Needs Analysis: The Major Difference of English for Specific Purposes from General English Course

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The major difference of ESP from GE (General English) is that it focuses solely on the particular needs of the students. In GE specific learning materials design is not always necessary as it is mostly predetermined by the school, government or other institution. In ESP it is the case that teachers themselves have to develop the whole course or at most– the materials (Hutchinson and Waters, 1987). Nevertheless, ‘what distinguishes ESP from GE is not the existence of a need as such but rather an awareness of the need’ (ibid.: 53). Being aware of the students’ needs can have a great and positive influence both on the development of materials and on the teaching process itself.

Hutchinson and Waters claim that not the content of the specific sphere is the most relevant aspect in an ESP course, but the English language itself and the reasons and situations in which students are obliged to use it. Nonetheless, the interviews with the professor who teaches English for the glass and metal design, textile and ceramics students at the Art Academy of Latvia showed that in this institution both aspects are nearly equally important.

Different scholars have had different divisions of what is meant by needs and how can they be defined. Dudley-Evans and St John (1998: 123) offer a summary of various authors on this matter who distinguish the needs as follows:

• ‘Objective and subjective (Brindley, 1989: 65);

• Perceived and felt (Berwick, 1989: 55);

• Target situation/goal-oriented and learning, process-oriented and product-oriented (Brindley, 1989: 63);

• Necessities, wants and lacks (Hutchinson and Waters, 1987: 54)’.

Each distinction represents a distinct Needs Analysis philosophy and it would be too bulky to provide an analysis of ...

... middle of paper ... both their personal and professional needs and those were grammar, vocabulary speaking and writing. The detailed discussion of the needs analysis questionnaire’s results is examined in Subchapter 4.1.

To conclude, beginning the development of ESP materials is a highly detailed and time-consuming process. Several aspects of the Needs Analysis have to be considered before commencing the materials’ designing process. Firstly, the objective and subjective needs of students have to be examined. Secondly, former teachers, former students and stakeholders have to be interviewed to get a wider view of the necessary course content and the results have to be cross-investigated with the findings from student answers. Finally, different theories need to be investigated concerning the target language itself, student perception of it and language teaching methodology.
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