ESP System

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.


Until fairly recently ESP is still a new phenomenon in Vietnamm though it dated back from the end of the Worlod War II in the world. Great efforts have been made to develop and adjust ESP programmes in various educational and vocational institues to satisfy the expections of the learners. Still, ESP courses are generally simply to provide the learners with the vocabulary volume and translation of technical texts. This focus helps learners acquire knowledge of new concepts, skills and insights into the fields relevant to them but hardly encourages them to learn better. These results in a low language outcome during the learning process as well as at t he end of each course
Learners' low motivation in these cases generally oringinates from the fact that most of these courses were designed on the basic of inadequate consideration on needs ( target needs or learning needs). In fact, many courses ignore the factor of leaners ( for example, their interests, preferences), which lead to superficial reasoning and unsound needs analysis and subsequently brought the course to an unsuccessfully end or at best having fullfilled just some parts of all the expected aims.

As an English teacher, I designed an ESP speaking syllabus for a class of 5 students from 23 - 25 years old. My students are jouralists who are working for Vietnam Net. Sometimes they use English to collect news in some foreign websites . They are at intermediate levels. They are supposed to work abroad for a year as journalists. They are going to take a ten-week course . The total course is supposed to be 90 45-munite periods. They study English to communicate with others when they work abroad. With the advance in information technology, a great many reference materials are available in the market. However, ESP is a very difficult industry, which requires syllabus designers to start from and focus mainly on the needs of a specific objective rather than a general one for which it is easy for the designer to find a suitable textbook.

The syllabus will provide the students with sufficient training in oral tasks they will encounter in the future job as well as improvement on vocabulary, speaking skills, language functions and familiarization with topics related to the jobs of journalist abroad.

The study aims at designing an ESP speaking syllabus for students who will work as journalist abroad. Apparently, a close need analysis is a key factor to the successful syllabus design. Thereforce, the study targets to:

Conduct a needs analysis, i.e. to investihate the target needs and learning needs relevant to oral communication events in the jobs of journalist abroad.
Propose an ESP speaking syllabus for the students based on the needs analysis.

Needs analysis theories
2.1.Defination of needs :

The concept of “ need” describes “needs” as a thing or an ability which is important to a person and which he is no good at or does not have. All the same, Hutchinson and Waters (English for specific purposes - A learning-centered approach, 1987, p.54) perceive needs as “ the ability to comprehen and/or produce linguistic features of the target situation”. There have been a number of ways of classification of needs.

Needs are classified as objective and subjective needs by Brindley (1989, p.65). Besides, Berwick (1989, p.55) divides needs into perceived and felt needs. Huchinson and Waters divide needs into other groups (1987, p.55). They rank needs into two groups : target needs and learning needs of which target needs consit of neceesities, lacks and wants. Target needs are what the learners need to do in the target situation. The analysis of target needs includes recognizing the features of target situatio, namely the learners' necessities ( what is English needed for); lacks ( what learners do not know); and wants ( wat learners feel they need). The second type of needs, learning needs, is concerned with why learners take the course, what they seek to achieve, and what their attitude towards the course is.

2.1.1. Target needs :

Target needs have been characterized by the two expertd Huchinson and Waters (1987) as “ what the learners need to do in the target situation”. Argreeing that learners' needs in functioning well in the target situation are essntisl to the orientation of any language course, they nevertheless raise questions if learners are always able to identify their future needs. Thereforce, they suggest carrying out a survey of language needs of a pre-determined category of learners by analyzing the language use among person already using language in the same field as category of person concerned. In other words, it would be more realistic if the onjectives of the proposed syllabus were compatible with his requirements of the language use in a specific field of employment market.

With the intention of identifying target needs, Huchinson and Walters (1987) have clearly initiated its three components, namely necessities, lacks and wants as follow:

Necessity : what the leaner has to know in order to function effectively in target situation.

In this case, the ESP speaking course for the target stuants is to train them to become journalists abroad must find out the way these staff use spoken language at their workplace, the way it is organized, the subjcet they deal with, the target people of the communication, the place and the time the language is used.

Lack : The gap between the existing proficiency and the target proficiently.

In this project, the target proficiency of the ESP students is the proficiency level of the graduates as prescribed in the General Curriculium and as perceived by employers. The learner's existing proficiency level is the speaking proficiency level that the students must obtain before they take the ESP speaking course.

Wants: Learners may have their own view of their necessities and lack and their own wishes, which may conflict with perceptions of course designers, sponsors, teachers…

In short, it is probably unwise to take an approach just based on the principle of learners' involvement while ignoring their wishes and views. Target needs with its three fundamental components thereforce should be well treated up to its significance in providing through input into the development and construction of a suitable syllabus for students. In the light of this discussion, the “wants” for this course are what the students wish the ESP speaking course to provide them.

2.1.2. Learning needs :

Approaches to needs analysis :

…”a needs analysis which focus on students' needs at the end of the language course can be called target situation analysis (TSA)”

…”a present situation analysis (PSA) seeks to establish what the students are like at the start of the language course, investigating their strength and weakness”.

Robinson (1991)

PSA also involves “fundamental variables” which should be considered before or simultaneously with TSA. Thus, Needs Analysis may be seen as a combination of TSA and PSA. There is another term, called LNA = Learning Needs Analysis

Once the designer has answered the question of what is necessary for the leaners to do in the target situation, he then has to look for the keys for the puzzle what knowledge and abilities the learners will require in order to be able to perform the require degree of competence in the target situation. In other words, he has to find out the right way to get to the given destination from the identified departure under certain circumstances. It is native to base a course design simply on the target objectives, just as it is native to think that a journey can be planned solely in terms of the starting point and the destination. The needs, potentials and constraints of the route (i.e. the learning situation) must also be taken into account, if we are going to have any useful analysis of learners' needs.

The target situation, therforce, can serve as a compass on the journey to give the general directions while the learning situation will help decide on the route according to the vihicles and guides avaiable (i.e. the conditions of learning situation), the existing roads within the learners' mind ( i.e. the knowledge, skills and startegies) and the learners' motivation for travelling.

In view of this literature, the researcher must find out the reasons target students take the ESP speaking course, the way they learn i.e. their learning preferences and motivation toward the course, the description of the target students (age, social class, possibility of being provided with jobs, ect. ) and the description of the ESP speaking course ( facilities, etc.).

2.2. The roles of needs analysis in designing syllabus

Needs analysis is a typical feature of course designs. Theoretically, knowing why and what for a group of students' need to learn English should be a key point to consider at the beginning of any process of language course development be it General English of ESP.

Dicussing the place of needs analysis in designing syllabus (Nunan (1988, p.47) states, “needs analysis is regarded as the initial process for the behavioral objectives from which detailed aspects of a syllabus such as topics, functions, structures of tasks are drawn”. The purpose of need identification is to provide input for syllabus design, which will shape the content of a langauge-teaching program. Thus, it is necessary to understand the charateristics, capabilities of the target groups concerned in order to identify their language needs and select the objectives, content and curricula, which will satisfy them.

In LTL history, there have been a great deal of language courses ending in failure as a result of teaching not paying attetion to leaners' interests and ignoring students as a source of essential information. Thus, needs analysis should be the departure in the process of designing a syllabus. Once being carried out needs analysis will help justify the type of needs of a particular group of students. As the needs analysis specifies the end, which the learners hope to achieve, the needs analysis result will greatly and realistically contribute revelant information to the design of an adequate lanaguage syllabus.

2.3. Rationale for the approach adopted:

From the above account, it can be seen that needs analysis involves far more than simply identifying linguistic features of both target situation and leanring, However, to handle such complexity of needs, Huchinson and Walters (1987) provided two sinple frameworks which outline the kind of information that the syllabus designer needs to gather for an analysis target needs and learning needs. These frameworks serve in the study as the guidelines for the process of needs identification in this research.

On the fundemental understandings about the stuents' target needs and learning needs, the researcher has proposed on ESP speaking syllabus .To investigate the target situation needs, the research must find out the purposes of the course, the way learners will use language in the aget situation, the way it is organized, the subjects the course will deal with, the target people of the learners, the place the language will be used and the time it will be used. So I choose learning needs approach. Because if you want to investiage the learning needs, the research must find out the reason learners take the course, the way they learn i.e. their learning preferences and strategies, and the resources that are available to the course, the learners themselves and the time of the course.

Data collection methods

There is a strong belief, which is scientifically proved true among researchers that collecting data for any research is a combination or triangulation of different methods. It is desirabe to employ more than one method of data collection and refer to more than one source of information because if only one method or single source of information is used, then the data collected will absolutely be incompelete or only represent part of the truth. In other words, using both multipe methods and various sources can provide clearer insight into different levels of analysis.

Based on the knowledge of triangualating data collection methods, I utilized a selection of data collecting instruments i.e. semi-constructerd interviewws, questionaires .

The first type of information that needs investiagting was the purposes of students when talking class. It was also the questionaire to elicit their preferences in learning speaking English. This information helped the syllabus designer further understand the learners' habits and interests in learning speaking English to design suitable activities and tasks for the learners. The next intention put into the questionaire was to discover the level of their motivation in leanring speaking and the reason why they were demitivated to see if they sind the right way to increase or remain their motivation in learning speaking English. The last purpose that the questionaire served was to find out the students' expectation from the course. In other words, what do they want the course to provide them in the learning process. Details of the type of information in questions are described in the below table.



Types of information



Purpose of students attending class


1 - 13

Learning preferences


1 - 4

Feeling and motivations



Students expectations of the course.


In a more and more interdependent world, the needs for connecting with the outside world are on dramatic increase. Training of source of qualified workers working abroad is a more important strategy than ever before in any ESP courses in Vietnam. In that context, developing an effective langauge program which helps theie English majors function well as journalists abroad is one of overwhelming teachers' desires, not just mine.

The strong focus of this study is put on a sound needs analysis on the students' need. To obtain the results of these needs, the needs analysis was conducted through a series of data collecting methods i.e. questionnaires. From this needs analysis, some main findings were made including typical oral tasks and common job-related topics. Also from these findings, the designer identified the students' highly motivated but little confident feelings toward learning speaking, which need special treatments by the content of the course as well as by teachers.


Brindley, G. P. (1989). The roles of Needs Analysis in Aldult ESL Programme Design. In Johnson (297), pp 63-78

Burns, A., & Joyce, H. (1997). Focus on speaking. Sydney: National Centre for English Language Teaching and Research.

Huchinson, T., and Walters, A. (1987). English for Specific Purposes. Cambridge University Press.

Gillham, B. (2000) Developing Questionnaire. London: Continuum.

Krahnke, K. (1987). Approaches to Syllabus Design for Foreign Language Teaching. Washington. DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.

Munby, J. (1978). Communicative Syllabus Design. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nunan, D. (2001). Aspects of syllabus Design. Retrieved August 15, 2004 from:

Robinson, P. C. (1991). ESP today: A Practitioner's Guide. Prentice Hall.

Willis, J. (1996). A ftamework for Task-based Learning. London: Longman.


A Learning needs questionnaire

Part 1: Learning Purposes

Why are you taking the ESP course?

(Please tick any choices you want)

£ To be able to present well job-related topics

£ To be able to communicative well in English at work

£ I love English

£ Others: . . . . . . . . . . . .

Part 2: Learning preferences:

Please choose one of four responses which you find appropriate to you in each of the following statements according to the key: 1= ‘No'; 2= ‘Alittle'; 3= ‘Good'; 4= ‘Best'. Circle the corresponding number 1, 2, 3 or 4.

1. I like to study English by myself. 1 2 3 4

2. I like to speak to speak English in small group. 1 2 3 4

3. I like to speak English with the whole class. 1 2 3 4

4. I like to speak English by talking in pairs. 1 2 3 4

5. I like to learn to speak by watiching, listening to native speakers. 1 2 3 4

6. I like the teacher to give us problems to work on. 1 2 3 4

7. I like to learn to speak by conversations. 1 2 3 4

8. I like to learn to speak by reading, speaking materials. 1 2 3 4

9. I like to learn to speak by listening to cassettes. 1 2 3 4

10. I like to learn to speak by games. 1 2 3 4

11. I like to learn to speak by talking to friends in English. 1 2 3 4

12. I like to learn to speak by talking to friends in English. 1 2 3 4

13. I like to learn to speak by pictures, films and videos. 1 2 3 4

14. I like to go out with the class and practice English. 1 2 3 4

Part 3: Feelings and motivation

1. Many language learners feel very negative about their learning to speak experiences. They say they feel discouraged, frustated, impatient, or confused by the difficulties of learning to speak a language.

During learning to speak, have you ever experienced any of these feelings?

(Please tick!)

Discouraged £ Frustrated £ Impatient £ Confused £

Can you explain?

2. Do you feel shy or embrassed expressing yourself in the foreign language

( Please tick ! )

Yes £ No £ Sometimes £

If you have experienced some of these feelings, what did you do to overcome them?

3. Do you give yourself encouragement, by saying things to yourself like: “ I'm doing okay” or “ I'm right, and I know it”?

Yes £ No £

4. When you are learning to speak, are you usually ( please circle the only apprpriate letter to you !) :

a. highly motivated, and do evrything possible to learn the language.

b. Quite motivated, and try to do what you can to learn the language, but it is not your priority.

c. Not very motivated, because you are too busy or tired to concentrate on it. You are learning out of necessity.

d. Not very motivated, because you find learning to speak boring.

Part 4: Your expextation of the ESP Speaking course

What do you expect the ESP speaking course to provide you? ( Tick any choices you like)

£ More chances to practice.

£ Improve ESP vocabulary.

£ Others expextations

Thank you for your cooperation!