytime.

We have three focused sessions (i.e., Academic Sessions and InterSections), which feature topics of relevance to ESP community and provide a venue for interaction and exchange. These sessions were planned primarily in light of suggestions from the participants of the 2009 ESPIS open meeting (a summary of the meeting was published in the previous issue of ESP News). Presenters at these sessions come from across the globe, representing a wide range of professional and academic contexts.

English for Specific Purposes: What It Is, How It’s Done

This presentation will be the highlight of the ESPIS sessions. It aims to establish the fundamental concepts in ESP practice (e.g., What is ESP? How is it offered? Are you teaching it?).

Enhancing Instructional Efficacy: Issues in ESP Teacher Development

This InterSection (with TEIS and EFLIS) addresses issues in ESP teacher development in an effort to maximize instructional efficacy. Presenters from the United States, Japan, Turkey, and Brazil will share their insights.

Effective Practices in ESP Instruction: The Asian Context

This colloquium features how practitioners in Asia face the challenge of learners’ specific needs, institutional priorities, and goals set by industry. Cases from Taiwan, Mainland China, and Oman will exemplify practitioners’ experiences and principles of effective ESP instruction.

Furthermore, David Kertzner, the chair-elect, will take charge of the ESPIS in March for the 2010–11 term. I’m sure he will make a difference and steer us to higher altitudes. Good luck, David!

I know global economic recession has adversely impacted travel plans of many of us in different ways. Against this backdrop, it’ll be great if you are coming to the convention to reconnect with colleagues and build new connections.

I wish you all the best and hope to meet you in Boston!

Articles and Announcements

Teaching in a "New" Language: Gathering and Using a Workplace Vocabulary

Patricia Long Davis, Coordinator, CATESOL Teaching English in the Workplace Interest Group,

Can you identify an AMI? A Hilti gun? How about an EBITDA? Can you master new languages quickly? Every workplace is a community with its own specialized language, or professional jargon. This language, composed of acronyms, slang, and technical terms, both facilitates communication at the job site and fosters an “insider” culture that promotes solidarity and cooperation.

Instructors who teach English in the workplace must quickly master the new vocabulary and then incorporate it into customized lesson plans relevant to the business community if they want their courses to be effective.


  • Clients are impressed when you appear to easily master the company culture.
  • Learning the workplace jargon helps develop rapport with your trainees. They are teaching you while you are teaching them.
  • Research supports the value of using authentic materials as much as possible, which would include specialized vocabulary.
  • Trainees are motivated because they see the immediate applicability of your training materials to their jobs.


First, look for written material.

  • Check out the corporate Web site and make notes of new terms.
  • Collect company publications (annual report, brochures, product descriptions, advertisements, etc.).
  • Arrange for access to some internal communications (letters, memos, e-mails, minutes, contracts, reports, etc.).
  • Review the HR department’s orientation materials for new employees.
  • Make copies of company job descriptions that pertain to your trainees.
  • Collect internal technical training materials, standard operating procedures, checklists, etc.
  • Take photographs of on-site posters, bulletin boards, product packaging, etc.
  • Have your trainees compile cumulative “Workplace Word Lists” of the vocabulary they use most frequently on the job and copy them for your word bank.
  • Gather samples of your trainees’ writing.

Next, collect spoken language.

  • Arrange to attend company department meetings, product presentations, etc.
  • Note down new language when you interview company managers during your needs assessment.
  • Get permission to tape-record department meetings and other interactions.
  • Arrange to make recordings of phone calls (if appropriate for the contract).
  • Review promotional videos for products and/or training videos for employees.
  • Make notes of the language trainees use during assessment interviews and initial class sessions.
  • Ask the questions that you teach beginning language learners: What do you call that? How do you pronounce this word? What does ________ mean?
  • Walk around, listen, and observe!

At the same time, look at sources outside the company.

  • Collect copies of appropriate trade magazines such as Construction Today, Investment Week, Restaurant Magazine, and Genetic Engineering News, and look for specialized words and phrases.
  • Search for online dictionaries or glossaries. Google the vocational term, such as engineering, along with the search terms dictionary or glossary or word list. For example, the Web site has around 150 short glossaries, from Accounting to Witchcraft.
  • After you find new words or phrases, investigate online corpora, such as the Corpus of Contemporary American English ( or the American National Corpus ( Enter your word or phrase to find examples of how it is used in context.
  • Make it a point to collect specialized vocational ESL textbooks, such as Build Up: ESOL for Construction, Make Your Mark in Food Service, and New Business Matters.
  • Sometimes you can find applicable training videos through your local library or the union that represents your trainees, such as the videos and DVDs available for OSHA compliance safety training.


Basically, you adapt level-appropriate ESL tasks and activities that you have developed or that you find in textbooks by inserting the specific workplace vocabulary you have found. Here are three real-life examples:

  • Context: Foremen and laborers at a demolition/asbestos abatement company
  • Vocabulary Source: The company’s Tools and Materials Order Form
  • Learning Objectives: Pronounce the alphabet correctly; spell familiar tool names; practice the phrase “How do you spell that?”
  • Exercise: An information-gap exercise from a standard beginning ESL textbook, with names of familiar tools substituted for items such as clock, pencil, etc.
  • Context: Participants in a prelicensing program for immigrant nurses
  • Vocabulary Source: A preexisting curriculum developed for foreign-trained medical professionals
  • Learning Objective: Use lay terms, not technical ones, when interviewing and instructing patients; for example, “stuffy nose” instead of “nasal congestion”
  • Exercise: A bingo game adapted to practice equivalent meanings and correct pronunciation of lay terms, followed by nurse/patient role plays
  • Context: Private coaching for a midlevel financial analyst in a consulting firm
  • Vocabulary Source: The company’s style guide, the trainee’s e-mails, and old reports
  • Learning Objectives: Improve writing in financial reports; develop editing and proofreading skills
  • Exercises: Editing practice applying the company’s own guidelines and using MS Word’s “Show Readability Statistics” feature to measure achievement of the company’s target score. (This feature is located under Tools, Spelling and Grammar, Options. It is based on the Flesch Reading Ease Formula. More information can be found at


  • It is very time-consuming to locate the appropriate vocabulary and create customized materials, and hard to bill adequately for all your time and effort.
  • The materials may end up being used only once, unless the contract is renewed and the course repeated.
  • Confidentiality can be an issue for the client, who may refuse access to company documents. (This can sometimes be overcome by signing a nondisclosure agreement.)


It should be emphasized that we typically don’t learn this specialized language in order to teach it. Our trainees usually understand it already, although they may need more instruction in pronunciation or writing. They learned it quickly in order to survive on the job. We should do the same so that we can create effective lessons that will produce measureable results leading to contract renewals and referrals to new clients.

Patricia Long Davis is the current coordinator for CATESOL’s Teaching English in the Workplace Interest Group. She is in the process of establishing her own consultancy, Open Door English.

Porosity, Viscosity, Permeability: Reporting Observations from the Petroleum Lab

Laura Lau,; Richard Lau,; and William Moore Rindfleisch,

“You do by doing. . . . This is Active English.”
—Maggi Carstairs, 2008

English faculty in the Advanced University Placement (AUP) Department, a postsecondary foundation program at the Petroleum Institute (PI) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), design content-based activities that extend student vocabulary and knowledge about the students’ future field of study in petroleum engineering. To enhance this content knowledge while supporting language learning, a collaborative relationship was forged with the Petroleum Engineering Department, which was willing to offer its laboratories and expertise to bring this English lesson to fruition.

At the PI, AUP students have only recently completed their high school education in a medium of Arabic instruction and are currently preparing to switch to instructional engineering programs taught exclusively in English. Given up to three semesters to receive a composite score of 500 on the institutional TOEFL or 5.5 on IELTS, students are immersed in theme-based, 12-hours-per-week, 8-week modules that commence with 1 and continue to 5. In Module 3 (typical TOEFL scores of 410-470), they learn about the petroleum industry and are taught specific scientific academic terminology and language acquisition skills while practicing critical thinking skills such as observing, hypothesizing, experimenting, and reaching conclusions (Reinhardt, 2009).

In this article, the authors describe English for specific purposes (ESP) activities and experiences designed for students to practice the skills needed to speak, read, and write about the characteristics of petroleum and its hydrocarbon molecules (Content Based Learning, 2010).


  • A prepared explanation that we call Student Specifications that outlines activities, tasks, expectations for student participation, and outcomes (see Sample 1)
  • A list of about 30 academic and off-list vocabulary words with their word forms, needed to describe characteristics of petroleum (see Sample 2)
  • A core reading text of about 1,300 words at the FK8.3 level. (Text used here was written in-house but adapted from texts found at PetroStrategies, Inc.: & (see Sample 3)
  • Video clips and/or animations illustrating the meanings of porosity, viscosity, and permeability (downloaded from the Internet or from other published sources)
  • LCD projector, computer, and overhead projector in classroom
  • Sample lab report (see Sample 4), symbols chart (see Sample 5), and scoring guide (see Sample 6)
  • Camera to take pictures during lab visit
  • Access to a laboratory where observations can occur
  • Support from the lab professionals and the administration


The intent of this multiclass lesson is to prepare students to carefully observe an event in a laboratory, and then write a lab report detailing what they had witnessed; in other words, have them go from observing to writing. Here we used a petroleum theme but any lab activity would work as well.


Lesson 1. Introduction (50 minutes; listening and speaking)

  1. Distribute Student Specifications about the assignment with the scoring guide. Ask students to read and then briefly outline activities, tasks, and expectations for student participation. Check for understanding (see Sample 1).
  2. Introduce vocabulary needed to speak, read, and write about the three essential characteristics of petroleum that include porosity, viscosity, and permeability (seeSample 2).
  3. Use videos and animations to illustrate scientific concepts and definitions. Engage students by modeling new words to describe what they are seeing. Review the two most common grammatical structures of verbs (command form and passive voice) used when discussing lab activities and then encourage them to use new words and structures. Guide their practice.
  4. Assign text in student manual to be read as homework (see Sample 3).

Lesson 2 (50 minutes; reading and speaking)

  1. Lead discussion about the reading. Ask students questions that require them to use the new vocabulary. Illustrate command verb forms and passive voice from text and prepared questions.
  2. Use various activities that require students to listen and to speak about what they have read.
  3. Divide into groups. This time, when video clips are shown, ask groups to describe petroleum characteristics among themselves. Model and guide responses.

Lesson 3 (50 minutes; listening and writing)

  1. Review vocabulary and concepts from the last class period.
  2. Play the videos again and ask students to write what they are observing. Guide practice with sample sentences and bullet forms.
  3. Distribute sample lab report. (see Sample 4)
  4. Ask students then to pretend they were in a laboratory seeing the three videos and to complete a report. Review parts and give examples of words and structures needed in all sections using overhead.
  5. Students work in teams of three or four to complete a lab report. Collect one sample from each team.

Lesson 4 (50 minutes; reading and writing)

  1. Distribute corrected lab reports to each team with copies for each member. Also distribute blank lab reports for rewriting and symbols charts. (See Sample 5; allow extra time if they have not used this chart before.)
  2. Guide students through the steps again using overhead. This time ask them to contribute sentences or bullets from their corrected papers.
  3. Ask each student to rewrite the report. Collect and correct using the scoring guide (see Sample 6).

Lesson 5 (100 minutes; listening and observing)

Visit the lab. Make sure the students know the experiment they are to observe and record. Remind them that it is their responsibility to take notes.

Lesson 6 (50 minutes; listening, speaking, and writing)

  1. Lead students in a very brief discussion about the lab and what they observed.
  2. Show snapshots of the lab visit and ask students to describe what they were doing or seeing. Keep this very brief—not more than 10 minutes.
  3. Distribute blank copies of lab report and ask students to write.
  4. Collect.

Lesson 7 (20 minutes; reflection and speaking)

  1. Distribute corrected reports with symbols chart and require rewrite as homework.
  2. Lead students in reflections about what they learned and why they were required to do these activities.


In nonEnglish-speaking countries where English is rapidly becoming the language of instruction, especially at the tertiary level, ESP content-based instruction encourages students to learn content while improving their academic English skills. This exposure is best when it is comprehensible and linked to students’ immediate prior learning and relevant to their needs—all important criteria for successful language learning (Grabe & Stoller, 1997).

In this descriptive ESP lesson, with collaboration with the Petroleum Engineering and English AUP Departments, the authors have described an ESP content-based instruction plan that incorporates active English tasks that prepare students to speak, read, and write about the characteristics of petroleum and its hydrocarbon molecules.


Carstairs, M. |(2008). Active English speaking. Retrieved January 5, 2010, from

Content based learning. Retrieved January 5, 2010, from

Grabe, W., & Stoller, F. L. (1997). Content-Based Instruction: Research Foundation Chapter 1. Retrieved January 5, 2010, from

PetroStrategies, Inc. Retreived May 15, 2006, from

Reinhardt, D. (2009, May 26). Scientific method, observations and hypotheses. Retrieved January 5, 2010, from

Laura Lau is an English lecturer at the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Currently, she is actively engaged in preparing materials for an ESP-centered curriculum using the petroleum industry as the focus.

Richard Lau is a lecturer in the Petroleum Engineering Department at the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi. With 9 years as an engineer with Schlumberger Well Logging Services and an MS in physics, he serves as a content specialist and technical advisor to the English Department teachers.

William Moore Rindfleisch is an English lecturer at the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with over 20 years of experience in the Middle East. A specialist in designing materials and activities that linguistically prepare students to enter engineering and technical programs, he utilizes ESP theory.

Medically Speaking: Rules for Curriculum Design

Lynda Katz Wilner, Corporate Communication Trainer, ESL RULES, LLC,;
Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker, Corporate Communication Trainer, ESL RULES, LLC,

In today’s healthcare settings there is a varied assortment of cultures represented by the healthcare provider and patient population. Limited English proficiency on both sides is often a challenge seen in hospitals throughout the United States. This, compounded by differing communication and cultural styles and accents, sets the stage for potential misunderstandings and frustration for both parties.

There is an increasing need to develop curriculums for students entering healthcare fields. The challenge is in designing a course that will not only address medical vocabulary and language but, most important, teach students effective communication skills to successfully interact with patients, family members, and colleagues. Healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, technicians, transport personnel, and unit clerks, all require optimal communication skills to successfully meet the demands of their occupation. A wide range of languages, verbal and nonverbal communication styles, accents, and cultural backgrounds influence the exchange of information and ideas. Miscommunication in healthcare situations can lead to a disruption of trust and rapport and lack of patient satisfaction, and may even have life-threatening consequences.

An ideal curriculum must include the strategies for effective communication, and should provide the student with a repertoire of tools to avoid or repair communication breakdown (Wilner, 2002; Wilner & Feinstein-Whittaker, 2007). In addition, it is essential to include an exploration of aspects of various cultures and how their beliefs and customs relate to illnesses, treatment, family roles, and communication styles (Lipson & Dibble, 2005; Salimbene, 2005).


Some essential elements for this type of course are as follows (Wilner & Feinstein-Whittaker, 2007):

Rule #1: Compound Nouns

Our medical vocabulary is filled with compound nouns. Think about how we check a patient’s vital signs and blood pressure and family members meet in the waiting room. The rule for pronouncing compound nouns is to stress the first word of a compound noun with higher pitch, louder volume, and a longer vowel.

Rule #2: Proper Nouns

We introduce ourselves as Dr. Shah or Ms. Caroline; we refer to hospitals, such as Johns Hopkins or Mass General; and we give directions, such as NorthAvenue or Wolfe Street, near Camden Yards, inBaltimore, Maryland. The rule for pronouncing proper nouns is to stress the last word, except with the word street.

Rule #3: Acronyms and Initializations

In American English, we use a multitude of “abbreviations” or shortcuts for frequently used words. We may receive our MD or RN degree; a patient may suffer a CVA (cerebro-vascular accident) or an MI (myocardial infarction), or we check the patient’s CBC (complete blood count). The rule for acronyms and initializations is to stress the last letter of the abbreviation or initialization. Acronyms are said as a whole word; e.g., GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease).

Rule #4: Numbers

Stating numbers can be confusing, if we don’t abide by the correct stress pattern. When counting, stress the first syllable in “teen” numbers such asthirteen, fourteen, and fifteen. When counting, stress the first part of “ten” numbers such as thirty, forty. However, when discussing quantity, time, currency, and dates, stress the second part of the “teen” numbers; e.g., fifteen milligrams vs. fifty milligrams. In this context, primary stress shifts to the noun.

If one adheres to this rule, an appointment at 8:50 or 8:15 won’t be misinterpreted and 30 mg won’t be confused with 13 mg. These errors can lead to catastrophic consequences. The rule for numbers is to stress the appropriate syllable when counting and/or describing time, currency, dates, and measurements.

Rule #5: Syllable Stress

The predominance of multisyllabic words in medical terminology is often the nemesis of the English language learner working in medical fields. Syllable stress is usually more critical than sound production for intelligibility. If the student learns a general rule to decipher these words, the student’s competency and confidence increase significantly. First, the student should be taught to divide a word into syllables. Then, he or she must learn to stress the syllable preceding suffixes. Of course, exceptions will exist. This will allow the student to accurately state that the patient has undergone a colonoscopy or tracheotomy, and express an interest in anesthesiology or psychiatry.


Pronunciation of specific sounds should also be included so the student doesn’t confuse “bleeding” and “breathing,” for example, and disrupt the message in critical situations. Because class sizes are usually large, the teacher must identify a few challenging sounds that are experienced by many members of the group. Typical high-priority sounds might include voiced and voiceless -th, -v, -l, -r, -er, and the -ng endings. Practice in using target sounds within the context of medical words is essential to ensure carryover in daily conversation (Wilner, 2002; Wilner & Feinstein-Whittaker, 2007).


Healthcare providers must learn to be excellent communicators, which includes both listening and speaking. The following are some tips for both of these modalities:

Active Listening

Maintain eye contact

  • Give nonverbal feedback
  • Lean forward
  • Restate or paraphrase
  • Ask questions for clarification
  • Listen to emotional meaning
  • Refrain from interrupting
  • Do not finish other people’s sentences

Communication Repair Strategies

  • Remain calm
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Repeat it one time
  • Speak with adequate volume for the situation
  • Rephrase your sentence
  • Explain it another way
  • Provide examples
  • Use visual cues, such as gestures or pointing
  • Spell or write down the difficult word aloud
  • Emphasize the important word


A student who took the Communication Skills for Allied Health Careers course at Baltimore County Community College made the following comments about her competency level at the completion of the program. (Other comments can be accessed at

I work for a Nursing Home Care Agency here in Baltimore. A few weeks back I was asked to go work for an elderly gentleman whose family had given specific instructions that ‘they do not want anybody with an accent.’ Unfortunately, there was nobody else available and I was requested to work with him. I applied the techniques I learned from [this class]. For example, I pronounced words very clearly, I talked very slowly and loudly, and I maintained eye contact. I tried to apply all what I learned from the speech class, and I did not have any problem with the gentleman. He understood everything I told him and I even went back to work with him again. I managed to handle my patient very well because of the techniques I acquired from (this class). I will continue to apply all the communication techniques plus tips on how to handle patients from different cultural backgrounds and I know it will improve my quality of work in the nursing field.

LM, international student from Nigeria


Lipson, J. G., & Dibble, S. L. (2005). Culture and clinical care. San Francisco, CA: UCSF Nursing Press.

Salimbene, S. (2005). What language does your patient hurt in? A practical guide to culturally competent patient care. Amherst, MA: Diversity Resources.

Wilner, L. K., & Feinstein-Whittaker, M. (2007). Medically Speaking RULES. Owings Mills , MD: Successfully Speaking.

Wilner, L. K. (2002). Medically Speaking: Accent modification for the medical profession. Owings Mills, MD: Successfully Speaking.

Lynda Katz Wilner and Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker are corporate communication trainers and certified speech and language pathologists in the Baltimore and Boston areas, respectively. Lynda is also adjunct faculty at the Community College of Baltimore County and teaches communication skills to international preclinical nursing students. Marjorie is a member of the Performance Improvement Team at the Workforce Development Center at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, MA. Their company, ESL RULES, LLC, conducts workshops and develops training materials for nonnative English speakers. They are both members of TESOL and have presented these innovative approaches of accent modification at state and international conventions. They will be presenting “English for Medical Professionals - Assessments and Activities” at TESOL 2010 in Boston and will have a booth in the exhibit hall. To learn more about them, visit