Makalah ESP (English for Specific Purposes)



  1. Background

            ESP was as most developments in human activity; ESP was not a planned and coherent movement, but rather a phenomenon that grew out of a number of converging trends because English had become international language, which all aspects used it. ESP aims at acquainting learners with the kind of language needed in a particular domain, vocation, or occupation.

            ESP has become increasingly important as:

Ä      There has been an increase in vocational training and learning throughout the world.

Ä      With the spread of globalization has come the increasing use of English as the language of international communication. More and more people are using English in a growing number of occupational contexts.

Ä      Students are starting to learn and therefore master general English at a younger age and so move on to ESP at an earlier age.

            This article will be presented definition and characteristic of ESP and also presented history and phases in development of ESP. Here will be explained why in ESP needs analysis and the differences between ESP (English for Specific Purposes) and GE (General English). The hopes from this article that anyone can gain some benefit information from this article.

  1. Definition and Characteristic of English for Specific Purposes (ESP)

            ESP is centered on the language appropriate to the activities of a given discipline. ESP according to Hutchinson and Waters (1987:19), “ESP is an approach to language teaching in which all decisions as to content and method are based on the learner’s reason for learning.” In this connection, Dudley-Evans (1998) explains that ESP may not always focus on the language for one specific discipline or occupation, such as English for Law or English for Engineering.

            Dudley-Evans and St John (1998) modified Strevens’ definition of ESP:

1.  Absolute characteristics:

a)      ESP is designed to meet specific needs of the learner

b)      ESP makes use of the underlying methodology and activities of the disciplines it serves

c)      ESP is centered on the language (grammar, lexis, register), skills, discourse and genres appropriate to these activities.

 2. Variable Characteristics:

a)      ESP may be related to or designed for specific disciplines

b)      ESP may use, in specific teaching situations, a different methodology from that of General English

c)      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

d)     ESP is generally designed for intermediate or advanced students.

e)      Most ESP courses assume some basic knowledge of the language system, but it can be used with beginners.

            Traditionally ESP courses were typically designed for intermediate or advanced adult learners. Nowadays many students can start to learn academic or vocational English at an earlier age and at a lower level of proficiency.

            ESP must be seen as an approach not as a product. ESP is not a particular kind of language or methodology, or does it consists of a particular type of teaching material. Understood properly, it is an approach to language learning, which is based on learner need.



  1. History and Phases in the Development of ESP

            Certainly, a great deal about the origins of ESP could be written. Notably, there are three reasons common to the emergence of all ESP: the demands of a Brave New World, a revolution in linguistics, and focus on the learner (Hutchinson & Waters, 1987).

            Hutchinson and Waters (1987) note those two key historical periods breathed life into ESP. Development of ESP based on three main reasons to the important of ESP. First, the existence of ESP was as the demands of a brave new world, which the general effect of all this development was to exert pressure on the language teaching profession to deliver the required goods. English had become a countable to the scrutiny of the wider world and the traditional leisurely and purpose-free stroll through the landscape of the English language seemed no longer appropriate in the harsher realities of the market place. Second, ESP was as a revolution in linguistics, which in the beginning it is for grammatically only now the English needed by a particular group of learners could be identified by analyzing the linguistic characteristics of their specialist area of work or study. Last, ESP was focused on the learner, which learners were seen to have different needs and interests, which would have an important influence on theory motivation to learn and therefore on the effectiveness on their learning. This lent support to the development of courses in which ‘relevance’ to the learners’ needs and interests was paramount.

            There are Five Great Divisions of Development of ESP or English for Specific Purposes. From the early beginnings in the 1960s, ESP has undergone three main phase of Development, but years by years, the development of ESP become Five. To make it short, here are the five of Developments of ESP, as follow:

  • The Concept of Special Language: Register Analysis

            Register Analysis revealed that there was very little distinctive in the sentence grammar of scientific English beyond a tendency to favor particular forms such as the present simple, passive voice and nominal compound. In this first step, ESP just focused on the grammar of the sentence without pay attention to the meaning of the sentence and the situation where the sentence may be used.

  • Beyond The Sentence: Discourse or Rhetorical Analysis

          Discourse or Rhetorical Analysis is attention shifted to understand how sentences were combined in discourse to produce meaning. The concern of the research therefore was to identify the organizational pattern are signaled. In this level, not only focused on the grammar but more specific to understand the meaning depend on the situation.

  • Target Situation Analysis

          Target Situational Analysis marked a certain coming of age for ESP. In this stage, ESP focused on the target and the situation that we were going to learn about, for examples economic and tourism.

  • Skill and Strategies Centered Approach

          In this stage, the principal media behind the skill-centered approach is that underlying all languages use, there are common reasoning and interpreting process, which regardless of the surface form, enable us to extract meaning from discourse. The focus should rather be on the underlying imperative strategies which enable the learners to cope with the surface form. In short, this fourth level just focus on the specific skill, special on the specific one, therefore the materials are just developed for it only. For example, a manager who his reading skill is not good enough, so the material just focus on how to increase the manager reading ability, not more than it.




  • A Learning-Centered Approach

          At this fifth level, Learning-Centered Approach, The students’ need is more to be concerned. The materials are developed based on the students needs. But before we know the students’ need, we have to do an approach first. This also use Humanism Theory which lead the students’ based on their need. Make a human, truly human.


  1. Need Analysis in ESP

            The question why in ESP need analysis answered by the ESP course is characterized by its content (Science, Medicine, Commerce, Tourism, Engineering, etc.), this is, in fact, only a secondary consequence of the primary matter of being able to readily specify why the learners need English. Put briefly, 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.

            This being said, e would still maintain that any course should be based on an analysis of learner need. This is one way in which ESP procedures can have a useful effect on GE and indicates once more the need for a common approach. The answers to the analysis will probably be different, but the questions that need to be asked are the same. Nevertheless, for being, the tradition persists in GE that learner needs can’t be specified and as a result no attempt 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 is a definable need to communicate in English – that distinguishes the ESP learner from the learner of GE.

            According to Iwai et al. (1999), formal needs analysis is relatively new to the field of language teaching. However, informal needs analyses have been conducted by teachers in order to assess what language points their students needed to master. In fact, the reason why different approaches were born and then replaced by others is that teachers have intended to meet the needs of their students during their learning. From the field of language teaching the focus of this paper will be on ESP. Clearly, the role of needs analysis in any ESP course is indisputable. For Johns (1991), needs analysis is the first step in course design and it provides validity and relevancy for all subsequent course design activities.

            Though needs analysis, as we know it today, has gone through many stages, with the publication of Munby’s Communicative Syllabus Design in 1978, situations and functions were set within the frame of needs analysis. In his book, Munby introduced ‘communication needs processor’ which is the basis of Munby’s approach to needs analysis. Based on Munby’s work, Chambers (1980) introduced the term Target Situation Analysis. Form that time several other terms have also been introduced: Present Situation Analysis, Pedagogic Needs Analysis, Deficiency Analysis, Strategy Analysis or Learning Needs Analysis, Means Analysis, Register analysis, Discourse analysis, and Genre Analysis. This article attempts to present an overview of the aforementioned approaches to needs analysis.

            Probably, the most through and widely known work on needs analysis is John Munby’s Communicative Syllabus Design (1978). Munby presents a highly detailed set of procedures for discovering target situation needs. He calls this set of procedures the Communication Needs Processor (CNP). The CNP consist of a range of questions about key communication variables (topic, participants, medium etc.) which can be used to identify the target language needs of any group of learners. In Munby’s CNP, the target needs and target level performance are established by investigating the target situation, and his overall model clearly establishes the place of needs analysis as central to ESP, indeed the necessary starting point in materials or course design (West, 1998). In the CNP, account is taken of “the variables that affect communication needs by organizing them as parameters in a dynamic relationship to each other” (Munby, 1978: 32).

            We can make a basic distinction between target needs (what the learner needs to do in the target situation) and learning needs (what the learner needs to do in order to learn). We can identify further divisions under the general heading of seed.

The Target Needs



(i.e. as perceived by course designers)


(i.e. as perceived by learners)


The English needed for success in particular studies

To reluctantly cope with a ‘second-best’ situation


(Presumably) areas of English needed for particular studies

Means of doing particular studies


To succeed in particular studies

To undertake particular studies

            Gathering Information about Target Needs

1. Why is language needed?

•for study;

•for work;

•for training;

•for a combination of these;

•for some other purposes, e.g. status, examination, promotion


cf. Munbian

purposive domain


2. How will the language be used?

•Medium: speaking, writing, reading,etc.;

•Channel: e.g. telephone, face to face;

•Types of text or discourse: e.g.

academic text, lectures, catalogues, etc.


cf. Munbian



3. What will the content areas be?

•Subjects: e.g. medicine, biology, commerce, shipping, etc.;

•Level: technician, craftsman, postgraduate, etc.


cf. Munbian

Communicative event


4. Where will the language be used?

•Physical setting: e.g. office, lecture theater, hotel, workshop, library;

•Human context: alone, meetings, demonstrations, on telephone;

•Linguistic context: e.g. in own country, abroad.


cf. Munbian

Setting (physical and



5. When will the language be used?

•Concurrently with the ESP course or subsequently;

•Frequently, seldom, in small amounts, in large chunks.



Analyzing Learning Needs


            Hutchinson and Waters’ (1987) definition of wants (perceived or subjective needs of learners) corresponds to learning needs. Similar to the process used for target needs analysis, they suggest a framework for analyzing learning needs which consists of several questions, each divided into more detailed questions. The framework proposed by Hutchinson and Waters (1987) for analysis of learning needs is the following:

  1. Why are the learners taking the course?
  • · compulsory or optional;
  • · apparent need or not;
  • · Are status, money, promotion involved?
  • · What do learners think they will achieve?
  • · What is their attitude towards the ESP course? Do they want to improve their English or do they resent the time they have to spend  on it?
  1. How do the learners learn?
  • What is their learning background?
  • What is their concept of teaching and learning?
  • What methodology will appeal to them?
  • What sort of techniques bore/alienate them?
  1. What sources are available?
  • number and professional competence of teachers;
  • attitude of teachers to ESP;
  • teachers’ knowledge of and attitude to subject content;
  • materials;
  • aids;
  • opportunities for out-of-class activities.
  1. Who are the learners?
  • age/sex/nationality;
  • What do they know already about English?
  • What subject knowledge do they have?
  • What are their interests?
  • What is their socio-cultural background?
  • What teaching styles are they used to?
  • What is their attitude to English or to the cultures of the English-speaking world?
  1. Where will the ESP course take place?
  • Are the surroundings pleasant, dull, noisy, cold etc?
  1. When will the ESP course take place?
  • Time of day
  • Every day/once a week
  • Full time/ part time
  • Concurrent with need or pre-need
  1. Differences between ESP and General English (GE) Programs

What is the difference between ESP and GE?

            The difference between ESP and GE is ‘in theory nothing, in practice a great deal’. What distinguishes ESP from GE is not the existence of a need as such but rather an awareness of the need. The question of the difference between ESP and GE has been addressed in the literature in terms of theory and practice. Hutchinson and Waters (1987) state that there is no difference between the two in theory; however, there is a great deal of difference in practice. ESP differs from GE in the sense that the words and sentences learned and the subject matter discussed are all relevant to a particular field or discipline. The design of syllabuses for ESP is directed towards serving the needs of learners seeking for or developing themselves in a particular occupation or specializing in a specific academic field. ESP courses make use of vocabulary tasks related to the field such as negotiation skills and effective techniques for oral presentations. A balance is created between educational theory and practical considerations. ESP also increases learners’ skills in using English.

            A deeper investigation, however, of the difference between the two is required. English for General Purposes (GE) is essentially the English language education in junior and senior high schools. Learners are introduced to the sounds and symbols of English, as well as to the lexical/grammatical/rhetorical elements that compose spoken and written discourse. There is no particular situation targeted in this kind of language learning. Rather, it focuses on applications in general situations: appropriate dialogue with restaurant staff, bank tellers, postal clerks, telephone operators, English teachers, and party guests as well as lessons on how to read and write the English typically found in textbooks, newspapers, magazines, etc. GE curriculums also include cultural aspects of the second language. GE conducted in English-speaking countries is typically called ESL, and GE conducted in non-English-speaking countries is normally called EFL. GE is typically viewed as a level that precedes higher-level instruction in ESP if ESP programs are to yield satisfactory results.

            English for Specific Purposes, however, is that kind of English teaching that builds upon what has been acquired earlier in GE with a more restricted focus. It aims at acquainting learners with the kind of language needed in a particular domain, vocation, or occupation. In other words, its main objective is to meet specific needs of the learners. Of course, this indicates that there is no fixed methodology of ESP that can be applicable in all situations, but rather each situation and particular needs of learners belonging to a particular domain impose a certain methodology of teaching.


  1. References

Ä      Hutchinson, T., & Waters, A. (1987). English for Specific Purposes: A learning- centered approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ä      Dudley-Evans, T., & St John, M. (1998). Developments in ESP: A multi-disciplinary approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ä      Gatehouse, K. (2001) Key issues in English for Specific Purposes: (ESP) Curriculum development. TESL Journal Vol. VII, No.10, October 2001,, Retrieved December 14, 2011 at 17:48 pm

Ä     Development of ESP English for Specific Purposes,, Retrieved December 14, 2011 at 18:55 pm

Ä    English for Specific Purposes | the Difference between ESP and EGP, Retrieved December 14, 2011 at 18:05 pm


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