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 (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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10 Responses to One Side of ESP: English for Occupational Purposes

  1. Afida Husniyah says:

    Sir, I was quite confused with the term Vocational English and English for Occupational Purpose. Are those different?

  2. Vilma D. Andoy says:

    Hello Mr. Kevin Knight!
    I am from the Philippines and I also handle English for Specific Purposes in the university. At the end of the semester, i usually require my students to develop instructional materials along a specific occupation which they did well. Can you suggest where can we share these outputs for comments?
    Thank you.


    • Kevin Knight Kevin Knight says:

      Hi Vilma,

      This sounds exciting! If you have a website with information about your students’ work, I would be happy to share the link.


  3. Amiera says:

    Hi Mr. Knight
    I’m a TESL students, from Malaysia.
    Currently studying for English for Occupational Purposes subject and I have problems on finding the sources about the subjects.
    Do you have any suggested links or websites for me? I’m searching for ‘Background of meeting’
    Thank you 🙂

    • Kevin Knight Kevin Knight says:

      Hi Amiera,

      Perhaps, you could do a Google search for topics such as “business meeting etiquette” or “history of business meeting”?

      However, if you are doing “business meeting training” in an organization, it is important to understand your learners’ activities in the meeting. For example, I needed to train an individual to participate in a large government-related meeting. He told me that he needed to improve his listening comprehension and note taking skills for that meeting. Accordingly, I needed to learn more about the type of meeting in which my learner would be participating.

      Good luck with your studies!


  4. Chloe Siwo says:

    Dear Mr. Knight.

    Sir, I have this one subject which is Esp, I am an English major student. Can you give examples of terms used in a certain field which can be integrated or related into the topic English for Academic Purposes and English for Occupational Purposes.

    Please help me with this.


    • Kevin Knight Kevin Knight says:

      Hi Chloe,

      The same terms (or vocabulary) can be used in teaching EAP and EOP.

      For example, in an EAP class, a university student may be studying words and phrases needed to make a marketing-related PowerPoint presentation for a specific marketing class on campus.

      In an EOP class, a business person in a company may be studying words and phrases needed to make a marketing-related PowerPoint presentation for his customers.

      ESP is not the teaching of vocabulary lists only. ESP is program development and teaching for specific purposes as described above.

      There are many textbooks that provide vocabulary (connected to “engineering” or to “writing a doctoral thesis” for example.)


  5. 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

  6. 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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