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English for Specific Purposes

Compare and discuss the challenges of teaching ESP in (i) a country (of your choice) where English is widely spoken; and (ii) a country (of your choice) where English is not widely spoken.

English is a globally acknowledged language used for many of the occupations. Therefore, there has been a need for people to learn it and be proficient. The created a demand for specialized courses is aimed at doing this. English for Specific Purposes is one such course. English for Specific Purposes (ESP) is a learner-focused tactic to educating people on English as an additional language, which concentrates on creating communicative capability in a particular speciality like researchers, agrology, commerce, accounting, IT, lecturing, and manufacturing.  ESP courses vary from general English courses and have the following features: it is intended to meet the particular requirements of the students. There is a connection in content like topics that are specific to professions. They also use accurate occupation-particular information which gives knowledge on the subjects the students need to learn about. It also encourages cultural appreciation and tries to enhance the ability of the student to interact with people of different cultures. Finally, it offers high levels of training in advanced formal English language. Therefore ESP is a method that is used to educate individuals in English for a particular need such as occupational requirements and business dealings. It is a tactic in which English is taught to professionals in different fields, dealing with kinds of terminologies, jargon, typical and official language structures which will be put to use in that specific area of speciality (Basturkmen, 2010). This essay will focus on the differences of the challenges faced while teaching English for Specific Purpose in England, where English is widely spoken and in Vietnam where English is not widely spoken.

Various types of ESP fulfil the different needs of the people. These needs include; first, there is English for a specific context where they learn phrases that are specific to their needs. This type of ESP is only used for a specific context, and the individual might not effectively communicate in English outside this context. It is used by professions such as waiters and pilots who learn specific words used by their professions thus will be able to just communicate with customers but not hold a conversation. Next, is English with specific topics, where English is taught with anticipation of it being needed in future. It concerns itself with particular issues such as scientists needing English while taking their postgraduate studies. Finally, English for professional and academic reasons where English is explicitly learnt to be used while employed and also at school (Belcher, 2004).

Types and benefits of ESP

ESP has various benefits to those who learn it. Some of these include; one, it ensures there is learning speed. How ESP is taught leads to people gaining knowledge in English at a faster pace which is ideal for those who use it. Most of them are professionals and academics who require it for a specific reason thus need to learn it as fast as possible so that they can be put to use. Next, is that it ensures there is learning efficiency. ESP courses ensure that all the learning resources are put to maximum use while teaching people. Thus people get the best value for their money spent learning the skills that they specifically require. The trainers assess the clients and structure the training to suit their needs and thus, in the end, this ensures that the trainees are taught the type of ESP that best suits them. Another benefit is that it ensures that there is learning effectiveness. When people take a course in ESP, they will learn the specific type they require, and at the end of it all, they will be able to use it immediately. Thus when they go back to where they are needed to use English, they will immediately use it and be more productive as a result (Harding, 2007).

There are various sources from which an individual can gain training on ESP. Some of these sources include; first, there is learning in language schools. Here courses for the different types of ESP can be made to help people who require it. They, however, will be broad courses so that they can attract more people with different needs and the requirement for ESP.Therefore, these centers will be teaching these individuals things relevant and irrelevant to what they require. Next, is learning from commercial learning materials. Those individuals who cannot afford to attend language learning centers or do not have time to go to the sessions can use this method. They can get this through the internet or in libraries, and they read these materials to gain the knowledge they require at the pace that suits them and thus they can learn it quickly (Paltridge, & Starfield, 2012).

Teaching English for Specific Purposes can be faced by various challenges. These challenges can differ depending on where ESP is being taught. Some of the problems that face ESP teaching in England, where English is widely spoken include; one, is that the vocabulary used in different professions are not similar. Thus there is a wide range of terminology specific to each job to be taught to the diverse students who are learning ESP. Not all these terminologies will be covered hence the session will not help every student 100% of the way (Gollin-Kies, Hall,  & Moore, 2015). Next, it is hard to come with one standard curriculum for teaching ESP. As students in England have different requirements when they are taking on the course, it will be hard to cover every need that they have. In short, it makes it hard for there to be a standard on how to teach ESP to them. When there is no standardized curriculum, there will be no way for ESP trainers to follow in England during their sessions, making their work even harder. With globalization, there has been an up crop of more things that require people to be trained on ESP. So, there will be more objectives that ESP will need to meet. It will require the trainers to keep updated with these changes, and therefore this increases their work so that they can keep up. It will challenge them as these objectives keep on growing (Hyland, 2007).

Sources of training on ESP

The next challenge with teaching ESP in England is that the population in the country has a mix of people from various cultures. When the trainer lumps all students into one category and not consider this it may be a problem. Some things may seem strange to some students which are normal to others. Thus, not everyone will be comfortable in class some might even quit because they cannot stand the strangeness. It will also lead to students who see this as strange not participating in class, therefore, when they cannot understand the class they will be shy to raise questions. Some cultures do not allow women interacting with men and when this is not put into consideration it will also make them uncomfortable. Hence all of this results in them not gaining the knowledge they need (Belcher, 2006). Another challenge is that in England there exist various dialects of English spoken by people from different regions in the country. There are dialects such as ‘Geordie’ spoken in Northumberland, ‘Brummie’ by the people in Midlands, ‘Scouse’ spoken in Liverpool and ‘West Country’ spoken by individuals in Devon, Cornwall, and Somerset. With all these variations, it will become difficult for the ESP trainer to effectively teach all the students because they have different pronunciations for the same words. Also, it makes it difficult for students to understand each other or the trainer. When they cannot understand, it leads to some students not learning what they should in the class. (Gimenez, 2006).

Another challenge is that some students in England feel that being taught a language that is their first language is a waste of time. They may not feel motivated to attend classes and concentrate as they feel they know English. Thus, they may not see the purpose and quit the class because they feel it’s a waste of their time. Next, as there are many immigrants in England, they might come from different cultures which have different nonverbal cues. Hence when these are not put into consideration, there might be a barrier while communicating. For example, people in America do not find talking over another person as rude thus while in England where this is seen as rude, hence they may have difficulty communicating effectively. Therefore, the sessions need to be restructured to fit all these cues, and this is not achievable consequently some people might not get all the knowledge to satisfy their needs (Handford, & Matous, 2011). Another challenge is that in England, there are different slangs depending on the place the student comes from. This becomes a problem when training them to use ESP in real life situations, they will have difficulty communicating with customers who use them. Also, the trainer might be from another country like America thus when the student uses the slang from Britain they will not understand ergo leading them to not communicating effectively.  Finally, there are various variations of English such as American English, Pakistani English, Queensland English, Queen’s English and so on. These variations make it hard to know what change should be used to teach the ESP sessions as they are all variations used in the world. Thus, when they get thrown into the different real-life situations, they might not be understood as they are various dialects and accents. Also, with the variations, a teacher from America will have difficulty teaching ESP to students in England as there are some phrases and words that have different meanings in American English as compared to the Queen’s English spoken in England. (Orr, 2002).

Challenges of teaching ESP in England

On the other hand, various challenges also face teaching of ESP in a country where English is not widely spoken like Vietnam. Some of these challenges include; while teaching ESP it may not meet all the needs of the students. The way the curriculum is set up, it is generalized so that it can meet all the needs of all the students. Most of the time these classes are big hence need to be generalized to ensure that everyone is happy and getting what they want. Also, this makes it hard for each student to get the personal attention from the trainers that they may require from them. Another challenge is that the trainers may not be adequately trained to handle the different individuals who are in the class especially those who have yet to master English since, in Vietnam, English is not the first language and is not commonly used to teach. Consequently, they may not understand how to manage these students leading them not   to fulfilling the student’s needs (Forey, &Lockwood, 2007). Next, the method of teaching ESP is still entirely passive and not that interactive. This method is outdated as currently, students, especially in countries like Vietnam, need an interactive mode of teaching so that it can ensure that they are gaining the knowledge they require. This mode passes on the knowledge and does not necessarily inquire if the students have benefitted. Also, some students who take on the course are not ready to take it. Therefore, if they are not prepared, they will be unable to learn anything as this course requires the cooperation of both the teacher and the student for all the benefits to be reaped. It will lead to them lacking the motivation to go on and thus sometimes making them drop out of the course (Pinto dos Santo, 2002).

There is a lot of difference between Vietnamese and English, therefore, it becomes a challenge to teach it to the students. It also becomes a hindrance to teacher and students and cannot understand each other as most trainers come from English speaking countries and do not know Vietnamese. It makes it hard for the students to comprehend it entirely and hence making the learning process a little bit impossible as they cannot adequately communicate. It will also make learning ESP take longer so that the students can be proficient. The hardness also can lead to students giving up as they find it hard to remember what they learnt, and they cannot efficiently apply what they have learnt (Bhatia, 2008). Another challenge is that students in Vietnam have different levels of proficiency in English. These students are put in the same class, and accordingly, it makes it hard for them to know how to teach them appropriately. As their knowledge of English is at different levels, it will make it hard for the trainer as they are structuring the lessons. They will not know what to cover so that all the students can get the knowledge each requires from the sessions. Hence this runs the risk of some students not gaining the knowledge they wanted to get from ESP (Belcher, Johns, & Paltridge, 2011).

Challenges of teaching ESP in Vietnam

In addition, another challenge is that in Vietnam where English is not widely spoken, there is lack of vocabulary. Some words in English do not exist in Vietnam, more specifically some words are specific to professions, which they are learning English for. When they cannot translate these terms, the students cannot understand them quickly and thus not be able to learn them. Also, as these are not phrases they use in Vietnamese and not used in their everyday lives, they will not see the importance of learning these vocabularies. It will hinder the teaching of ESP. Next, as the Vietnamese students are not proficient in English, they will be dependent on the dictionary to understand the vocabulary they are learning. When these students learn new words or phrases, they will hang on to the dictionaries again all the time so that they can better understand them. It will limit them boxing their flexibility and imagination on how these phrases can be used in other ways. Thus, they will just use them as they have seen in the dictionary (Evans, & Morrison, 2011).

There are also challenges regarding reading, learning and writing skills that the Vietnamese students have. These students sometimes lack the proper skills to use English in the way it is supposed to. So, when they are taught ESP and put it into practice, they will most likely just copy what they are shown. They will stick to what they know as they are not used to of English. Hence as they are not imaginative with their applications, their knowledge of English will just be limited to what they learn in these ESP sessions (Basturkmen, 2014). The next challenge is the quality of learning materials on ESP that is available in Vietnam. Some of the textbooks that have been developed only focus on functional vocabulary, hence these students will forget these learnt words after the exam, therefore, defeating the purpose of teaching ESP. These textbooks are not evolving with the ever-changing needs of time and different students requiring ESP. Therefore, the students will have their sessions limited as it is not changing with the changes in requirements of ESP (Hirano, 2009). Sometimes, these ESP learning materials are not even available for use. Thus, the trainer has to adapt to this situation. It becomes hard as they are teaching students who require motivation to go on and these students will be limited to learn from what is available. Also, some of the learning materials available are too advanced for the proficiency level of the students in the class. When this happens, the students will become bored with the class and might even want to quit. Other times the learning materials on ESP are written by people who have no specialised knowledge of the subject. Thus, this will make the information found in these documents will not be of high quality, and it affects the quality of lessons offered on ESP (Bilokcuo?lu, 2012).

Another challenge facing ESP teaching is that the way it is set up it heavily focuses on examinations and not enough on gaining knowledge. The Vietnamese society focuses on getting into good schools and landing well-paying jobs. Hence, most of the students of ESP just want to pass the exams so that they can get into a prestigious school or get the job they desire and as a result will focus on cramming and passing the exams. After the examinations most of the time they will forget what they have learnt. Hence, these people will not have the knowledge they have been taught all through their ESP sessions. Next is that there is the difference in the quality of teachers available in Vietnam and the methods that they use in teaching ESP. It will lead to students getting different levels of proficiency in ESP and for this, they cannot go to different classes. Also, the quality may be inadequate therefore the students will not receive the best training on ESP hence they do not get the best value for their money (Louhiala-Saolminem, Charles, & Kankannranta, 2005). Also, the trainer’s qualifications do not match the ESP type they are teaching. Sometimes some of these trainers take on teaching sessions but are not qualified for that specific kind, for example, a trainer with masters in English literature teaching English for Business purposes will not efficiently train their students as they have limited knowledge in the area. Finally, another challenge is that as English is not the first language for these Vietnamese students, they may become overly dependent on their teachers for the answers to questions they do not know. On that account, when they get to real-world situations, they will not know how to adapt to these situations, and they might become stumped (Starfield, & Paltridge, 2016).

In conclusion, English for Specific Purpose is quite important especially now with globalisation. As English is the most widely used language in many things such as school and business, it is necessary for people to start being proficient in it. English is not spoken as a first language for everyone hence English for Specific Purpose courses is appropriate in these cases. They are short sessions where people are taught English that is appropriate to where they want to apply it hence making it convenient. Thus, it should be made readily available to more people so that they can fulfill these needs. However, teaching English for Specific Purpose sessions can be faced with various challenges as is the norm. These challenges vary depending on the country the English for Specific Purpose is being taught. The problems can be similar but mostly differ. The difficulties of teaching English for Specific Purpose in England where English is widely spoken will differ from those faced in Vietnam where it is not widely spoken. Thus, as this course is quite essential there are more needs to come up with interventions for these challenges so that it can make it easier for all these parties involved.


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Basturkmen, H. (2014). Ideas and options in English for specific purposes. Routledge.

Belcher, D. D. (2004). 8. Trends in teaching English for specific purposes. Annual review of applied linguistics, 24.

Belcher, D. D. (2006). English for specific purposes: Teaching to perceived needs and imagined futures in worlds of work, study, and everyday life. TESOL quarterly, 40(1).

Belcher, D., Johns, A. & Paltridge, B. (2011). New directions in English for Specific Purposes research. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Bhatia, V. K. (2008). Genre analysis, ESP and professional practice. English for specific purposes, 27(2), 161-174.

Bilokcuo?lu, H. (2012). English for Specific Purposes. LAÜ Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, 3(1), 78.

Evans, S., & Morrison, B. (2011). Meeting the challenges of English-medium higher education: The first-year experience in Hong Kong. English for Specific Purposes, 30(3).

Forey, G. & Lockwood, J. (2007). ‘I’d love to put someone in jail for this’: An initial investigation of English in the business processing outsourcing (BPO) industry. English for Specific Purposes 26(3).

Gimenez, J. (2006). Embedded business emails: Meeting new demands in international business communication. English for Specific purposes, 25(2), 154-172.

Gollin-Kies, S., Hall, D. R., & Moore, S. H. (2015). Language for specific purposes. Springer.

Handford, M & Matous, P. (2011). Lexicogrammar in the international construction industry: A corpus-based case study of Japanese–Hong-Kong Japanese on-site interactions in English. English for Specific Purposes, 30.

Harding, K. (2007). English for Specific Purposes. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Hirano, E. (2009). Research article introductions in English for specific purposes: A comparison between Brazilian Portuguese and English. English for specific purposes, 28(4).

Hyland, K. (2007). English for specific purposes. In International handbook of English language teaching (pp. 391-402). Springer, Boston, MA.

Louhiala-Salminen, L., Charles, M., & Kankaanranta, A. (2005). English as a lingua franca in Nordic corporate mergers: Two case companies. English for Specific Purposes, 24(4).

Orr, T. (2002). English for Specific Purposes. Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Partridge, B., & Starfield, S. (Eds.). (2012). The handbook of English for specific purposes (Vol. 120). John Wiley & Sons.

Pinto dos Santo, V.B.M. (2002).  Genre analysis of business letters of negotiation. English for Specific Purposes. 21 (2).

Starfield, S., & Paltridge, B. (2016). English for specific purposes. In Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning. Routledge.

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