a/ Absolute characteristics are as follows: 1. ESP is defined to meet specific needs of the learners;
2. ESP makes use of the underlying methodology and activities of the discipline it serves;
3. ESP is centered on the language appropriate to these activities in terms of grammar, lexis, register,
Study skills, discourse and genre.
b/ Variable characteristics include the following: 1. ESP may be related to, or designed for, specific disciplines;
2. ESP may use, in specific teaching situations, a different methodology from that of General English;
3. 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;
4. ESP is generally designed for intermediate or advanced students;
5. Most ESP courses assume some basic knowledge of the language system.
It is quite clear that the main question in ESP is what purpose the learner needs to learn a foreign language for. Robinson (1991) explained this ides and he suggests that an ESP course should be based on a Needs Analysis (NA) to explain what exactly the students have to do through using English. What is needs analysis in ESP? NA can be defined as a procedure and a strategy to get information about the desires, expectations, demands and lacks of the learners to design the course accordingly. Needs analysis approach is considered to be the main issue in ESP. therefore; ESP courses are developed from a NA which concentrates on what exactly a learner needs and must know to learn in English so that they will be able to use it in communicating well in their domains.
The Birth of ESP :
The concept of ESP appeared during World War II as a result of the development of science and technology. It aims at answering students’ and specialists needs in what they need to learn English for, i.e., to use the language to communicate in their field of work.
According to Hutshinson and Waters (1986) there are three main factors that led to the development of ESP: the demands of a “brave new world”, a revolution in linguistics, and the birth of the learner –centered approach. First, after W.W.II and because of the United States’ commercial and technological growth, English has become the language of international communication. Hatshinson and Waters (1986) state that:
“Whereas English had previously decided its own destiny, it now becomes subject to the wishes, needs, and demands of people other than language teachers. English had become a countable to the scrutiny of the wider world and the traditional leisurely and purpose- free-strole through the landscape of the English language seem no longer appropriate in the harsher realities of the market place”
This movement led to the emergence of a new generation of students who needed to learn English suitable to their field of work and to satisfy the needs of modern times. Second, the rise of ESP is a result of a revolution and development of linguistics. The focus was no longer on grammar forms but on real communication within a specific field of work a given study area. Third, a new approach appeared which gave much importance to the learner rather than the teacher. In ESP class, the learners are seen as individuals with different needs, motivations, and interests. In this approach, the learner is seen as an active subject of the teaching and learning process (La Rana 1997).
Hatshinson and waters (1987) also said that ESP has developed through five periods.
First, during 1960s and 1970s ESP prosperity is linked with the importance given to register analysis, which aimed at identifying the linguistic features of registers. For this cause, Swales (1988) refers to this period and stage as an approach based on lexicostatistics. Second, during the second period, concentration shifted from word level to a higher level of discourse analysis. As a reaction to register analysis, this stage focused on how to recognize textual patterns. The aim here was to understand how sentences were linked together and what the underlying meaning they convey is. The third stage however was based on target- situation analysis in which the learners are placed at the core of their English courses. This made them able to communicate properly. The fourth stage was characterized by Skill- centered approach, which payed attention to the mental processes that enable the finding the meaning and understand it through a given discourse. Teaching during this period focused on the learners’ use of the interpretation techniques. In the fifth stage, learners were given much importance on the didactic process, thus motivation became a necessary factor in the effectiveness and success of learning.
Approaches of ESP: