One Side of ESP: English for Occupational Purposes

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

One thing that I have really enjoyed about my career in ESP has been the opportunity to work in academic and occupational settings. In other words, I have been able to create and/or teach ESP courses in academic institutions (e.g., universities, vocational schools, language schools, etc.) and in public and private sector organizations (e.g., company headquarters, factories, government offices, etc.).

I have also been able to teach English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and English for Occupational Purposes (EOP). In this case, I do not necessarily mean academic or occupational settings. The difference between EAP and EOP is made clear by Slide 8 from Lomperis and van Naerssen (1992) in our ESP PowerPoint of the TESOL ESP Interest Section (2010). I adapted that slide as follows:

  1. Language learners who are in the process of developing expertise in their fields need English communication skills as tools in their training.
  2. Language learners who are already experts in their fields need English communication skills as tools in their work. (Slide 7)

For example, if I am teaching a class in an ELI (English Language Institute) to prepare my students to participate in a university course (not in the ELI) in marketing, I am teaching EAP. In my class, I could teach what a student needs to be able to do to succeed in the specific marketing course; e.g., how to write papers, how to make presentations, how to work in teams, how to talk to the professor, how to participate in class discussions, how to do marketing-related research in English, etc. The marketing course content and vocabulary would be covered in view of the above. My focus would be on teaching English language communication skills as opposed to teaching only the content of the marketing course. On the other hand, if I am preparing the head of a company in Japan (who is Japanese) to make a specific business presentation about his company’s performance to his boss (i.e., a native English speaker) in the United States, I am teaching EOP, but our training could be done in his office, at a language school, or in a coffee shop.

In my experience, EOPers often act as language training consultants. In Japan, I had the opportunity to visit a number of Sony factories where we observed factory operations, met prospective students, and collected data. We produced a series of materials titled English in the Factory that was used to train the relevant employees. That was only one of many projects being conducted simultaneously. Accordingly, I find that EOPers have very interesting stories to tell about their professional activities.

I would now like to share with you information about two EOP professionals and entrepreneurs who are leaders and officers on the TESOL ESP Interest Section Steering Board.

  1. Ronna Timpa is an EOS (English in Occupational Settings) representative in the TESOL ESP-IS. One of Ronna’s EOP activities is training employees in hotels. Check out her company’s website and a related video.

photo (7)

  1. David Kertzner is a former chair of the TESOL ESP-IS. He was also an EOS representative. In the TESOL ESP-IS, he is currently an ESP News editor. David’s company creates ESP programs for a wide range of organizations. Check out his company’s website.


Ronna and David are workplace language training experts. You can find their contact information on their websites.

As I noted above, EOPers may also work in academic settings. For example, at Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS) in Japan, I work in a program sponsored by the Government of Japan. We provide training and other career-related support to help unemployed adults obtain new jobs. I also coach undergraduate students for interviews for specific internships and jobs with foreign organizations through the KUIS Career Education Center.

For information about setting up EOP and EAP programs, take a look at this TESOL ESP webinar (2012)!

All the best,


About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (doctoral candidate in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is Chair of the ESP IS (2011-2012) and will become Immediate Past Chair (2012-2013). He teaches English for specific purposes (ESP), business, and organizational leadership in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career Program) and the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Japan. He has over 25 years of experience during which he has worked for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research is on leadership communication and development.
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3 Responses to One Side of ESP: English for Occupational Purposes

  1. I am here again,
    Mr. Kevin.
    Can you give me some help related to ESP?
    I recently entered a master course at the University and wanted to develop a dissertation in this area, but I am a bit confused in narrowing the object of my research.
    Do you have any suggestion in terms of hot topics in ESP nowadays?
    thanks in advance
    Claudio Mattos

  2. Hello Mr.Kevin Knight.
    Nice to meet you.
    It is a great pleasure to read and see the post you published.
    I am from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and I also work in the ESP field. Some of the professional you mentioned above Mr. David Kertzner I had the opportunity to do a course with in São Paulo, last year in ESP.
    Thank you so much for sharing information related to the field.
    Claudio Mattos

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