Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Interview: Paul East

One thing I'd like to do with this blog is pick the brains of some ESP experts around the world. This is mainly for selfish reasons - I think I can learn a lot from asking other people about their experiences and advice. But I think it can also be interesting for readers of this blog. So every couple of weeks I'll try to interview an ESP celebrity/guru/expert/unsung hero.

For the first interview, I've invited Paul East. I chose Paul because he is one of the organisers of the ESP conference in Ulm, which I'd like to know more about. Paul is also very good at networking, so I wanted to ask him for some tips. Anyway, here's the interview. It's quite long, but I think there's some really useful information in there. (I'm going to use colours for the interview, green for me and blue for Paul. When I turn black again at the end, it means I'm talking to you again, not Paul!)

How did you get into ESP? Do you still teach?
A few years ago, I decided to diversify somewhat - offering not just in-company Business English training. I thought that English training would eventually start becoming more specialised so I began to search for trainers who are not only qualified teaching professionals but who also have expertise in specialist areas. Our main focus is on legal, finance, technical, HR, construction and insurance. I still teach myself but only Business English.

Could you tell us something about the Ulm conference? Why should I attend?
The ESP Conference is a bi-annual event held at the Hochschule Ulm - this year´s conference is on 26 September. My fellow organisers are Cornelia Kreis-Meyer and Karen Richardson. The all-day conference is aimed at teachers and trainers who already teach ESP or are thinking of expanding their knowledge and moving into specific areas of teaching.This year we are offering a choice of 30 different professional workshops, presentations and company talks on topics such as law, medicine, the automotive industry, technical English, aviation, finance, law enforcement, telecommunication, and human resources as well as workshops addressing the skills and techniques required to teach ESP. The speakers are all experts in their fields and are coming from countries as far flung as France, Switzerland, Romania, England and the USA, as well as Germany. There will also be presentations and exhibition stands from the key providers of English language teaching publications enabling participants to get personal advice about the best course and examination materials for lessons and training sessions.

I read recently in one of your postings that you belong to dozens of discussion groups, quite a few of which you moderate yourself. What do you get out of membership of these groups? Which of these groups would you recommend for ESP teachers?
Probably too many groups! The main reason is that it´s one way of keeping up-to-date of what´s going on in the teaching profession. Many of the discussions are very interesting and it´s also a good way of networking. Yahoo has thousands of groups and we are spoilt for choice. Recommendations (all Yahoo except where stated):
  • Business: BESIG (IATEFL's Business English Special Interest Group)
  • Legal: EULETA (European Legal English Teachers' Association
  • Technical: IATET (International Association of Technical English Trainers)
  • Technical writing: ATTW (Association of Teachers of Technical Writing)
  • Online Communities - Webheads

What exactly is the Pyramid Group? What can you offer to teachers like me?
As mentioned, Pyramid offers a range of specialist English training (ESP) focusing on legal, finance, technical, HR, construction and insurance. Pyramid Legal, for example, now has partners in 14 European countries, North Africa, Gulf region and Hong Kong. We are also heavily involved in in-company Business English training and being a partner in Pete Sharma Associates (PSA), we provide a comprehensive range of blended learning training. In addition, we offer translations and interpreting in 58 languages.

I´m always interested to hear from teachers who would like to work together with Pyramid and our teacher training programme will be continually expanded in the future.

I know about IATET (the International Association of Teachers of Technical English Trainers) through the Yahoo discussion group, but there's much more to IATET than that. Can you tell me more about it?
IATET is an international organization whose main aim is to raise the quality of technical communication in English. As an organization of independent teachers, trainers and coaches in association with schools (secondary and post-secondary education), companies, and commercial training organisations, IATET plans to develop and promote principles, methods, and practices for training of technical communication in English.

We see an opportunity here to raise the standards in the field of teaching English for technical purposes, and will be focusing on such things as development of internationally-recognized examinations for students as well as teacher training. The emphasis is very much on an international-oriented association and not just with a European-only focus. IATET has been in existence for almost two years as a Yahoo group and is now an officially registered non-profit organisation. Membership is open to anyone involved in Technical English and, like all Yahoo groups, is free to join.

The following have been elected to the IATET board: Paul East (Chair), Cornelia Kreis-Meyer (Vice-Chair), Andreas Büsing (Treasurer) and Matthias Meier (Secretary). We are also very pleased to announce the first IATET Regional Coordinators: Albert P’Rayan (India), David Magee (Gulf States/Saudi Arabia), Vicki Hollett (USA) and Duncan Baker (United Kingdom). With members from around 25 countries in the meantime, we hope to have other regional coordinators in place soon.

Work has started on a website - - which will eventually feature news and updates from all IATET activities. There will, of course, be a members-only section. At the founding meeting, there was a lot of discussion about membership fees and it was decided to charge 30 euros for individuals and 100 euros for institutions (which includes three named representatives).

An annual conference is planned but the emphasis will be on regional activities. For those based in Europe, for example, the first workshop day is planned for 28 November in Stuttgart.

One of the biggest issues within ESP teaching is the question of whether teachers should be subject experts. For example, only teachers who have studied and/or practised law should teach legal English. Do you think non-experts can/should teach ESP?
Good question! Certainly for very specialist subjects such as legal English, I think it is essential - not so much perhaps for such things as ILEC exam preparation but definitely when dealing with practising lawyers. There are a number of important points which apply regardless of the subject and even if the trainer has not studied or practised it.

The trainer should:

  • have a real interest in the student´s line of business
  • be able to do professional research on the subject matter
  • have knowledge of the learner’s L1
  • be a good listener
  • be an experienced language teacher
  • have extensive work experience in a non-teaching related profession e.g. translating
Thanks very much, Paul. You've given me plenty to think about.

Over to you. If you have any comments or questions for Paul, please leave a comment below. You can also contact Paul directly ( Also, which online communities do you recommend?

Paul East Biodata
Paul East is the founder and managing director of The Pyramid Group which offers a range of specialist English training (ESP) in the area of legal, technical, HR and insurance, as well as providing translations and interpreting in 58 languages.

He is the President of the International Association of Technical English Trainers (IATET) as well as being a founding member and on the board of EULETA (European Legal English Teachers´ Association). Paul is also the ELTAU president (English Language Teachers Association of Ulm / Neu-Ulm) and President of the Ulm Toastmasters.

Memberships include Arbeitskreises für Technikgeschichte, Ulm, Ulm / Neu-Ulm Marketing Club and BVMW (Bundesverband mittelständische Wirtschaft Unternehmerverband Deutschland e.V.).

The Pyramid Group is headquartered in Ulm, Germany and has offices in London, Frankfurt and Munich.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jeremy


    I enjoyed reading your interview with Paul East.

    I'm an ESP professional and my area of specialization is 'Engineering English'.
    We have discussed issues related to ESP on many forums including IATEFL online forums and IATET. It is very important to create a network and share our ideas.

    Good work! Keep it up!

    Albert P'Rayan
    Chennai, India
    Phone: +919884380861