English for specific purposes

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An English programme that is 100% relevant to your needs;
I work with you to provide a personalised English course.

Guédelon castle
Young apiarists

"English for Specific Purposes" or ESP can mean six things:


Professional or vocational English

"English for Specific Purposes" can mean mean using specialist textbooks for one profession. This is quite economical. You already know your profession; the teacher already knows English grammar, general vocabulary and cultural norms in the English-speaking world; specialist textbooks provide the vocabulary, dialogues, scenarios, role plays and exercises. A specialist textbook makes it possible for any intelligent English teacher to teach the English of a particular profession. For example, it's not usually a doctor who teaches "English for Doctors." Not unless you want to pay £300 per hour.

Specialist textbooks are available on the vocational English of:

  • Doctors, nurses and therapists
  • The construction industry
  • The oil industry
  • Finance and banking
  • Lawyers
  • Information technology
  • Pilots and air traffic controllers ("aviation English" or "airspeak")
    and so on.
  • Textbooks for medical English include OET (Occupational English Test™) books for medicine, dentistry, dietetics, nursing, occupational therapy, optometry, pharmacy, physiotherapy, podiatry, speech pathology and veterinary medicine.

    I've also used Kaplan Medical textbooks to work with a thoracic surgeon from Italy who was preparing for the USMLE examination so as to practise in the United States. I have a good knowledge of medical vocabulary, but she wanted to work mainly on her "patient contact" skills, including her body language, eye contact and intonation.

    Clearly, the teacher needs to be interested in the subject. I'm interested in most vocational subjects. If you want to do one of these courses and you can't find a surgeon, pilot, engineer or oilman who wants to teach you English, you can ask me.


    Informal courses about your interests

    This is very economical - there is no extra charge, because it's a normal part of working as an English teacher.

    Exploded diagram of car

    The Director of Studies of a language school will often telephone a teacher and say, "Nicholas, we have a French upper-intermediate student coming in next week who is very interested in cars, and wants his lessons to have a 'car' theme, can you do that?" If the teacher has any interest in cars, the answer is "Yes". It's not necessary for the teacher to be an expert on the subject; the student is the expert. The teacher's job is to motivate the student to talk and write about the subject, and then work on his or her errors of grammar and pronunciation. However, the student will probably need some encouragement to relax and talk.
    For that week, I found some illustrated schematics of vehicle parts, made a list of vocabulary about cars and driving (15 words for each day of the course), and found some interesting stories from the media (magazine articles, newspapers and the internet) and a few transport jokes - click here. So much for the lesson themes; I set the lesson goals after meeting the student and finding out what he was good at, and what parts of his English needed work.

    Finland moose keyringWhen the Director of Studies asked me to use "moose hunting" as the theme for an intermediate student from Finland, that was more difficult since I don't know any Finnish, and I've never seen a moose or held a gun. However, I did some preparation, and it worked pretty well. I enjoyed reading A Winter Book by Tove Jansson and The Year of the Hare (Jäniksen vuosi, Le Lièvre de Vatanen, L'anno della lepre, El año de la liebre, Das Jahr des Hasen, Год зайца) by Arto Paasilinna. I found some hunting magazines in English for the student. We even had a debate about the ethics of hunting. It was an interesting week, and the student, who was the head of a construction company, came back the next year.

    Of course, it's better if the teacher knows something about the subject. See What Subjects Can I Help With?


    A custom-made course

    This is economical if you are an organisation (a company, a charity, a government department) and you have 4 or more students, especially if you may want to run the same course again for another group of students.

    I often write my own lessons, and I can work with you to prepare a course on a particular subject. This is quick and easy if you want to work on a small topic such as interviewing, or telephone skills, or doing presentations, or completing an application process. We simply make an ordinary English course relevant to your people by using relevant vocabulary and exercises.

    Alternatively, we can work together to write an entirely new course. We use your expert knowledge of your subject, and my knowledge of English, and of culture and attitudes in the English-speaking world.

    My very first week as an English teacher was a course on "The English Legal System", for a group of ten diplomats from North Korea. There probably are suitable ready-made courses, but because I was a lawyer for 20 years, I wrote my own course, with PowerPoint text and images, questionnaires and discussion sheets. We looked at civil vs. criminal law; juvenile crime; road traffic and insurance; health & safety; divorce law; the law of contract; and constitutional law. A police officer kindly agreed to come in and talk to the students, we went to the local magistrates' court to watch some criminal cases, and we had some very interesting discussions.

    I can work with you, on my hourly tariff, to prepare a course.

    Maybe you are an environmental charity, or an association for the preservation of historic buildings, or a group of mountain guides or tourism businesses, or a chamber of commerce, or a government department.

    I offer this service mainly to clients in France or other "francophone" countries, because I can work directly from original documents in French. To work together effectively, we certainly need to speak the same language. This could be English - if your English is good - or French.

    This is what we can do together, before the course:

  • Write a test for your people, so we know each person's level in English.
  • Use their test results to prepare a list of common mistakes and false cognates ("faux amis").
  • Collect the special vocabulary of your business or activity.
  • Produce tables of useful expressions, and of expressions to avoid.
  • Research typical language problems reported by other people who do the same activity.
  • Ask your people what they think they need to work on.
  • I write scripts and role-plays for typical activities, and you edit them. Or you write them in French and I translate them into English.
  • I prepare "homework" tasks which get the entire group in the right mood for an intensive English course (and which show each person's level in English).
  • And then, after doing this preparation, I teach an English course that is 100% relevant to your specific purpose.

    I can do this in Britain or at your base in France, Germany, Japan, etc.

    International capital cities


    Typical ESP courses

    As an example, I have delivered ESP courses relating to client contact (meeting and greeting, interviewing) and European youth mobility programmes (Erasmus+) for managers and youth workers from the Missions Locales, les Apprentis d'Auteuil, Pôles Emploi, the Conseil Général de la Martinique, universities and similar organisations. To see some documents from these courses, click here: PDF #1 - PDF #2.

    I'm happy to work with you to write an ESP course for any special areas - as long as I have some knowledge of or interest in that area. See below.

    It's not necessary that I know how to do your job, just that I can understand what you're talking about. This is the same as my work as a lawyer and translator. A good lawyer or translator has to become an "instant expert" on many subjects from hydraulic maintenance to crop protection structures, and from competitive orienteering to Buddhist mindfulness. For example, I learned the French and English vocabulary for robotic surgery and translated dozens of podcasts, examination questionnires and other documents for surgeons about the da Vinci™ surgical system. I have also found the correct vocabulary for professional articles on the infectious risks of hirudotherapy (the medical use of leeches); the use of laser hypsometry in forest management; the conditions for commercial development of the Perna perna mussel in the western Mediterranean, and so on.


    What subjects can I help with?

    The theme of an English lesson can be almost anything. You could do a good English course using cooking as the theme, or archaeology, or art appreciation, but it is essential that the teacher has some interest in the theme. If it's a practical subject, I'm probably interested. However, I know nothing at all about ball games, team games, board games, card games, video games, hunting, fishing, fashion, brands, popular culture, music, poetry, philosophy, literary criticism, religion, finance, economics or politics.

    Briefly, I have a professional interest in law, health & safety, sea sports and mountain sports. I'm interested in most professions; in practical skills like cooking and building construction; in books and reading; in ships and boats; in prehistory, classical and medieval history; in medicine, surgery and psychology; and in the natural world.

    I'm currently teaching myself to be a naturalist, so any projects relating to the natural world (biology, zoology, ecology, ethology, botany, geomorphology, oceanography, meteorology, etc) are very interesting to me.

    Here's what I know about already: I was a lawyer for 20 years, and I wrote a handbook on personal injury law for the Law Society. I know a lot about civil litigation, health & safety law and practice, including manual handling, lifting equipment, vibration, deafness and asbestos; medical negligence; the physical, mental, social and financial effects of trauma, including depression, anxiety, chronic pain and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; post-traumatic rehabilitation, and disability equipment. Also, office routines, professional practice, compliance, and relations with the public.

    As a lawyer, I often had to become familiar with the equipment, systems and protocols of construction, manufacturing, distribution and service industries, the military and the emergency services. In fact, my very first job as a baby Personal Injury lawyer related to a fireman who was injured by an electrical explosion in an 11kV substation. There were many conflicts on technical issues. Yes, we had reports from technical experts, but the lawyer has to understand those reports in order to see what they DON'T say.

    Before that, I was an outdoor sports instructor (kayaking, caving/speleology, rock climbing and mountain navigation) for two years, and I still know quite a lot about mountain sports, sea sports and working with teenagers. I have a sea kayaking website at www.kayarchy.com

    I'm also interested in small boats, old buildings, traditional crafts, green building techniques and sustainable living.


    Globe of the EarthMy name is Nicholas, and I'm an independent English teacher.
    I work anywhere in the world.
    Click here to read about me.

    Click here to read about my prices and availability.



    " Ask me if I can prepare a course for you; even if I say no, I may have some useful suggestions. " - Nicholas