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English for Specific Purposes

Valred Olsim, MDC

What is ESP?

English for specific purposes is a term that refers to teaching or studying English for a particular career (like law, medicine) or for business in general. (International Teacher Training Organization, 2005). There is a specific reason for which English is learned.

ESP is defined to meet specific needs of the

learner ESP makes use of the underlying methodology and activities of the discipline it serves ESP is centred on the language (grammar, lexis, register), skills, discourse and genres appropriate to these activities

What distinguishes ESP from GE?

It is not the existence of a need but rather an

awareness of the need. It is not so much the nature of the need which distinguishes the ESP from the General course but rather the awareness of a need, i.e. the awareness of a target situation, the need to communicate in English. Thus, any course should be based on an analysis of the learner needs. Analysis for ESP and GE: Questions will be the same, but the answers will be different.

Nevertheless, for the time being, the tradition

persist in GE that the learners can not be specified and as a results no attempts is usually made to discover learners true needs. Thus if we had to state in practical terms the irreducible minimum of an ESP approach to course design,

it would be needs analysis, since it is the awareness of a target situation, that distinguishes the ESP learners from the learners of GE.

What do we mean by needs?

According to the language-centered approach, it

is the ability to comprehend and/or produce the linguistic features of the target situation.

Target needs:

what the students need to do in the target situation. Learning needs: what the student needs to do in order to learn.

What Are Target Needs?

Target needs: It is like the umbrella term, which in

practice hides a number of important distinctions.


NLW Necessities Lacks Wants

Necessities: according to the demands of

the target situation, this is what the learner has to know in order to function effectively in that situation. Lacks: according to what the learner already knows, we decide what necessities are missing. There is a gap between the existing proficiency and the target proficiency.

Wants: according to what we have considered

from an objective POV, we have to say that a need does not exist independent of a person. It is people who build their images of their needs on the basis of data relating to themselves and their environment. Thus, objective and subjective views of needs can conflict motivation.

The ESP course designer or teacher has to be aware

of such differences and take account of them in materials and methodology. Important decisions are to be made. To undertake Medical Studies To succeed in Agricultural or Veterinary studies WANTS Means of doing Medical Studies (Presumably) areas of English needed for Agricultural or Veterinary Studies LACKS To reluctantly cope with a second-best situation The English needed for success in Agricultural or Veterinary studies NECESSITIES SUBJECTIVE (i.e. as perceived by students) OBJECTIVE (i.e. as perceived by course designers).

Gathering Information about Target Needs

The analysis of target needs involves far more than simply identifying the linguistic features of the target situation. Different ways in which information can be gathered about needs: Questionnaires Interviews Observation Data collection Informal consultations

Target situation analysis

Important: the choice will depend on the time and resources available. And, needs analysis is not a once-for-all activity. It should be a continuing process. A Target situation analysis framework Why is the language needed? How will the language be used? What will the content areas be? Who will the learner use the language with? Where will the language be used? When will the language be used?

Learning Needs
Using our analogy of the ESP course as a

journey, what we have done so far is to consider the starting point (lacks) and the destination (necessities) and where the destination should be (wants).What we have not considered yet is the route. How are we going to get from our starting point to the destination? The whole ESP process is concerned not with knowing or doing, but with learning. We need to take into account the destination or needs of a learning situation: A task that is enjoyable, fulfilling, manageable, generative, etc.

A project in class can be guided in terms of its general orientation by the target situation, but its specific content is a response to learning needs. The target situation alone is not a reliable indicator of what is needed in the ESP course. It can determine the destination, but we must also choose our route: the conditions of the learning situation the learners knowledge, skills and strategies the learners motivation For example, in a target situation students may need to read long, dull, complex texts, but their motivation may be high because: They like the subject in general Job/Promotion prospects may be involved They will carry out interesting experiments or practical work (based on the texts) They like and/or respect the teacher/boss.

Critique of needs analysis

Learners may not be reliable sources of information

about their own needs, especially if they are preexperience learners Learners may lack metalinguistic awareness Objective needs are not the same as subjective needs Perspectives of needs vary; whose perspective of needs should be taken into account? Language use is too unpredictable Needs analysis often serves the interests of the institution rather than learners

The most characteristic feature of ESP course design

is needs analysis. Needs analysis is a complex process, involving much more than simply looking at what the learners will have to do in the target situation. Most of all, we have tried to stress that both target situation needs and learning needs must be taken into account. Analysis of target situation needs is concerned with language use. But the language use is not only part of the story. We also need to know about language learning. Analysis of the target situation can tell us what people do with language. What we also need to know is how people learn to do what they do with language. In other words, a learning centered approach needs analysis.

ESP goes hand in hand with MATERIALS PREPARATION

Hutchinson and Waters (1992) stress two roles

differ between ESP and General English teacher. Beside the typical duties of classroom
teacher, ESP teacher deals with needs analysis,

syllabus design, materials writing or adaption and evaluation, they see

ESP teachers role in one of many parts. (Hutchinson and Waters, 1992, p 157).

Concerning the selection of General English material and ESP material some criteria must be matched as well. Language teacher is responsible for selecting an appropriate text that contributes to students effectiveness that means he or she should pay attention to suitable criteria for its choice. Wallace (1992, 9.1) suggests those main criteria: Adequacy - should be at the appropriate language, age level. Motivation - should present content which is interesting and motivating for students work. It goads into students effectiveness, interest and pleasure of work. Sequence - it is important if there is some relation to previous texts, activities, topics not to miss the sense of a lesson. Diversity - should lead to a range of classroom activities, be a vehicle for teaching specific language structure and vocabulary and promote reading strategies. Acceptability - it should accept different cultural customs or taboos.