I was sitting in the staffroom between lessons this evening and one of the teachers asked the room, 'What's the name of that thing nurses wear on their heads?' No-one seemed to know, and then someone suggested, "Ask Jeremy - he's got two books on English for Nursing".
Well, yes. But there weren't any hats in either book, as far as I remember. Not a priority. As far as I'm concerned, the thing nurses wear on their heads is called a nurse hat. Perhaps a kind reader could fill me in on the proper name, although I'll admit now that I'm not really that worried about not knowing.
The point is this: what do nurses (or any other sets of ESP learners, for that matter) need English for? To explain the various parts of their uniform? Or to deal professionally and symathetically with patients in crises or high-emotion situations and with other medical professionals in situations where accuracy may make the difference between life and death?
We also teach them how to reassure patients who are about to undergo unpleasant operations, such as having a tube inserted through their nose into their stomach. Again, stop and think for a second how you'd deal with that.
It's easy to lose sight of the fact that we're talking about real-life situations here. This isn't just about teaching people to talk about their holiday palns or to use future perfect instead of future continuous or whatever. It's about making a real difference to the lives of our students and, in turn, to the lives of the people they'll deal with in English.
As I've said before, the most important person in the classroom may not actually be in the classroom. It may be a patient with a tube up their nose or worse.
I hope users of the books go on to use the language and techniques from them. If, as a result of this book, a patient is treated with extra dignity and tact, is reassured when scared, is listened to when they need to talk ... well, for me, that's what it's all about.
IALS programme Jan – March in London
2 days ago