We’re starting the week with an ESP-slanted post from Ros Wright. Ros is a materials writer, teacher and teacher trainer specialising in English for Medical Purposes. Twice President of TESOL France, Ros is currently a member of the IATEFL Conference Committee and General Secretary for EALTHY, the European Association of Language Teachers for Healthcare. Her first coursebook, Good Practice: Communication Skills in English for the Medical Practitioner was the inaugural winner of the IATEFL BESIG David Riley Award for Innovation in ESP.
TDSIG Team wishes you a great week!
Ten books that shaped my teaching
by Ros Wright
I am delighted to be sharing my top 10 teaching books and thanks to Divya for this minor indulgence on an October morning. While this list does have an ESP slant, as you might expect, I hope those who are not (or not yet) engaged in our noble art may also find something to inspire. The following have not only shaped my thinking in terms of teaching, but also materials writing, which as the authors of my first chosen title explain ‘is one of the most characteristic features of ESP in practice’.
- Currently in its 23rd edition, English for Specific Purposes: A Learning-centred Approach by Tom Hutchinson and Alan Waters is a must-read for anyone looking to work in ESP. Hutchinson and Waters reinforce the need to develop key skills in ESP, notably needs analysis and curriculum design, but also share my own personal concern that ‘Considering the scale of the ESP revolution … little effort has been made to retrain teachers…’.
- Reading Learner English: A Teacher’s Guide to Interference and Other Problems (ed. Michael Swan and Bernard Smith) was quite possibly the first time I had ever delved into teacher development. During my initial experience living and working in Paris, this title not only gave me invaluable insight into my learners’ usage, it also reassured me that while the intonation patterns I was hearing around me might ‘give the impression of vehemence … none was intended.’ Phew!
- ESP and Business English trainers in the latter part of the 90s will almost certainly have come across Mark Powell’s Presenting in English, a title which immediately became my staple. Engineering students to CEOs, they all learnt to ‘chunk’, ‘triple’ and ‘soften’ their way through a presentation. And if proof of the pudding were necessary, you only have to watch Powell in action to see his materials really do work.
- Mark Hancock’s Pronunciation Games was another on my go-to list in those early days and better still, it was photocopiable! Never ceasing to engage, this title served as a teacher training tool – helping me grasp the relevance of word stress and intonation patterns in the communicative competence of my learners. It also proved a model for writing concise, user-friendly teachers’ notes; something that would come in handy later in my career.
- Grammar for Business – now there’s a book I wish had been around when I first started teaching ESP. Co-authored by corpus heavy-weight, Mike McCarthy, and informed by the Cambridge Business English corpus, this title takes us out of our clear cut ‘CELTA-comfort-zone’ making a clear distinction between spoken and written grammar in a business context.
- In 2003, I had the good fortune to study under Brian Tomlinson, whose passion was turning ELT coursebook design on its head and who was, without doubt, ahead of his time. Rather than refer readers to Tomlinson’s already highly-rated, Materials Development in Language Teaching, I’d like to recommend his more recent article, Materials Development for Language Learning and Teaching. I was delighted to learn that by 2012 Tomlinson was finally in a position to note ‘we are now much more aware of the principles and procedures of materials development that are most likely to facilitate language acquisition and development and are much better at actually developing effective materials.’
- As MA students we berated the rose-tinted world of the global coursebook and Ruth Wajnryb was on hand to indulge our critical minds with her 1996 article, Death, Taxes and Jeopardy: Systematic Omissions in EFL Texts, or Life Was Never Meant to be an Adjacency Pair. I think you’ll agree, the title alone begs more than just a cursory glance. Through amusing parallels with Noddy in Toytown, Wajnryb implied that the sanitised, ‘PG-rated’ world of the coursebook was in effect failing our learners, often ‘to the point of being de-socialising’. A wake-up call indeed to any would-be ESP materials writer, especially one involved in medical English where taboos don’t, or certainly shouldn’t, exist!
- In Teaching Listening Comprehension Penny Ur validated my own gut feelings that language, especially in a medical English context, should never be taught through a series of faceless audio recordings. Reminding us we don’t generally listen to ‘disembodied speech’, devoid of any visual cues that might help us interpret spoken communication effectively, Penny unwittingly assisted me in my ploy to include more authentic video in published ESP materials. All of which leads me nicely onto …
- … my 9th choice, The Principles and Practice of Medicine, circa 1892. William Osler, the eminent and perceptive 19th-century physician, believed that ‘medicine is learnt by the bedside not in the classroom’. What better way to replicate the ‘bedside’ than through the medium of video?
- My A-ha moments in ESP definitely came after reading my final offering by medical communications expert, Jonathan Silverman, Skills for Communicating with Patients. Where Hutchinson and Waters had encouraged me to use authentic texts, tasks and methodologies, Silverman supplied me with the means to do so. His Observation Guide for patient consultations provided the necessary framework around which to build the language and communication strategies for my learners. While for my trainees wary of teaching qualified medical professionals, this book debunks the mystery, empowering them to enter the medical English classroom with confidence. Suffice to say that Silverman’s title is a must-read for anyone looking to work in EMP, or English for Medical Purposes.