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Products, processes and practitioners: a critical look at the importance of specificity in ESP

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>12/2011
<mark>Journal</mark>Taiwan International ESP Journal
Issue number2
Number of pages32
Pages (from-to)19-50
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Many English for Specific Purposes (ESP) researchers have argued that ESP practitioners should be sufficiently familiar with the specialist discipline of their target learners that they are able to understand its culture, community, and discourse practices. This view has led to the misconception that ESP practitioners must be experts in the target discipline or at least know the subject material as
well as the learners. In this paper, I will argue the opposite view: that ESP practitioners do not need to be specialists. In a rapidly changing and evolving world, the traditional product-oriented knowledge taught to target learners in an ESP course is likely to quickly change or even become obsolete in only a few years. On the other hand, process-oriented skills, such as the ability to acquire new knowledge through observing, recording, and analyzing texts, are likely to be more stable and highly valued over the long term. These are the exact same skills that ESP practitioners themselves apply when attempting to understand the target language. Consequently, I will argue that non-specialist ESP practitioners are in the best position to help learners achieve these longer-term ESP goals.