English for specific purposes

Authored by: Sue Starfield

The Routledge Handbook of English Language Teaching

Print publication date:  May  2016
Online publication date:  May  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415747394
eBook ISBN: 9781315676203
Adobe ISBN: 9781317384472


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Learning and teaching English for specific rather than general purposes is an approach that began to develop during and after World War II and has shown continued growth since. Its origins are to be found in the enormous social changes and massive economic development that occurred with what has been called the third wave of globalisation (Robertson in Kumaravadivelu, 2006) as Europe struggled to rebuild itself post-1945 and newly independent Asian and African countries sought to modernise. The growth of multinational capitalism during this period and the emergence of the United States of America as a global superpower also encouraged the development of English for specific purposes (ESP) teaching. At the same time, ideologies of progress and the desire to facilitate international communication, understanding and student exchange in the hope of helping to prevent future wars were also influential in ESP’s establishment. These somewhat contradictory aims and intentions are at the heart of ESP and are the focus of some recent critiques which will be discussed in this chapter (see also Starfield (2013b) for further discussion).

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