Investigating the English Language Needs

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Investigating the English Language Needs of Petroleum Engineering Students at Hadhramout University of Science and Technology Atef Saleh Al-Tamimi & Munir Shuib School of Humanities, Universiti Sains Malaysia

Biodata Atef Saleh Al-Tamimi worked five years as a university instructor at Hadramout University of Sciences and Technology, Yemen. He is currently a PhD student at the School of Humanities, Universiti Sains Malaysia. His areas of interest include ESP, Needs Analysis, and English Language Teaching (ELT) research.

Munir Shuib (PhD.) is an Associate Professor and Deputy Dean of the Industry and Community Network at the School of Humanities, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). He is also an associate research fellow at the National Higher Education Research Institute (IPPTN). His research interests include ESP and graduates’ skills and competencies.

Abstract In engineering education, specific English language skills are needed to enable engineering students to succeed in academic settings (Tan, 1999; Pendergrass et al., 2001; Sidek et al., 2006; Venkatraman & Prema, 2007). To determine what students need to achieve through the medium of English accurately, it is imperative to carry out a Needs Analysis (NA) (Hutchinson & Waters, 1987; Robinson, 1991; Hyland, 2006). NA is defined as “the process of determining the needs for which a learner or group of learners requires a language and arranging the needs according to priorities” (Richards & Platt, 1992, p. 242). With such views, this paper reports on a survey conducted to investigate the English language needs of petroleum engineering students at Hadhramout University of Science and Technology (hereinafter HUST). More specifically, the study aims to identify the students' perceptions of the frequency of English language skills used, the importance of these skills, their ability in

performing the skills, the areas of language use that they need training/teaching in, 1

and their preferences for the English language course. A total of 81 third, fourth, and final-year petroleum undergraduates in the academic year 2006-2007 were identified and approached for the process of NA. A questionnaire was used for data collection. The results stressed the significance of English for petroleum engineering students and identified the students' lacks, wants and necessities with regard to English language skills. The paper concludes with pedagogical implications that may help improve the current English language course based on the students’ needs.

Keywords: Needs Analysis (NA), English for Specific Purposes (ESP), and English for Science and Technology (EST)

1. Introduction Previous research in the field of engineering showed that English language is of paramount importance in the academic and professional lives of engineering students (Basturkman, 1998; Pendergrass et al., 2001; Pritchard & Nasr, 2004; Joesba & Ardeo, 2005; Sidek et al., 2006; Hui, 2007; Venkatraman & Prema, 2007). For example, Pendergrass et al. (2001) pointed out that English is an essential tool in engineering education, and therefore "integrating English into engineering, science and math courses is an effective way to improve the performance of engineering students in oral and written communication” (p. 1). In addition, Pritchard & Nasr (2004, p. 426) emphasised that “English is of particular importance for engineering and science students because it is the principal international language of science and is looked upon as an effective means for enabling those students to become familiar with professional texts written in English”. Similarly, Joesba & Ardeo (2005) stated that as English has become the de facto international language of science and technology, engineering students have to face this fact while they are students, since books, papers, handbooks, journals, etc. written in English are included in their reading lists, and after graduation, because one...
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