BRAZ-TESOL: a talk on ESP course design

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“English for Beach Entrepreneurs: Reflecting upon an ESP course” (Patricia Elizabeth Perez Martins, Claudia Rebello dos Santos Santos)

Patricia began by taking us through the standard stages of ESP course design for this 25 hour course, and then Claudia described course implementation, adaptation and learning results.

Patricia explained that the course was to be part of an NGO initiative dealing with environmental issues. The aim of language course was to equip Copacabana Rio beach vendors to deal with English speaking visitors the city will receive in the coming years (think World Cup and Olympics).

Needs analysis was based on interviews and observations, with the resulting functional syllabus including a focus on greetings, offers, giving directions, dealing with prices and numbers, and so on. A skeleton course booklet was designed as a foundation for classes, one which was sufficiently flexible to embrace learners’ needs, lacks and wants during the running of the course. The classes eventually included the teaching of exponents for offering to look after things for people, advising bathers not to shower naked and dealing with discounts. Assessment was to be based on participation and an end-of-course role-play.

Claudia described the challenges faced by a teacher working with a group of learners who could not, under any circumstances, be described as heterogeneous. The learners were 19 – 63 year olds from varied backgrounds and with different literacy levels and skills, ranging from one who had lived in New York to others who were unable to distinguish English from other foreign languages. All had to juggle their attendance on the course with their need to work and maintain their income. Low self-esteem was a common characteristic of the learners, and the classroom methods embraced a ‘Can do’ approach.

During the course, the foundation materials were developed to incorporate, for example, activities to deal with additional exponents the learners thought useful, role-plays to help learners practice conversational exchanges they frequently used in their native Portuguese whilst at work, and additional pronunciation practice as and when necessary. At one point, a group of Swedish tourists attended the class, and the learners conducted interviews with them, in English, of course. This gave the learners a sense of achievement, increasing self-esteem and motivation. All learners ended the course able to deal with English-speaking tourists in their work environment – a testament to the very evident success of this ESP course.

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