ESP Project Leader Profile: Esther Perez Apple

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

In this ESP project leader profile of Esther Perez Apple in Miami, Florida, you will learn about how the communication skills of an ESP project leader include the ability to conduct an effective needs assessment. Esther is founder and principal of Perez Apple & Company, which specializes in business communication. (See Esther is currently the English for occupational purposes (EOP) representative of the TESOL ESPIS, and she also has experience as community manager. She will become chair-elect of the ESPIS at the annual convention in March.

Esther Resize-1

Esther Perez Apple, MA
Founder and Principal, Perez Apple & Company

How would you define leadership?

As a context-driven ESPer and linguist, I think of leadership in terms of its root word leith, meaning to go forth and die, as in battle, or to mobilize an individual or group to dominate or succeed.  The ESP practice I am engaged in with multinational professionals is aimed at helping them to go forth and succeed in the workplace. By raising their communicative competence linguistically, socially and strategically, they are empowered to be better leaders in the pursuit of making a difference for themselves and their families, their organizations, its stakeholders, and the community.

The leadership role I play is informed by carefully analyzing an individual’s position within the organization and by assessing their instructional needs. This can only take place by understanding the unique communication environment of each individual. Consideration of language proficiency levels are combined with questions about the work setting and percentages of time spent communicating in English.  In addition, assessing how much formal vs informal communication is done, how much of it is face2face, video conferencing, on the telephone, or in writing as well as how much is with peers, the public, superiors, or subordinates.  In addition, finding out which communication tasks are required such as presentations, meetings, discussions, and written reports or emails.  Much consideration is given to this communication profile so as to tease out and focus on the elements that will have the greatest impact on communicative competence and desired goals.

Tell me an ESP project success story. Focus on your communication as a leader in the project. How did you communicate with stakeholders to make that project successful?

My works spans industries across the business sector and I most frequently work within a corporate or small business environment where talented and highly educated individuals are being held back by English communication performance gaps.

The owner of an information technology service company contacted me about his Sr. Technical Account Manager.  This individual’s technical skills were deemed superior but his language skills were keeping him from interacting in written and spoken communication and therefore advancing into the management position that was desired by the manager and the company’s owner. The position’s requirements were to interact with potential and current customers, explain services, and develop ongoing relationships with clients both in written and spoken communication.

A blended learning program was designed to focus on writing, speaking, and communication strategies. An online writing program which supported the face2face program addressed grammar, usage, mechanics, and sentence construction. This was integrated into email writing projects in training sessions that focused on format, word choice, tone, and style.

Business communication strategies were narrowed to focus on the following discourse strategies:

  • Considering option and choices
  • Asking questions and verb inversion
  • Yes/no questions; open-ended questions; probing questions; leading questions; hypothetical questions
  • Seeking clarification and maintaining understanding

In addition, pronunciation skills for keywords used in email and discourse strategies were introduced along with writing and discourse strategies.

This highly motivated individual succeeded in improving his email writing and general command of business discourse.  He received positive feedback from the company’s owner as well as his customers.  He was able to write and speak with a minimum of grammar and usage errors as well as form relationships with customers by using English discourse strategies. Expectations were clear from the beginning that language learning and improvement take place over a period of time with continued practice.

What made this program succeed is the explicit focus on the skills and tasks that needed to be improved which can only be accomplished by an organizational and individual needs assessment. Successful programs emerge by balancing the language needs of the student, his/her goals, expectations of management or stakeholders, and the commitment of the individual and/or company that will benefit from the training.

As I was reading Esther’s profile above, I really liked her focus on providing customer satisfaction in an EOP context. Satisfying multiple stakeholders is a very important aspect of ESP project leadership, and we can gain insights into effective communication from Esther’s profile.

Feel free to provide any comments or questions for Esther below, or contact her directly at her email above!

All the best,


Note: For all of the ESP project leader profiles (and more), go here.

About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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