Thursday, November 09, 2006


BOOK REVIEW: Dr M. Mojibur Rahman

EXPERIENCE. (Jaipur: Book Enclave, 2005). pp. xii+289, Rs. 725/-. ISBN

English for Specific Purposes (ESP) is a learner-centered approach to
teaching English as a foreign/second language. It fulfils the needs of
adult learners who need to learn a foreign/second language for use in
their specific fields, such as science, technology, medicine, leisure,
and academic learning.

ESP, which emerged as an approach to English language teaching in the
1960s, has become well known in the ELT circle, especially because
English has acquired the status of an international lingua franca, and
linguists have moved towards a situation-based notion of language. The
initial studies on 'special' languages were basically on register,
which developed in a Firthian environment. Following in Halliday's
footsteps (Halliday, 1978), British linguists who identified 'special
registers' considered it sufficient for teaching purposes to
distinguish them from 'common' language. However, as discovered
later, register differences do not apply to the lexical level only, but
also concern morphosyntactic choices and textual and pragmatic
organization (Swales, 1990; Gotti, 1991; Bhatia, 1993). The social
situation of each of the subdivisions of ESP exerts a strong influence
on the linguistic strategies that are to be adopted. Therefore
contextual and functional needs direct linguistic choices such as
lexical density, the complexity and the length of clause structure, the
degree of formality, the management of information, etc.

Teaching English for Specific Purposes: An Evolving Experience is a
handy reference material for ELT practitioner. R. K. Singh has edited
some of his own articles published in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. This
volume is significant as a historical document, as it reflects the
gradual development in the field of ELT, especially ESP, from 1970s to
1990s in India and other parts of the globe. It provides conceptual
clarities and practical possibilities of ESP approach to tertiary level
English language teaching in professional institutions.

The book starts with an overview of the status of English in India and
in the broad Indian Educational Curriculum, particularly in technical
institutions. Other articles in the book discuss ELT theory and
practice, development of ELT in India, Communicative Language Teaching,
ESP theory and practice, possibilities of technical English, problems
and prospects of ESP in India, needs analysis, teaching language skills
to science and technology students, and possibilities of using literary
texts in ESP classroom. The book, with its blend of theory and practice
from the view point of a practising teacher in the classroom, is full
of insight for teachers of English to be meaningful in their class.

The author arranges his articles in the volume in two sections:
Research Essays and Review Essays. The research essays, 18 in number,
help the readers understand the development of ELT, especially ESP/EST,
in India. The review essays, 22 in number, familiarize them with the
contents, logic, and criticism of several important textbooks and
reference books published in the West. These provide us with the Indian
teachers' perspective, voicing viewpoints that are generally not
available in books elsewhere.

The opening article in the first section tells us about the role and
status of English in India and in Indian Educational Curriculum. In the
beginning of the independent India, the policy makers adopted three
language formula--English, Hindi and Regional Language/Mother Tongue --
in Educational Curriculum, as English plays the role of national and
international lingua franca, library language, medium of instruction in
private schools and higher education, language of science and
technology, language of trade and commerce, etc.

The second article pleads for teaching English well by adopting a more
practical attitude, flexible teaching approach, adopting a need based
teaching programme and pursuing "such teaching activities from which
pupils know they are learning something useful." The author advises:
"...the question we should be asking ourselves is not just what to
teach but more important what to teach to whom and why." The article
'Teaching for Communicative Competence or Performance' emphasizes
the productive skills development and integration of skills, supporting
eclectic approach to teaching English.

The articles 'The Needs/Ends Framework of ESP', 'ESP:
Communication Constraints', and 'ESP: A Sociolinguistic
Consideration' discuss the different aspects of ESP. The author
states " effective management of ESP teaching requires a proper
understanding of students' language needs which means that one needs
to know what and how they require to communicate with each other, at
which level, and whether in speech or in writing...;' ' also
needs to consider the local circumstances that have a distinct bearing
on the success or failure of the language teaching....'

In article 'ESP in India: Developments in 1984-1985', the author
describes the development of ESP in India in one year, which is also
reflective of the developments in 1980s when different projects were
carried out in different parts of the country . The article enlightens
us about the search for suitable approaches and methods of teaching
English in Indian scenario. Some of the memorable projects include the
Communicative Teaching Project, Bangalore, The TTTI Project, Calcutta,
and The ISM Project, Dhanbad. The ISM project was basically a needs
analysis project, on the basis of which new syllabi were designed
for the students of B. Tech. and M. Sc. Tech.

Throughout the first section, the author tries to search and establish
the ESP approach to teaching English in the Second Language context,
especially to the students of science and technology. The section ends
with the exploration of possibilities to use ESP techniques for
teaching literature.

The second section of the book focuses on some review articles that
were published in different journals in India and abroad in 1980s and
1990s. This section gives a broad view of activities which were going
on in ELT world those days. The reader will find this section very
useful as it gives a sufficient account of classroom text and reference
and research materials published in that period. The review essays
also educate one about various aspects of language learning in EFL, ESL
and ESP contexts. The last five essays concentrate on cross cultural
communication, cultural context in business communication, teaching
translation and interpreting, and translation and power. Each of the
reviews is assessed thoroughly and tells us what is practically useful
in the classroom situation.

R.K.Singh's reflections and comments offer a valuable reference and
motivation to applied language teachers, ELT researchers, curriculum
planners, teacher-educators, academic administrators, and linguists.

On the whole the volume covers a good range of research and review
from the point of view of a practicing teacher. ELT practitioners will
find this book very useful for their appreciation of classroom teaching
realities and research.


Bhatia, V. K. (1993). Analyzing genre: Language use in professional
settings. London: Longman.

Gotti, M. (1991). I linguaggi specialistici. Firenze: La Nuova Italia.

Halliday, M. A. K. (1978). Language as social semiotic. London: Edward

Swales, J. M. (1990). Genre analysis: English for academic and research
settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dr M. Mojibur Rahman
Lecturer in English
Dept of Humanities & Social Sciences
Indian school of Mines
Dhanbad 826004

First published in Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics, Vol. 32, No. 1-2, Jan-Dec 2006, pp. 209-212


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