The Importance of Reading to ESP Learners

       As English became the accepted international language of technology and commerce, new learners who knew specifically why they need English were created. The language teaching professions had to develop courses to fulfill those learners’ needs. Also focus on the learners’ needs became equally paramount as the methods employed to disseminate linguistic knowledge. Designing specific courses to better meet these individual needs was a natural extension of this thinking.

Definition of ESP:
            English for specific purposes has been defined by many writers and researchers. Mackay and Mountford (1978) indicated that the term ESP is generally used to refer to the teaching of English for a clear utilitarian purpose. El-Minyawi(1984) pinpointed that ESP courses are based solidly upon the need to express the facts and ideas of some special subjects after which the student should be able to read the specialized subjects confidently and speak about them fluently. In my point of view I think the best definition for ESP is the one which defined by Hutchinson and Waters (1987), they defined it as an approach to language teaching in which all decisions as to content and method are based on the learner’s reason for learning, they added also that the term ESP implies that, it is English which is somehow peculiar to the range of principles and procedures which define that particular profession.

Characteristics of ESP:
            Strevens(1988) identified ESP characteristics as follows:-
1.      ESP consists of English language teaching designed to meet specified needs of the learner.
2.      Related in content to particular disciplines, occupations and activities.
3.      In contrast with general English.
4.      Not taught according to any pre-ordained method.
Evans and John (1998) modified Strevens’ characteristics to form their own, they offered a modified definition as follows:-
1.      ESP is defined to meet specific needs of the learner.
2.      ESP is centered on the language, skills, discourse and genres appropriate to these activities.
3.      ESP may be related to or designed for specific disciplines.
4.      ESP may use a different methodology from that of general English.
5.      ESP is likely to be designed for adult learners either at a tertiary level institution or in a professional work situation. It could, however, be for learners at secondary school level.
6.      ESP is generally designed for intermediate or advanced students.

Types of ESP:
            According to Carter (1983), there are three types of ESP:-
1.      English as a restricted language:
The language used by air traffic controllers or by waiters are examples of English as a restricted language.
2.      English for academic and occupational purposes:
English for science and technology(EST), English for Business and Economics(EBE), English for social studies(ESS), English for academic purposes(EAP), and English for occupational purposes (EOP).
3.      English with specific topics:
This type concerned with anticipated future English needs of, for example, scientists requiring English for postgraduate reading studies, attending conferences or working in foreign institutions.

The ESP Teacher:
            The ESP teacher has additional roles to those of the general purposes English teachers. Robinson (1991) stated that the ESP teacher does not only teach, very often, he is involved in designing, setting up and administering the ESP course. During and at the end of the course, the ESP teacher is likely to be involved in evaluation and testing.

ESP students needs:
             Carrel (1988) assures that in high education or in other programs, which uses teaching subjects written in English, reading becomes the pioneer among all the other skills of the English language. Carrel, et al.(1989) also assure that the ability to read and comprehend the written text is considered as one of the most important factors of success in the university learning. El-Bashbishy(1993) indicated the importance of reading skills for the students who study English for specific purposes. She also indicated that it has been proved that reading is the most important skill needed for those students.
            Accepting the fact that reading skill is of great importance for all students, it is attached high importance for ESP learners, because their proficiency or deficiency in this skill would have a great effect on their future academic and professional progress. Students joining the different specifications at university are exposed to long texts which are written for native speakers of the language or for people who have good command of the language. From all what have been mentioned it is clear now that we should pay more attention to the reading skill as it is the most important skill ESP students need for their future academic career.
-         Carter, D. (1983): Some Propositions about ESP, The ESP Journal, 2,131-137.
-         Carrel,P.L.(1988): Interactive Text Processing: Implications for ESL Second Language Reading Classrooms. In P.L. Carrell; J. Devine & D. E. Eskey (Eds.): Interactive Approaches to Second Language Reading. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 239-259.
-         Carrel,P.L.; Pharis, B.G. & Liberto, J.C. (1989): Metacognitive Strategy Training for ESL Reading. TESOL Quarterly, 23(4), 647-677.
-         El-Bashbishy, E.M. (1993): An ESP Unit for the Pre-service Students in the Department of Ready-made clothes. Pharos: An ESP Newsletter, (6:1) ESP Center: Alexandria University.
-         Hutchinson, T. & Waters, A. (1987): English for Specific Purpose: A Learning-centered approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
-         El-Minyawi,R. (1984): The development of ESP Materials with Reference to Students of Home Economics, Unpuplished M.A. Thesis, Faculty of Education- Ain Shams University.
-         Robinson, P. (1991): ESP Today: A Practitioner’s Guide. New York: Prentice Hall International.
-         Dudley-Evans, T. & St. John, M. (1998): Development in ESP: A multi-disciplinary approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
-         Strevens, P. (1988): ESP after Twenty Years: Are- appraisal. In M. Tickoo (Ed.) ESP: State of the Art. Singapore. SEAMEO Regional Centre, 1-13.
-         Mackay, R. & Mountford, A. (Eds.) (1978): English for Specific Purposes: A Case Study Approach. London: Longman.

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