what is English for Specific Purposes

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English is the Lingua Franca of the modern era and language of globalization. The importance and usage of English is getting more prominent in many fields especially in educational context. Malaysian education system or industry is in midst of transformation and the need of using English has become vital .School administrators also have specific needs for learning English. Knowledge in English will become handy especially when it comes to dealing with parents, delegates, reporters and other third parties for these people.


The aim of this research is to have an overview of the needs and thereby design an English course focusing on speaking and listening skills. The school administrators' needs were determined through the two research tools our team have used, namely questionnaires and observation. The questionnaires were distributed between the targeted group (school administrators in Klang Valley) and observation in the working place was done. This report is a product of our team effort. We wanted to source the information from different schools and hence the cooperation from all the team members was essential.

Our decision to investigate these particular speaking and listening skills needs was based on our team's experience dealing with the school administrators and observing their enormous needs to develop speaking English, as medium of communication.

Literature Review

3.1 What is ESP?

ESP (English for Specific Purposes) is one important branch of the EFL/ESL (English as a Foreign/Second Language) system that functions as the main branch of English language teaching ELT. Therefore, ESP is not a particular kind of language or methodology, but rather an approach to language learning whereby the content and method are based on the learner's particular needs to learn the language (Hutchinson, and Waters, 1987).To distinguish ESP from EGP (English for General Purposes) we could say that ESP is more focused . ESP can be divided into two main areas: (EAP), (EOP), under these two types there are further divisions for example, (EST) and (EMP). In the case of our target group, the need of English is mainly for dealing with parents, delegates, reporters and other third parties.

3.2 Needs Analysis

In simplest terms, a needs analysis includes all the activities used to collect information about students' learning needs, wants, wishes, desires, etc…In designing an ESP course it is imperative to carry out a needs analysis to determine the specific reasons for learning the language (Hutchinson, and Waters, 1987,) or to specify exactly, what students need to achieve through the medium of English (Robinson 1991). Hutchinson & Waters (1987) offer an often-cited learning-centered approach to ESP. They argue that other approaches give too much attention to language needs, whereas more attention should be given to how learners learn. They suggest that a learning needs approach is the best route to convey learners from the starting point to the target situation. Learner needs are approached from two directions; target needs and learning needs. Target needs are defined as "what the learner needs to do in the target situation" (Hutchinson & Waters, 1987, p. 54). They are broken down into three categories: necessities, lacks and wants. Necessities are considered to be "what the learner has to know in order to function effectively in the target situation" (p. 55). Lacks are defined as the gaps between what the learner knows and the necessities (p. 56). Wants are described as "what the learners think they need" (Nation, 2000, p. 2).

3.2.1 Target Needs

Before designing a course, one should know why they are taking the course and how they will apply that learning. Hutchinson, and Waters, 1987 suggested the following questions as a start-point to uncover relevant information.

Why is the language needed?

How will the language be used?

What will the content areas be?

Who will the learners use the language with?

When/Where will the language be used?

(Hutchinson, T. and Waters, A 1987, pp 59).

3.2.2 Learning Needs

The learning needs refer to the learners' language difficulties, their learning objectives, their styles of learning etc it is the starting point or the route and answers the question. To understand the learning needs one should find answers for the following questions.

Why are the learners taking the course?

How do the learners learn?

What resources are available?

Who are the learners?

When/Where will the course take place?

Mackay and Mountford (1978) stated, adults who need English for academic or professional purposes are more aware of what they want to use English for. In fact, the results of a needs analysis are not absolute but relative. There are a number of factors that could affect the outcomes: for instance: who to ask; what the questions are; and how the responses are interpreted (Dudley-Evans and St. John1998).

4 Methodology

The purpose of this course was to:

a) Examine the English target needs in school administration workplace for administrators.

b) Identify the English communication skills most needed by the administrators in school.

c) Discover most perceived necessary English language training course for administrators in school.

 To create a strong overall needs analysis a combination of two information gathering process procedures had been used:

Questionnaires: to determine the learners' purpose for learning the language (Nunan, D. 1989).

Observation: to note and record phenomenon required for the ESP context.

4.1 Participants

The needs analysis questionnaire was completed by 22 school administrators in the Klang valley in the range between 25 - 46. They were asked to answer yes, or no

School senior assistants ( 8 female, 1 male)

School staff

Chief clerk (3 female, 3 male)

Clerks ( 5 female, 2 male )

4.2 Survey Questionnaires

Questionnaires are more efficient for gathering information on a large scale than any other approach .Our team have designed twenty one closed ended questions and one combination of opened ended and closed ended. As can be seen in (Appendix 1) the questionnaire is divided into four sections which are:

Demographic information on the participant ( Section A )

General interests on English of the participants ( Section B )

Language Competence of participants. ( Section C )

Feedbacks of participants ( Section D )

Results and Findings









General Questions on English

Do you like to use English?

Do you use English at work?

Do you think English is important for your working purpose?

Do you face any difficulties in using English?

What language skill is the most important to you?




54. 55%








Listening Competence

Do you watch TV in English?

Do you listen to music in English?

Can you understand speech or conversation in English?











Speaking Competence

Do you communicate in English with colleagues or visitors at your work place?

Can you speak fluently?

Do you speak English in complete sentences?

Do others understand when you speak in English?









Reading Competence

Can you read and understand letters, notice and reports in English without any help?

Can you read and understand English books, magazines, email and newspaper?








Writing Competence

Can you write answers to a question in complete sentence with less than 3 mistakes?

Can you write reports, letters or notice in English?

Can people understand your ideas when you write in English?







5.1 Result of the questionnaire

5.2 Findings

Four groups of participants generally rated English proficiency and four skills fairly important in their job specification. In the survey conducted, the administrators agreed that speaking is most needed together with listening skills.

According to the data collected, it is found that all the participants like to use English as English is important for their working purpose. 95.45% of them use English at work but only 54.55% of them are facing difficulties when using English. Only 36.36% or 8 out of 22 participants can speak English fluently and in complete sentences. However, 81.82% of the participants communicate in English with others in school. From the result, it is clear that speaking skills is essential in the participants working place.

There are only 11.3% of the participants who are not skilful in reading competence. But 18% of the participants are capable of reading and understanding of English documents without any help. For writing skills, out of 22 participants 16% they can write in complete sentences with least mistakes. However, only 13 participants have the ability to write official documents in English without any problems. 72.72% of the participants can express their ideas in written form in English Language.

As a whole, speaking competence is the most important skills which the participants needed followed by the listening competence which is very much related to the speaking skills. The finding was consistent to the importance ratings that speaking skill was utmost important in school domain

6 Discussion

The results were strikingly homogeneous, even though the participants filled in the questionnaires individually without discussion. This suggests that the school administrators had similar needs. English competences in terms of four skills were generally considered very important in school workplace. However, in our context of survey which is for school administrators, speaking and listening skills are ranked as the most important skills needed. Most school administrators share the same perception of their own difficulties and current level of competence. The school administrators seek to improve their communication skills through conversation with visitors, parents, mass media and delegates.

The English for Specific purpose (ESP) course was designed to increase the administrators' confidence and master the focused skills. Authentic materials such as case studies, role play, telephone English conversation, mini interview were created according to the school administrators' language competence.

7 Course Design

In teaching any subject, designing materials should be based on the existing syllabus. To obtain suitable contents of the materials, a content-based paradigm was applied; the materials were oriented towards learners vocational areas. Therefore, to recognize their vocational areas, their content syllabus was required to select themes/topics treated in the materials. To sum up, the materials covered specialist language and contents; in this case, they do represent activities in which learners are interested.

Thus, in terms of materials design or development, Hutchinson and Waters (1994) provide four elements of model ESP materials.

1. Input: This are the texts, dialogs, recordings, diagrams, or any piece of communication data referring to the needs analysis. This input was geared to furnish stimulus materials for activities, new language items, correct models of language use, a theme/topic for communication, and an opportunity for learners to use their existing knowledge and the subject matter.

2. Content focus: Non-linguistic content (learner's specialist areas) was exploited to bear meaningful communication in the classroom activities.

3. Language focus: Since the final goal is to use language, learners had a chance to take the language into pieces, learn how it works, and practice putting it together again.

4. Task: The ultimate purpose of learning language is language use. Materials designed or developed led to communicative tasks in which language skills and learners content subject matter are tied together through the unit.

7.1 Learning activities

Since the goal of this course was to have school administrators become communicatively competent based on their specialist area (e.g. Speaking), a communicative approach was applied. Therefore, to implement such an approach, it was essential to design the materials related to communicative purpose applied to classroom activities. In this case, a target structure treated in the material was Telephone English : taking and leaving messages. Moreover, the target vocabulary practiced was related to education industry ( dealing with parents complain) , the level of learners in the material is lower intermediate. The duration allocated for classroom activities was 20 minutes. This material was simply designed. The ultimate goal of the material was to get school administrators to actively communicate in pairs. In this regard, this material helped them to have fluency and confidence in using the language. In classroom activities, each individual was given a sheet of tasks to perform in turn. The situations was differently given to each individual to enable them interact with each other.

7.2 Problems faced

In line with producing the course design, our team actually overlooked on the vocabularies and activities used. We actually used high level vocabularies and were not in their context, so in return, the participants faced difficulties. Being government staff, limits the usage of English language as Bahasa Melayu is used extensively.

8 Assessment and Evaluation

In order to achieve the objective of the course, different types of evaluation have been carried out either during the course or after the course. As speaking and listening are the most needed skills to be focused on, the learners are tested through proficiency test, diagnostic test, placement test and progress test.

We conducted progress test after every section of the course to find out how much the learners have learnt from the course. The participants are tested by answering questions orally and speaking individually. All the information is gathered and analyze. After a period of 2 weeks of time, proficiency test is carried out to test the learners' languages ability. Learners are given different situations and they work in small groups to design and carry out a conversation. The performance is evaluated on their proficiency in speaking English. It is found that only 8 out of 22 participants managed to speak fluently and interact with other learners without any difficulties during the conversation. The rest of the participants are facing grammatical difficulties and low level of proficiency in listening and understanding speeches as well as speaking to others. Following on, we carry out a placement test where the learners were allocated into two categories, the high proficiency level group and the medium level proficiency level group. Our course design is then revised in order to provide the suitable and efficient learning skills to both groups. We conducted a higher level of speaking and listening skills to the first group. For the medium level group, besides the skills to be taught, we also included enrichment program. This group of participants are given easier and simpler learning skills activities. Furthermore repetition of the skills is done throughout the course.

Diagnostic test has also been carried out every two weeks to identify the weaknesses of the learners. Our result has shown that most of the learners are weak in pronunciation, constructing sentences and lack of vocabularies. Therefore, we designed a short test to improve these weaknesses of the learners at the end of every lesson in the course. Learners took part in activities such as role play, oral presentation, language fun game and etc.

Our evaluation for this course has consequently improved the learners' speaking and listening skills especially the medium level proficiency group. They have successfully learnt and able to speak fluently at the end of the course.


The questionnaire result suggested that the school administrators had a very clear idea of their own needs and wants. The needs analysis was carried out in order to solve a particular problem and proved successful. The needs analysis may be the preferred basis for design because of the concept of learners' authenticity and direct link can be drawn from needs. The school administrators are given chance and exposure to the usage of English Language especially in listening and speaking skills. Despite facing problem the team still managed to conduct the course successfully. Our team intends to conduct more similar courses in the future with more authentic materials and activities.


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