Therefore, giving such emphasis for the language needs of learners based on the analysis of the linguistic characteristics of their specific area of learning and occupational language purposes gained broader acceptance that mostly focus more on learners; i.e. “taking the various needs, interests and attitudes of the learner in the teaching learning process and these will have a paramount significance in motivation of learners” (Rodgers, 1969, as cited in Hutchinson & Waters, 1987, p. 8).
However, one common way for practicing English in most of these courses/classes is grammar translation method that has gained some part of its popularity from rote memorization to master grammatical structure. In fact, the more reliance upon the rote memorization, the less attention is needed to be paid to the oral skills of language needed for the job condition in that the students will need their learning to function effectively (e.g. target needs (Hutchinson and Waters, 1987); communication needs (Richards, 1990).
As Richterich (1984) comments: “A need does not exist independent of a person. It is people who build their images of their needs on the basis of data relating to themselves and their environment” (p .29). Moreover, an ignorance of speaking and listening skills within the EAP/ESP courses is partly associated with the least rate to which these skills are concerned by the EAP/ESP a result, the learners do not spend much more time and energy on oral based skills like speaking and listening. Nowadays, ESP students in Iran experience a rather traditional, form-focused L2 instruction that, in turn, provides students with little opportunity to use English communicatively (Farhady & Hedayati, 2009).
ESP programs specifically EAP as a branch of it concentrate on the use of language in context rather than mere teaching of grammatical structures of language varying from accounting, computer or chemical sciences to business and management. EAP classes vary in their form as well as their length of instruction (Jordan, 1997). Thus, the type of skill most needed and the extent to which they are covered in the EAP/ESP courses can be determined through need analysis carried out in these courses/classes than practicing equally on four language skills as a general background for English and this can help practitioners design a suitable syllabus for students.
Robinson (1991) believes that “the concept of learners? needs is one of the essential criteria which is adopted and validated in ESP” (P. 3). Hence, the subject matter should be based on students? needs, and course organizers should recognize the ways in which ESP fits the ESP learners? needs. Purpura and king (2003), and Santopietro and Peyton (1991) argue that ESP must be taken as a procedure of collecting and analyzing the required data about the “target language needs” of the students. This paves the ways for the learners to apply the terminology and grammars that they have learned in a significant situation, also leads them to improve their acquired English needs in specific context.
Identification and analysis of learners? needs, interests, and their purpose for EAP/ESP learning will facilitate setting learning objectives, and goals, setting up a positive language learning environment, enhancing learners’ motivation, and evaluating their progress in specific ESP skill such as reading and writing.
Need analysis has been the focus of a number of recent studies though there are few research carried out in this area (see for example, Atai, 2000; Khajeie, 1993; Gooniband, 1988; Eslami-Rasekh and Valizadeh, 2004; and Mazdayasna and Tahririan, 2008). While these studies highlight the significance of considering not only the learners’ perspectives but also their instructors? perspectives, they raised lack of needs-based course design, instruction time, materials and methods, and evaluation of learning, “the challenges will necessarily involve developing true specific-purpose curricula based on learners’ needs which would provide the appropriate context for sustainable language programs”. (Eslami-Rasekh, 2010)
In this study, the English language needs of Iranian undergraduate students of physics are assessed in order to increase teaching and learning effectiveness for students in this field. Understanding of such needs is seriously needed to aid EFL (English as a foreign language) professors to make decisions about what to teach and how best they can implement the educational driven choices in ESP/EAP contexts. In this study, the researcher has chosen physics area as an important academic discipline whose students are in great needs of different English skills and subject knowledge not only for their courses and learning objectives at BA levels, but also for the number of academic international papers they are supposed to develop from their research studies carried out in different ESP/EAP contexts.