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TEACHING ENGLISH FOR SPECIFIC PURPOSES AT THE UNDERGRADUATE LEVEL

D. El-Dakhs

Prince Sultan University - College for Women (SAUDI ARABIA)
For decades, English language courses at the undergraduate level were largely geared towards the teaching of general English, academic writing and speech courses. More recently, however, the introduction of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) as an integral component of undergraduate programs has become a necessity (Danilova & Pudlowski, 2006; Kavaliauskiene, 2003; Kuo, 2007). Through the teaching of ESP, Higher Education (HE) institutions aim to equip graduates with the necessary language skills to use English in their specializations, including science, commerce and technology.

Two prominent definitions of ESP, presented years ago, paved the way to the design and implementation of ESP undergraduate programs. The first, by Hutchinson and Waters (1987), defines ESP as "an approach to language teaching in which all decisions as to content and method are based on the learner's reason for learning." The second definition, by Dudley-Evans (1997), also highlights the significance of tailoring English language courses to serve the learners' linguistic needs. He describes ESP courses as (1) meeting the specific needs of the learner, (2) making use of underlying methodology of the target discipline and (3) highlighting relevant language of the discipline.

Different forces have combined to make the undergraduate area most prepared for the current massive introduction of ESP courses. English is now introduced at very early stages of learning, which requires the instruction of a different kind of English in HE to maintain students' interest and motivation. Besides, the worldwide trends for accountability in undergraduate programs require good returns on investment in language courses. HE officials need to reap good fruits from their investment in language instruction. In addition, different means are now available for the training and professional development of ESP instructors, including MA degrees in ESP, specialized publications and conferences, and active international research interest groups.

The present paper aims to emphasize the importance of integrating ESP courses within the undergraduate language curriculum. The paper first presents an overview of the origin, key definitions and types of ESP. This is followed by a discussion of a variety of difficulties faced by both instructors and managers of ESP programs at the undergraduate level. Finally, a survey of practical suggestions to overcome these difficulties are put forward.