Coming to “Terms” with ESP

Hello again! After somewhat of a hiatus, The British School Aljarafe Blog is back in action!

Today we’re going to talk about a topic that, while not on every student’s mind, is of great import and interest to many. English for Specific Purposes, or ESP for short, is the specialized English that is used within certain sectors and industries. Depending on the activity, the vocabulary and phraseology is vastly different; consider how the term “proof” changes its meaning when we consider it in the contexts of law, photography, gastronomy, or mathematics (I won’t ruin the surprise — go look them up!).

When studying English, we must remember that we are not really learning words, but rather contexts and situations. Words themselves are quite slippery, and it’s often difficult know exactly what they mean without the specific context provided. In many cases, it’s a minor error to confuse the possible meanings of words, but if we are (or if we are interacting with) an engineer, a doctor, an artist or a chef, we must know the correct usage of a word or expression; there is no ambiguity allowed.

In the process of learning a language, these questions usually come at the C1 or C2 level, when you are perfecting and polishing your skills. But it is often difficult to find reliable resources which provide us with the specialized definitions and translations of technical terminology.

Below, we will offer several outstanding online terminology resources that you probably didn’t know existed (and for free!), and which may be of enormous use to at some point (maybe when you least expect it) in your English-speaking and English-writing future.


Termium: (Trilingual English-Spanish-French terminology glossary)

EUR-Lex: (European Union legal terminology, in all languages of the EU)

IATE:;jsessionid=ZcpTS0fW89sNzmLfvtwYhQ1TtJZvSrt1QBHCS9Rk6nt6pksCkWhv!1913443260?method=load (European Union’s “Interactive Terminology for Europe” term database)

IMF Glossary (PDF): (International Monetary Fund’s multilingual economics glossary)

FAO TERM: (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations multilingual terminology database)

UNTERM:$searchForm?SearchView (United Nations multilingual terminology glossary)

ILO TERM:–en/index.htm (various International Labour Organization language resources)