The chapter starts by discussing the origin of ESP as an essential sub-field of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), its emergence, branches, and importance. ESP is then discussed in the international and Arab context in general and in Egypt in particular. Finally, definitions and different types of motivations and attitudes discussed in the literature are explored.
2.2 ESP Background
As one of the most important sub-fields of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) during the last few decades, English for Specific Purposes (ESP) was considered the subfield that systemized English teaching in order to make it more purposeful (Harper, 1986). Basturkmen (2010) shed the light on teaching the language as a tool for communication rather focusing on phonological, grammatical and lexical issues. In addition, various learners may have different communicative needs which require a certain type of course. Therefore, it is thought that teaching an item is no longer necessary since “it is ‘there’ in the language” (Basturkmen, 2010, p. 1). For example, Basturkmen (2010) added that a tourist who visits England does not need the same course that is designed for an air traffic controller in Singapore or a Colombian engineer who is preparing for graduate studies.
Although ESP gained prominence in the EFL environment during the 1970s, research on ESP as a subfield began almost two decades before (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998; Hutchinson & Waters, 2006). There are many reasons for the growth of ESP: the world economic development in the 1950s and 1960s, especially in the field of both science and technology; the increase in the use of English language as an international language in science, technology, and business; the booming economy of some oil producing countries; and the increased number of international students who want to pursue their studies in English speaking countries such as Britain, the United States and Australia (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998; Hutchinson &Waters, 2006).
Regarding the history of ESP, the idea of language for specific purposes can be traced back to the 16thcentury, when there was a need for commercial English for the Huguenots and other Protestant refugees arriving in England (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998). Such a need was considered the basics of focusing on business English in early English Language Teaching (ELT). However, the first textbooks for commercial English and business letter writing appeared as true features of ELT in the 19thcentury. The researchers added that the real momentum for developing ESP as a discipline began in the 1962 and continued until 1988. Teaching ESP started from the “grammatical and lexical features of ‘modern scientific prose’ as the real beginning” (p. 20). Finally, text analyzing was reduced to a minimum to be followed by writing a series of handouts, which paved the way for more extensive research. Hutchinson and Waters (2006) argued that a new idea was crystallized at the same time as the demand for courses tailored for specific needs increased. This idea was represented in using the linguistic features of real communication throughout English courses designed for specific groups of learners. It was thought that language should be varied from one specific situation to another and that each specific situation’s features should constitute the basics of the learner’s course.
2.3 ESP Definition
Although ESP does not have a specific definition, all suggested definitions for ESP relate to learners. Sifakis (2003) presented three suggestions from Kerr in 1977, Ellis and Johnson in 1994, and Dudley-Evans and St John in 1994:
We are dealing…with a person who is an expert in his own field and who can perform his various duties adequately in his mother tongue. Also, at one level learners can be young and still at high school level, . . . there are also job-experienced learners studying in universities and colleges in the UK, and 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 used for learners at secondary school level” (p. 201).
Hutchinson and Waters (2006) considered ESP as an approach to language learning rather than a product as it does not include a particular kind of language, teaching material or methodology. In other words, ESP may not be taught depending on a determined methodology as the ESP teaching should reflect the methodology of the discipline it discusses.
Considering ESP as an approach makes it relevant to practically all age-groups (except, perhaps, younger learners) and, arguably, all target situations (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998; Hutchinson & Waters, 2006; Sifakis, 2003). Dudley-Evans and St John (1998) raised a question to be considered as a foundation to ESP: “Why does this learner need to learn a foreign language?” (p. 3). They said that need is a key answer to this question which relates to the learners’ need to learn English; with each need varying from one purpose to another; study or work; for examples. As mentioned earlier, Richards and Rodgers (2001) said that the ESP movement started “not from a structural theory of language but from a functional account of learner needs” (p. 21).
2.4 ESP context nationally and internationally
According to Johns and Dudley-Evans (1991), ESP began to spread as the demand for English in Asia, Africa and Latin America in the 1970s became more urgent. Such importance has two dimensions: nationally and internationally. With respect to the national dimension of ESP, Johns and Dudley-Evans (1991) added that in the countries that use English for internal communication, such as India, Nigeria, Singapore, Fiji, and Kenya, the English language is used and shared by educated citizens and is considered the most available and neutral language. As a result, it was argued that the national dimension helps encourage students to comprehend their role in developing their country educationally and socially as their ESP textbooks “reflect the norms of local speech and discourse communities rather than a transnational standard” (Johns ; Dudley-Evans, 1991, p. 302). Johns and Dudley-Evans (1991) argued that English is also urgent in internal interaction in communities of fast growing economy.
ESP is also essential for international communication. It should increase the students’ awareness concerning the explosion of scientific and technical English (EST). Johns and Dudley Evans (1991) argued that there has been “a dramatic increase” (p. 302) in the number of international professional journals written in English (more than 65%) since 1965. There are many publications all over the world that reflect the concerns of the ESP area. Among these are ALSED-LSP Newsletter from Denmark and published by UNESCO, ESP publications of the Regional English Language Center from Malaysia, Fachsprache from Austria, ESPMENA (English for special purposes in the Middle East and North Africa) from Sudan, and the reputable international journal English for Specific Purposes (Johns & Dudley-Evans, 1991).
Interestingly, Johns and Dudley-Evans (1991) mentioned that the number of EFL subscribers to the journal English for Specific Purposes who are interested in the field exceeds the number of their counterparts who speak English and live in English-speaking countries. They justified this partially by stating that ESP is often named differently in English-speaking countries, e.g., “content-based instruction” in the U.S. and English for the workplace (EWP) in Australia. Besides, more than half of the published articles in the ESP field are written by authors teaching in EFL contexts.
2.5 ESP in the Arab world and Egypt
Since ESP gained prominence as an important sub-field in the EFL environment during the 1970’s as the demand for English became more urgent in Asia, Africa, and Latin America (Hutchinson ; Waters, 2006), the usage of ESP increased in the Arab world in the period from 1977 to 1983. Swales provided a very good review of the status of ESP in the Arab world from 1977 to 1983 (Swales, 1984) when ESP was being shaped solidly in this part of the world.
2.5.1 ESP in the Arab world.
Demand for English increased in the Arab world after 1977, due to the increasing use of English especially in the fields of business and negotiations (Zikri, 1993; Swales, 1984). Another reason was the increase in organization-based training programs that depended on a number of Service English Units in departments in the Arab world that have a wide range of contacts with other professional units and departments. An example of these organizations is ARAMCO in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which is known for its huge size and enormous training activities (Swales, 1984).
The quality of ESP in the Arab world in the 1970s was affected by three factors. First, the increasing amount of external contact and support represented by the receipt of funds for ESP related programs (e.g., Ford Foundation). Second, the stable ESP status without having any other development in ESP area in the Arab world from 1977 to 1983, with the exception of some improvements in the Maghreb area without mentioning a reason for such improvement. Third, the teaching staff (Teaching assistants and assistant lecturers) appointed in the educational institutions, who were selected for their high qualifications in the field of linguistics, but who actually had little or no experience in the field of teaching or ESP. In other words, these enthusiastic lecturers had received their traditional training in linguistics, which is a problem considering that ESP depends primarily on content and lexicon, rather than on other linguistic features (Zikri, 1993; Swales, 1984).
By 1983, however, Swales (1984) noticed that the situation started to change for the better as the number of professional teachers started to increase, which had a great effect on the spread of ESP in the Arab world at that time. Swales (1984) called these professionals “KELT Officer elite” (p. 15). Standing for Key English Language Teaching, KELT was a teaching program supervised by the British Council from the 1950s to the 1980s. The program was responsible for many reputable projects overseas, in India, Iran, Yugoslavia, and Egypt, and in many other countries as well. The program depended mainly on teams of experts who worked overseas to supervise many projects including ESP. These teams were headed by well-known experts in the field such as Tony Dudley-Evans in Yugoslavia, and Adrian Doff, Roger Bowers, and Andrew Thomas on the Ain Shams team in Egypt (Bolitho, 2005). Swales (1984) mentioned that: “43 out of a world total of 150 KELT-officers are currently working in the Arab world, 17 of them on ESP projects” (p.15).
Swales (1984) referred to an M.Sc. dissertation on ESP/ELT problems in the Arab world that was conducted by Waraka Barmada at the University of Aston in Birmingham. The results revealed many problems among which were that people working in this field lacked time for research, had lower status than other professionals, had not received recognition from authorities for the services they offered, and had no contact with other teachers of English. Such negative feelings of ESP staff were stressed in Van Naerssen’s (1994) study of the Egyptian ESP teachers which showed that many teachers suffered from an identity crisis based on the belief that they are seen as “poor cousins” (p. 35) by members of other English departments. Van Naerssen added that most ESP instructors were deemed unprofessional if they had not received their training in a School of Education or in an English department. It is worth mentioning that, 18 years later, Yossry (2012) reported the same factor in Egypt, in addition to others that may negatively affect an ESP teacher’s performance, e.g., job satisfaction, self-efficacy and work conditions, for example.
2.5.2 ESP in the Egyptian context.
Although Egypt faced the same factors which affected the quality of ESP in the Arab world (Zikri, 1993; Swales, 1984), the emergence of ESP in Egypt was also affected by politics. In contrast with President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s time in the 1960s, President Anwar Sadat’s opendoor policy encouraged citizens to seek English language proficiency. An explosion of language schools was clear at that time and still is today (Zikri, 1993). Since that time, Zikri (1991) added, most employment opportunities have required English, which was is with “climbing the social ladder” (p. 53).
In 1974, the first English for Specific Purposes Center (ESPC) in Egypt was opened in Alexandria at the request of the English Department at Alexandria University to teach Scientific English. Subsequently, many ESPCs were successively established at many Egyptian universities: the ESP Research Center, Mansoura University in 1987; the English Language Center, Suez Canal (Ismailia) in 1991; the ESP Unit, Zagazig University in 1991; and the Teachers’ Resource Center, Benha Branch of Zagazig University in 1990. Both Helwan University and Assiut University also made efforts to establish their own ESP Centers at that time (Zikri, 1993). However, to the best knowledge of the researcher, the number of ESP centers has multiplied since the early 1990s but there is current account regarding the number of the ESP centers that currently exist.
Regarding the different problems ESP personnel face in Egypt, Zikri (1993) referred to a survey concerning the existing ESP programs that was conducted among representatives of 20 institutions in 1990. The survey was undertaken to provide the Ministry of Higher Education Committee with appropriate information in order to enhance the capacity of the Egyptian institutions to teach ESP. The survey implications showed that there was “a serious interest in ESP work and quality” in the Ministry (p. 55). However, counter-waves opposed the survey’s results. Critics argued that Arabic is the national language of the nation and that Egypt is an Arab country in culture. They also insisted on rejecting teaching English other than as a subject, and said that the Ministry of Higher Education should have the sole right to supervise all curricula in order to stop what they described as an alien cultural invasion. Finally, the survey’s opponents stressed that foreign languages should not be taught at an early age so as not to seriously interfere with first language acquisition. It is worth mentioning that one of the authorities, Professor A. F. Galal, the Dean of the Institute for Educational Studies and Research and the Director of the National Center for Educational Research and Development at that time was one of the key supporters of such counter-waves (Zikri, 1993).
In addition, another survey was conducted at the 12thNational Symposium of ELT in Egypt in 1992 with regards to teaching ESP in Egypt. The results showed many problems: a lack of motivation and interest among participants, inadequate materials, students who undervalued ESP and were not able to learn due to overcrowded classrooms, teachers who lacked information concerning the area of specialization, students’ needs not being taken into consideration, and finally, teaching assistants who needed training (Zikri, 1993).
Zikri (1993) added that only one Ph.D. holder among 11 in that symposium referred to different results. Zikri (1993) said that there was a kind of mismatch between the teachers’ and students’ expectations as well as poverty regarding methods and techniques. She also showed that teachers had no clear objectives, materials were not sufficient, and that Arabic was being used as the medium of instruction. And finally, she pointed to a lack of articulation among the curricula and an absence of training for students that include more grammar and oral skills to do their assignments. (Zikri, 1993, p. 59).
Although the negative factors which may affect an ESP teacher’s performance in Egypt have been discussed in one study (Yossry, 2012), the teacher is still ignored as most research has not investigated all issues and challenges that ESP teacher in Industrial secondary Schools encounter in Egypt.