With the continuing expansion of English as an integral communications tool for education, science, technology, business and commerce, post-secondary education technical students are increasingly finding themselves in positions requiring them to manage high-technology studies in technical English. If you teach EFL, technical or business English, or teach a technical subject in English, you can use ESP workshops to successfully promote enhanced reading and comprehension in LEP learners.

A group of my Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students studying an Electronic Engineering class on antenna design had an American textbook in English, so it was necessary for me to convert chapters of the text into a series of ESP reading and comprehension workshops designed to allow the students to practice strategies for de-constructing the written text as an aid to understanding it.

A Series of Workshops

When my LEP Spanish-speaking Law faculty students were required to study aspects of Capital Punishment used in the USA, I again produced a series of materials as both written workshops and full multi-media presentations.

For my LEP Economics students to do comparative population studies of Colombia (population 44,222,000) with:

o South Korea (population 47,700,000)

o Poland (population 38,587,000)

o Argentina (population 38,428,000)

o South Africa (population 45,026,000)

o Ukraine (population 48,523,000)

A series of ESP workshops and multi-media presentations proved to be invaluable in promoting their reading and comprehension of their program’s technical materials in English. The process of creating effective ESP written workshops is not easy, but is well worth the effort required. It both benefits the learners in reading and comprehension of difficult written material and develops the resourcefulness and skills of the EFL teacher.

Preparing the Workshop

In preparing an ESP written workshop, the reading text is broken down into manageable segments which can be more readily understood by LEP learners. Students are taught to identify in context such elements as:

o Cognates – words which look the same in different languages; True Cognates have the same or similar meanings, usage and connotation in different languages while False Cognates have different meanings, usage and connotation in different languages

o Connectors – words that join simple and complex sentences with others. Examples of connectors are: and, but, or, so. They can be of different types, depending on their function. There are connectors which express addition, contrast, time sequence, choice, cause or result

o Referents – words that refer to others that have been used before. They are used to avoid word repetition. Commonly used ones include such parts of speech (words) as: pronouns, determiners, quantifiers and proper nouns

o Affixes – consist of prefixes and suffixes. A prefix is a syllable added to the front of a root word to make another word with a different grammatical function. A suffix is a syllable added to the end root of a word to make another word with a different grammatical function

In addition, a list of key, high-frequency vocabulary is prepared along with a glossary of technical terms which may prove to be difficult for the learners. Pre-reading activities, while-reading and post-reading activities are incorporated into the written workshop to complement and round out the total package. A variety of exercise types are used to provide in-context practice with the lexis and grammatical elements of the reading. Comprehensive support in the form of graphics, photos, diagrams and pictures are included, as are video, animation and sound files when reading and comprehension workshops are produced online in websites, blogs or class pages.

ESP written reading and comprehension workshops can be an invaluable aid for LEP learners who need to understand and apply technical material related to their field or study or employment. A good workshop may take from three to five hours to prepare, but is timeless and can be used and re-used for years. With regular and frequent practice in ESP workshop preparation, teachers can often reduce preparation time significantly. The benefits to the learners are uncountable.

If you’d like some examples of complete, prepared ESP written workshops, feel free to e-mail me for an immediate reply with samples.