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Virginia J Allum

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   Recent articles by
Virginia J Allum

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Other English Language Specialities: LSP and CLIL
by Virginia J Allum   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, June 16, 2012
Posted: Saturday, June 16, 2012

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English for Specific Purposes now encompasses a wide range of meanings and uses. English as a Foreign Language is taught for niche language markets and in children's education as the world becomes multilingual.


LSP or Language for Specific Purposes is an area of applied linguistics which is used in the teaching of specialised needs in any foreign language. The language which is focused on usually relates to a need for a job or study. Another use of the language is to research variations of language within a particular subject.


LSP in English is described as English for Specific Purposes or ESP. An example of the use of LSP is the common situation for doctors and nurses in the USA who find themselves needing to communicate with Spanish-speaking patients with poor Health Literacy, that is little knowledge of Medical English terms relating to their own health. In this case, the LSP is Spanish for Medical Purposes.


The second arm of LSP is the use in linguistic research. This is used in training for interpreting and translation and writing technical or specialised dictionaries, for example medical dictionaries. Medical dictionaries contain medical terms and also health-related or hospital-related terms. Some terms have an everyday equivalent which may have a different or slightly different meaning.


For example, in Medical English

'discharge' means either 'the secretions which ooze out of a wound' or 'patients leaving the hospital for home or transfer to another health facility'.


'observations' means 'vital signs and an overview of a patient's general status'


These are two words which have different meanings in a general sense.


LSP is contrasted with CBI or Content-based language instruction. Previously, CBI used to refer to the 'grammar-translation' method of teaching a foreign language which many of us (if you are over 40!) will be familiar with. The 'content', that is list of vocabulary words was presented at the beginning of the unit and followed by a translation passage which was probably written in an awkward style because it attempted to include as many examples of the grammar point of the particular unit. This resulted in many students saying that they had studied French for four years but were unable to make themselves understood when they actually landed in France and tried to order a meal!


These days, the term 'content' refers to the use of subject matter as a vehicle for second or foreign language learning. An example of this is the following Lesson Plan


Where Food Comes From

Students choose their favourite fruit and vegetable and classify whether it grows in cold or hot countries. Students classify vegetables as 'eaten cooked', 'eaten raw' and 'all of it is eaten'.

Students can also classify fruit and vegetables as 'growing on trees', 'growing on bushes' or 'growing in the ground'.

Activities include: Apple Poem. Fruit quiz.

LANGUAGE: Names of fruit and vegetables, colours, sentence patterns 'Tomatoes are red; tomatoes grow on bushes.'

THINKING: Classifying types of food.


CBI teaching was officially sanctioned by the European Commission in 1995 when it was renamed CLIL or Content and Language Integrated Learning because it is language teaching which is integrated into the L1 or first language curriculum.

What is PAL?

PAL stands for Pre-Arrival Learning. Pre-Arrival Learning is something which most Colleges or Universities agree is extremely useful, however, few seem to offer. I used to teach in a Diploma of Nursing course which drew a significant proportion of their students from overseas (mainly SE Asia). The course contains many technical terms such as medical terminology and nursing terms and was difficult for all students to adjust to. Our international students had additional problems. For example:


1. Adjusting to a different culture (Australian) with different attitudes, food and lifestyle. Students found it uncomfortable calling teachers by their first names and often used 'Madam' instead!


2. Adjusting to a pronunciation of English which differed from the pronunciation they were used to. For example, Korean students are often taught American English.


3. Adjusting to strict requirements regarding plagiarism which differed from their experience in their own countries.


The Vital English Pre-Arrival Learning programme ( was designed to alleviate some of these difficulties and has been used with success at British Columbia Centre for International Education ( through a webinar facility. The idea is for the institution to be able to make meaningful contact with overseas students before they arrive in the country where they will study. Students are guided through the orientation and registration process through a simulation which starts from the minute the plane arrives at the airport. They are shown the signs they must follow for passport control and then directed to the transport they need to take to get to their new university or college.


PAL courses benefit the institution as well. Students, and their families, are less anxious about their new environment. I remember the first group of Nepalese Nursing students who arrived at our college to study the Diploma of Nursing. Several of them explained that their families had to be convinced that it was safe for them to leave Nepal and to leave their families to study abroad.

Students who undertake a PAL programme demonstrate their level of English to the institution before arrival. This gives the institution a chance to put any learning support programmes in place before difficulties arise.

Web Site: EMP- English for Medical Purposes

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