Bridging the Gap: How English for Professionals courses aid international engineers

As both lecturer and master lecturer, respectively, in the Engineering Writing Program and American Language Institute, I have worked with many international engineering students at USC (home of award-winning engineering publication, Illumin). To my knowledge, engineers sometimes find it difficult explaining key concepts to non-specialists, and speaking English as a second language often adds to the communication challenges.

Today’s guest blog by Anabela Barros of the Nacel English School in London outlines the advantages for international engineers in choosing ESP – English for Specific Purposes – to advance professionally and minmize miscommunication.



Bridging the Gap: How English for Professionals courses aid international engineers

by Anabela Barros

“Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.”

– Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931), American inventor

In the innovative and often changing world of engineering, globalization is a reality. Many who enter this field find that their jobs depend on a clear understanding of the English language, and while some accomplish certain professional goals without technical fluency, reaching the next level is often difficult or impossible.

Engineering professionals often work with other individuals who speak English, and if they want to succeed in managing a project or get their ideas across, learning the language holds great advantages. While even a traditional English class offers some level of fluency, the highly specialized nature of engineering makes it so that these individuals need a different kind of training – one that helps them understand or even master industry-specific words, phrases and ideas. Often, the best option is an English for Professionals Course (ESP).

ESP courses for engineers provide a more in-depth training that gives participants the skills they need to understand context. They are well suited to individuals already familiar with the basics of the English language, since grammar and language structure are not the focus.

With an ESP course, engineers leave prepared to understand and explain logistics regarding specialized products, data analysis and specific terms,  as well as nuanced vocabulary related to their field. As a result, they are able to converse with clients and coworkers and participate in, or manage, complex tasks with relative ease. This vocabulary expansion assists students as in sounding knowledgable  as they continue their studies, and interview for new jobs or promotions.  

Most ESP courses for engineers include two components. First, students learn sub-technical terms and context that relate to all fields of engineering. Next, they continue on with more specialized training. With the completion of the course, engineers leave with a greater understanding of highly specialized text, industry-specific vocabulary and the ability to read, write, and converse appropriately using this expanded vocabulary.

An effective ESP course opens up a world of opportunity for the engineering student or professional. Many universities are incorporating these courses as part of their learning program, and specialized language schools also offer programs to assist international engineers in furthering their careers and realizing their full potential. Tutors and English teachers offering this specialized course provide a valuable service not only to their students, but to society at large, where qualified engineers with a globalized approach to innovation are essential.

About the Author

Anabela Barros is a professional who runs nacel London, a popular language immersion program offering students opportunities to live abroad and learn English as a second language. To learn more about these exciting programs, visit

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