Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

Challenges Facing Pre-Service ESP Teacher Education: Legal and Medical English

Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

Challenges Facing Pre-Service ESP Teacher Education: Legal and Medical English

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

In her introduction to English for Specific Purposes in Theory and Practice (2009: 1), Belcher distinguishes between teaching English generically - "language for no purpose" (Long, 2005: 19) - and teaching it for specific purposes, albeit drawing on the notion that languages are always taught with some kind of purpose in mind. This fine distinction brings to the fore the difficulty in clearly defining what is meant by English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and, within ESP, what is meant by two of its branches, English for Academic Purposes (EAP), on the one hand, and English for Occupational Purposes (EOP), on the other. This latter branch is closely linked with all kinds of professions that originate multiple subdivisions of which English for Legal Purposes (ELP) and English for Medical Purposes (EMP) are two examples.

As a consequence of this growing use of English, traditionally nonAnglophone communities have experienced an increasing demand for ESP teachers. However, "pre-service teacher education programmes in Europe have so far largely neglected this important area" (Hüttner et al., 2009: 99), which is often individually tackled by academic staff dealing with such students. This chapter draws on our experience as teachers of tertiary-level courses on English language and linguistics and considers particularly the case of legal and medical English.

2 The relevance of linguistics in ESP teacher education

2.1 Stating the obvious?

Insisting on the relevance of linguistics in ESP teacher training may seem pointless. In fact, the language and in particular the foreign language teaching profession bears on several disciplines, and linguistics is one of them (as are psychology, social theory or education). Apart from developing future instructors' knowledge of the language they are going to teach, linguistics enhances their metalinguistic awareness, which is an indispensable tool in their job. That is probably why 'applied linguistics' emerged as "an attempt to provide a theoretical basis for the activities of language teaching" (Richards, 2006) and may still be envisaged this way despite the development of broader definitions which consider it the discipline that provides "theoretical and empirical foundations for investigating and solving language-related problems in the 'real world'" (Davies, 2006).

Furthermore, since Swales published his seminal work on EAP in 1990, genre has proven to be a key concept within ESP research and practice. And, despite a long history in Western scientific tradition, it was within discourse analysis and other (applied) linguistic disciplines that this concept has been mostly developed in the last decades. According to Bawarshi and Reiff (2010: 29), it was in particular the Systemic Functional approach to genre that has "contributed [the most] to how it is understood and applied in textual analysis and language teaching over the last twenty-five years". Within this framework, genre may be defined as a class of oral or written texts, sharing a communicative and social purpose, presenting the same overall and somehow ritualized structure, and drawing on a similar pool of lexicogrammatical features. From this conception grew a genre-based pedagogy within the socalled Sidney-school, which aims to offer an understanding of how texts are structured and why they are written the way they are in order to provide learners with the means to achieve certain social purposes. This was described by Bernstein (1990: 73) and later on Hyland (2007: 152) as a "visible pedagogy" and is felt to be particularly important in the case of culturally, socially and linguistically disadvantaged native-speaking students who have to acquire a thicker slice of the cultural capital of their community. Despite the obvious differences between native (LI) and non-native speaking (L2) learners, ESP shares with the former approach the belief that the structural and linguistic features of a text are connected to its social context and function, and the goals of offering learners an explicit understanding of the genres they have to know in order to belong to a particular community of practice. …

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