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About SESP

Key dates

Abstract Submission Opens
5 May 2017
End of Abstract Submission
30 June 2017
Registration Opens
1 July 2017
End of Early Bird Registration
30 August 2017


Asia ESP Conference Convenes in Beijing

The 1st Annual Conference of Asia ESP and the 6th Chinese National Symposium on ESP was held in Beijing between October 28 and 29, 2017.

The 1.5-day-event was organized by the Asian Association for ESP and the Chinese Association for ESP, hosted by the School of English for Specific Purposes (SESP), Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU), and co-hosted by the Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press and the Chinese Journal of ESP.

This year’s conference featured five keynote speeches, four workshops, 14 parallel sessions and one round-table discussion. A total of 231 scholars from China, Singapore, Japan, India, Fiji, Oman, the US, the UK, and Australia attended the conference and exchanged ideas on ESP.

Grand Opening

On October 28, the grand opening of the conference, hosted by Professor Li Liwen, Dean of the SESP, took place. She first introduced all the guests and keynote speakers, including Professor Sun Youzhong, Vice President of BFSU, President of the Asian Association for ESP and the Chinese Association for ESP, Professor Christine Feak of the University of Michigan, Professor Ken Hyland of the University of Hong Kong, Professor Brian Paltridge of the University of Sydney, Professor Hajime Terauchi of Takachiho University, Professor Wang Haixiao, Secretary of the College Foreign Language Teaching Advisory Board Under the Ministry of Education, Professor Liang Maocheng of BFSU, Ms. Duan Changcheng, Deputy Director of Higher English Education Publishing of FLTRP, Professor Cai Jigang of Fudan University, Professor Shi Jie of the University of Electro-Communications of Japan, Professor Huang Ping of Chongqing University, Professor Weng Fengxiang of Shanghai Maritime University, Professor Li Li and Professor Sha Lijin of China University of Political Science and Law, Professor Yang Ruiying of Xi’an Jiaotong University, and Professor Doreen D. Wu of Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Prof. Sun Youzhong delivered the opening address and warmly welcomed all the scholars from around the world. He then introduced the history and mission of the Asian Association for ESP, explained the objectives and significance of the conference, and recognized the achievement of ESP teachers and researchers. Hopeful of the prospect of ESP research in China and Asia, Prof. Sun believed the conference would serve as a platform for the exchange of ESP teaching and research in Asia and beyond.

Prof. Wang Haixiao congratulated on the opening of the conference and reviewed the debates over ESP among the academia and the society at large during the past few decades. The 1999 version of the National College English Syllabus issued by China’s Ministry of Education devoted a whole paragraph to the teaching of “discipline-specific English” as a “compulsory component”. According to the newly drafted but not yet officially released Guidelines for College English Teaching, “the teaching of college English should first of all be geared to the needs of the students and adapt to the specific circumstances of the universities and departments.” “This needs-oriented approach to the designing of teaching program,” he said, “also belies at the heart of ESP, both in theory and in practice.” As a result, the teaching and research of ESP takes on new importance.

In her remark, Ms. Duan Changcheng said the FLTRP has been committed to the innovation and development of foreign language teaching and the academic exchange of teachers and researchers across regions. She expressed sincere gratitude for the support of experts and scholars, and looked forward to in-depth exchanges and collaboration in future projects.

At the end of the opening ceremony, Prof. Li Liwen outlined the past, present and future of the SESP. She hoped the participants could visit the school, engage in academic exchange and collaborate in various forms after the conference.

Enlightening Keynote Speeches

After the ceremony, Dr. Christine Feak delivered a keynote speech entitled “Making the Most of Different, but Equally Important Types of Expertise: Collaboration between Disciplinary Experts and ESP Specialists on Materials Development”, describing a case on the development of a multi-session workshop on writing for publication in surgery journals. In the keynote address entitled “Principles for Teaching Intercultural Competence in ESP”, Professor Sun Youzhong and Dr. Liao Hongjing discussed how to improve intercultural competence in ESP and put forward some basic principles for teaching intercultural competence in the context of ESP. Professor Ken Hyland delivered a video-recorded speech entitled “Re-imagining Instruction: Specificity and EAP Writing”. He described the HKU course “English in the Discipline”, which is based on the principles of disciplinary specific language. He then highlighted the disciplinary-specific nature of writing and argued for a specific view of teaching EAP.

On the morning of October 29, Professor Hajime Terauchi, who is also President of Japan Association of College English Teachers, and Professor Brian Paltridge delivered keynote speeches entitled “The Past, Present and Future Prospects of EBP in Japan” and “Looking Inside the World of Peer Review” respectively. Terauchi reported the results of two large-scale surveys conducted of Japanese business persons. The main findings indicate that the most difficult genres of communication in English at the workplace are telephone talks and participating in business meetings. He offered pedagogical suggestions for helping address the problems in the teaching of business English in Japan. Paltridge’s speech dealt with the growing pressure on students to publish their work, especially when peer review is involved. He suggested that students should better understand the process, carefully read through the comments, and identify their problems in writing. A proposal is made for working through the peer review process with students so that they can participate more effectively in it.

Stimulating Parallel Presentations

On the afternoon and evening of October 28, four panels, four workshops, and 12 parallel sessions were held, with over 94 papers presented.

In panel discussions, the team led by Du Jianying of Huazhong University of Science and Technology shared their ESP teaching reform; the team led by Shi Jie of the University of Electro-Communications (Japan) demonstrated their design of university-wide English courses for Information Science majors, providing an excellent example for integrating ESP courses with discipline-specific courses; the team led by Huang Ping of Chongqing University shared their experience in teaching the course “English for Professional Communication”, discussing the rationale, teaching and learning materials, roles of teachers and students, and assessment.

During the three afternoon workshops, Olive Tilisi Bryce, a scholar from Fiji, shared her experience in teaching students, who are learning English as a second or third language and who are situated in a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic context, to write academic reviews in an EAP course. Dawn Rogier, a scholar from the US, demonstrated how to improve students’ oral English through games. The team led by Professor Liu Ming of Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine showcased the way of teaching medical vocabulary in an entertaining manner. The workshop entitled “Big Data Analysis for ESP Corpora” led by Professor Liang Maocheng of BSFU was conducted on the evening of October 28. Liang made a brief overview of the evolution and recent developments of the big data era, and showed how to use big data to analyze ESP corpus with Word Association Explorer 1.0 and Textsmith Tool.

At the parallel sessions, scholars from different regions discussed a variety of topics, including ESP pedagogy, course design, textbook compilation, testing and assessment, teaching intercultural competence in ESP, corpus-based ESP teaching, teacher development and innovative research. The heated discussions inspired new ideas.

The SESP, as the host of the conference, also sent a strong team of participants. Prof. Li Liwen and Dr. Liao Hongjing presented a paper entitled “A Mixed Methods Evaluation of ESP Writing: A Case Study in China”. Prof. Peng Ping, vice dean of the SESP, presented a paper entitled “Rethinking the Significance of Ma Jianzhong’s Proposal on Establishing a Translation Academy: from the Perspective of ESP Translation Teaching in the 21th Century”. Yang Hua, Shen Yiwen, Zhang Shuyan, and Jiang Yuechun also presented their papers entitled “A Production-Oriented Approach to Postgraduates’ Academic Abstract Writing: The Enabling Stage”, “Cultivating Critical Thinking Through Note-taking Activities in EAP Classes”, “The Application of Task-based Language Learning in Public Speaking for Business-Major Students—Aiming at Improving Students’ Motivation and Thinking Skills”, and “Representations of the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative and Rhetorical Devices in US Mainstream Media” respectively.

Roundtable on Future of ESP

A roundtable on “National Guidelines on College English Teaching” and ESP Teaching Reform, chaired by Prof. Li Liwen, was held on the evening of October 28, attracting more than 80 participants, including the executive members of the Chinese Association for ESP. Scholars shared their experience in ESP teaching, discussed the difficulties and challenges of ESP teaching and research, and examined the positioning of ESP in China. Finally, Prof. Sun Youzhong made the following summary:

First, ESP teaching serves China’s strategy of developing world-class universities and first-class disciplines. The goal of ESP teaching has shifted from language teaching alone to cultivating high-caliber talents in different disciplines to serve China’s Going Global Strategy and the Belt and Road Initiative. Second, Chinese scholars have yet to reach a consensus on the definition and classification of ESP. While English for General Academic Purposes (EGAP) is the least ambiguous term, English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP), which is based on multiple disciplines, is not clearly defined. It is suggested that besides EGAP, ESP can be classified into different categories, namely English for Humanities, English for Social Sciences, English for Natural Sciences, and English for Engineering. ESP could also be categorized according to First-level Disciplines and Second-level Disciplines. English for Occupational Purposes (EOP) should also be taken into consideration. Third, ESP should be clearly positioned. Prof. Sun believed that ESP is for both non-English majors and English majors. Besides, the relations between General English (GE) and ESP should be straightened out. Is ESP the complement to or the update of GE, or simply the transition linking GE and EMI? Fourth, ESP teaching should be diversified with an overarching guide. Fifth, the role of ESP teachers should be clarified. They do not need to have a systematic understanding of a specific discipline, but should grasp the core concepts and be familiar with the stylistic features of writing for the given discipline. Finally, ESP research has a bright future, and ESP teachers should orient their research towards solving real problems in class. The roundtable discussion lasted for over two and a half hours. Participants expressed their eagerness to reconsider their own ESP teaching when they return to their work.

The conference concluded at noon on October 29. In his closing remark, Prof. Sun Youzhong praised, on behalf of the organizing committee, the academic quality and enthusiasm of the keynote speakers, workshop hosts and all other speakers, expressed his heartfelt thanks to the active participation of scholars from around the world, and spoke highly of the conference as a whole. He hoped that the participants could further advance the ESP endeavor by putting theory into practice. Finally, he expressed appreciation to the organizing committee and the student volunteers for their hard efforts.

The 7th Chinese National Symposium on ESP will be held in Nanjing in fall 2018. Professor Ma Dongmei of the Southeast University, which will host the next conference, warmly invited everyone to gather again in Nanjing next year in the name of ESP.