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English for Special Purposes: Three Cases
Maureen Alison Abrahamsohn

What is a talk at BRAZTESOL called Bridges to Understanding? It’s an exchange, isn’t it? Look at this Venn diagram.
Teaching is the “truth”, the ideal, the big circle. What part of it is applicable?
Attitudes are always important in the functioning and outcome of a project.
For special purposes content can be negotiated by the parties involved.
Skills are a concrete base, which many find so important to language learning and teaching.
The dynamic or movement and interaction of these fields is what creates bridges to understanding.

In October 2000 I was hired by the Swiss School to help the teachers and staff to know about and be confident with those bridges that they already had, and the ones we would explore in iBET English for Teachers.

What were we looking for in the nine-hour pilot of iBET?

How many ways can you have an introductory conversation asking and answering questions in these categories? Short exchanges in groups.
This is everyday language. Taking care to mix what we feel confidence in with what is new, unknown and even difficult is needed. Have you found these qualities in the poster?

Relaxation              Humor               Valor                Resilience

Do you need more than attitudes for your job? How difficult is this?

Of the four skills, reading, writing, speaking and listening, which is easier and which is harder?

Reading is your strong point then depend on it to do difficult tasks on a continuum of:

I. Cleusa’s game

Look at Poster 5(1). Do these strategies help with the game?

• Try Grammar Reversi. Read the story the students wrote. Would you choose to write a story to learn the vocabulary?

II. Nair’s reading

Look at Poster 6. Does the strategy given,

help you to follow the instructions on reading the text?

• Before viewing the video, read Lucy’s Italian Movie for general idea, quickly.
• Circle all the subjects, proper nouns, nouns and pronouns.
• Underline the actions the subjects perform. i.e. verbs.
• What are the objects of these actions?
• Underline twice the words that indicate time.
• Can you make a good summary now?
• Do you have any grammar or vocabulary observations or questions for the group?
• One half of the group chooses a sentence from the text to write onto cards. The other half reconstructs it. This is one way to clear up doubts.
• Please give us your impressions in seven minutes

III. Monika’s sense of smell and taste.

• Use your curiosity and senses to discover what is in the bag without looking. Taste what is in the thermos.

IV. Alvaro’s song.

• Listen to I was born to Love You and draw a story-board on the flip chart.


The group that studied Alvaro’s case, as did that of Monika, had fun presenting the activity as did those who watched. They observed that Alvaro felt inadequate with regard to English, as many second language students do.

Nair’s group thought the instructions for the activity were too long and difficult and tried it without reading all the instructions, as do many students. They observed that Nair, though comfortable when reading, had difficulty with listening. At iBET she found that listening to tapes over and over helped improve her listening skills.

Cleusa’s group took most of the time to figure out the matches in the game. They noted that Cleusa found accurate English writing a great challenge.

Finally I would like to talk about the work of an administrator who came to iBET to prepare for an oral presentation about her program at a conference in Buenos Aires. That was a specific purpose! She attended 17 meetings (25 and ½ hours) and got a private tutor as well. Her final oral presentation at iBET was what she would say at the conference. She offered this lovely Arabic coffee, famous at our school but never given in English before. Nair brought a delicious apple cake. The presentation went off with flying colors. Setting a strategy to handle difficulties helped to reduce anxiety and increase confidence in English both for the individual and the institution with the specific purpose, oral practice, We used sensitive understanding of action.

Relax. Be curious. Go back for more.


(1) Poster 5: based on workshop at 5th BRAZ-TESOL National convention. Learn and Pass it On: Motivating EFL Students to Read by Maureen Abrahamsohn (1996)

What occurs for each one of us when we read? We are perceiving, seeing, hearing “the word” which we ideate or give meaning to. Sometimes we forget that we are presenting these perceptions and ideations to ourselves and possibly to others if we are reading out loud or discussing what we have read. While doing all this, we are cross mediating, which is integrating left and right brain functions to come out with what we have understood. Learning and using vocabulary with both lower and higher level thinking goes on at this stage. As you can see in the diagram, we have a lot going on in our brains! Each one of us has a special way of seeing, hearing or perceiving which will make our ideation, presentation and cross mediation unique. Perhaps one of the reasons Albert Einstein was so special was his hearing impairment. He had what we call today a special learning style.


The following is a bibliography of the material used for the iBET course.

Books and Articles

The CALLA Handbook, Anna Ulh Chamot and J. Michael O’Malley, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1994
Developing a Framework for Analysis ESP by Helen Basturkmen, University of Auckland, ESP News, TESOL Interest Section Newsletter, Volume 10, Number 1, January 2002
Essential Grammar in Use, second edition by Raymond Murphy, Cambridge University, 1997
Famous Women of the Twentieth Century: Cue Cards, Lisa F. DeWitt, Pro Lingua Associates,1993
More Grammar Games, Mario Rinvolucri and Paul Davis, Cambridge University Press, 1995
1.3 Grammar Reversi- Phrasal verbs
2.6 DYD Word Order
New Interchange: Intro by Jack Richards and Tay Lesley, Cambridge University, 2000 Nobel Prize Winners by Lisa F. DeWitt, Pro Lingua Associates, 1991

Internet Sources
Improving College Teaching Using an Interactive, Compensatory
Model of Learning; Gregory Schraw; David Brooks
University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Lincoln, NE
Reading comprehension enhancement in Foreign Language learners with a verb valency based reading- strategy Maria Dobrenov-Major; Griffith University; Brisbane
The Foxfire Approach to Teaching and Learning: John Dewey, Experiential Learning, and the Core Practices by Bobby Ann Starnes EDO-RC-98-6 (January 1999)
Using the World Wide Web with Adult ESL Learners by Kathleen Flannery Silc; Falls Church, Virginia
ERIC® Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools


Moshe Feldenkrais Medicine Man Interviews vol. 1 and 2 ( video), C. Steven Langer, M. D. 1982, Berkeley, California
Miniature Miracle: The Computer Chip (video), National Geographic Society, 1985
I Love Lucy, The Collector’s Edition ( video), CBS Inc. 1954,1955,1956, 1985

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