An Investigation Of Special Language Needs Analysis Of Workplaces

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

An Investigation Of Special Language Needs Analysis Of Workplaces


This study examined an investigation of special language needs analysis of workplaces in Lagos State. The descriptive survey design was used to carry out the study. The population of study comprised of all the workers in all the selected industries located within Oshodi and Agege Local Government Area of Lagos State. This was done with a group of technicians at a factory manufacturing microchips and other electronic parts located at Oshodi-Isolo Free Industrial Zone, Lagos state, Nigeria. The purpose of this research was twofold – to enable course designers to formulate an appropriate “English for Technicians” course in order to meet their job requirements and to obtain feedback from the technicians regarding their expectations of the course. The findings of this study revealed that all the four critical language skills are frequently used at the workplace, especially listening and speaking. It was also found that the technicians perceived themselves as ineffective users of the English language at the workplace. They believed that some level of training would be beneficial to improving their communication skills at work. It was also noted that technicians had some special needs with respect to the usage of the English Language which may not be covered in General English courses. This study will aid the researcher in developing English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Course. Based on the needs analysis from this study, a tailor-made course on “English for Technicians” is possible.

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

There is urgent need for every industry to begin to take precautionary steps towards developing the proficiency level of their employees for maximum productivity. There is a strong apprehension that the current global employability will be only for graduates who are proficient in the language needed for the job particularly in countries like Mexico, Angola,, Nigeria among others. For an establishment to continue to make productive impact on its immediate environment, there must be adequate communication skill among the workers in the workplace.

Communication is an indispensable activity in the workplace. Within industrialized nations like Nigeria; the expectation of fluency in speech is omnipresent. Understanding the interaction dynamics of the workplace is vital to a successful business enterprise. No rapid progress can be made in the absence of effective communicative skill. The success of any form of establishment is hinged on proper communication skill and the right choice of words in delivering duties in the workplace.

Language is defined according to Maduekwe (2007) as the most sophisticated communication tool of life and a vehicle for communication in the workplace. Special language use in the workplace refers to situations where a worker needs language to perform all or part of his occupational duties. English, which is the official language inNigeria can never be overemphasized. Language of business, education, technology, judiciary, job interview, communication etc. Today, millions of Nigerians speak in English language.

This English language isdeveloped in England and now used throughout the British commonwealth of nations, in the United States of America and in other parts of the world.

The first attempt is to establish the use of the English Language in Nigeria dates back to 19th century when industrial revolution started in Europe and there was quests for raw materials and market for the finished goods produced in these industries. The British and Portuguese merchants invaded the West African Coast to trade with Nigeria businessmen and since business transaction cannot be thrive in the absence of a common Language, a Language of communication (English) gradually emerged as a medium of transaction.

Much later, some shrewd Nigerian Businessmen in Calabar sent their children to England to learn English while some others had their children taught English to enable them establish a strong trade link with the Europeans (Njoku and Izuagba, 2014).

Importance of communication in the workplace is enormous. Within industrialized nations like Nigeria; the expectation of fluency in speech is omnipresent. Understanding the interaction dynamics of the workplace is vital to a successful business enterprise. According to Nwachukwu (2008), the most common means by which human beings communicate with one another is language. Language is used to create, reinforce and maintain social structures at and beyond workplace. Any workplace where the line of communication is free and open, there are development and any misunderstanding is easily settled. But where the line of communication is clogged, there are bounds to be prejudice, bias and suspicion,business is static and progress is hampered.

It is expected that every worker in Nigeria should at least be literate in English language especially in Lagos state where companies are always in the increase having workers of diverse backgrounds. Instead,what is being experienced is the continued growth of limited English proficient workers that make up the entire workforce. The statistics of the department of Labour (2004) and the census Bureau (2006) indicate that, the need for school drop-out workers will continue to rise and that by the year 2020, 43%(24.7 million)of all prospective job openings will be for people with minimum education level of which many have limited English proficiency.

To investigate the effectiveness of the interaction between employers and pre-dominantly monolingual at the workplace, a needs analysis research must be conducted. Needs are not things to be determined by a pre-constructed checklist or by mere looks .It is determined by the process of analysis .Needs are wants, desires and goals. It represents the gap between what the learner wants to get out of his working experience and his current state of knowledge, skill and enthusiasm (Noessel,2003). This need could be language needs, financial needs, intellectual needs, psychological needs or two put together. To determine this need, a researcher has to conduct a research to identify a particular need through the process of needs analysis.

Needs analysis is known to be the primary component of ENGLISH FOR SPECIFIG PURPOSES (ESP). It is the systematic collection and analysis of all subjective information necessary to define and validate defensible curriculum purposes that satisfy the language learning requirement of workers within the context of a particular workplace that influences work effectiveness(Brown,1995).Needs analysis is the core of every successful ESP program. It determines the need for which a worker requires a language and arranging the needs according to priorities. It involves fact finding and data collection.

Needs analysis was first emerged in language teaching in the 1960s.It was closely associated with English for specific purpose (Brindley,1989). The importance of language needs analysis in the workplace lies in the fact that the outcome should be a list of goals and objectives of the worker’s need for language which serves as the basis for developing test, materials, teaching activities, and evaluation strategies etc.

It is a well-known fact that, the process of a standard needs analysis is said to be the most important step to course development, material design as well as in determining vocational, workplace language and communication needs of workers.

English for specific purposes(ESP) on the other hand is an approach to the teaching of English as a second language(ESL) that focuses on determining the linguistics needs of a specific group of learners and then design course to satisfy the needs in the most efficient manner. Because ESP addresses a specific group of learners, with similar characteristics, its course design usually focuses on the topics and language of a specific discipline, occupation or activity(Strevens,1988;in Dudley-Evens and st.John,1998).

The need for ESP arose from General English. As the name implies, general English is the English we study in school for general use.

However, the emergence of ESP was not a planned and coherent movement, but rather a phenomenon, which grew out of a number of converging trends;

First, the demand of a new world created after the Second World War in 1945 which later dominated by technology and commerce. As a result, there was demand for an international language for business promotion and the demand fell on English language. This promoted English language to the international standard. Prior to this development, English language was regarded as a sign of well-rounded education. And was no longer learnt for pleasure or prestige but created a new generation of learners especially businessmen and women who wanted to sell their products, mechanics who had to read instruction manuals and doctors who needed to keep up the development in their field as well as students whose courses and texts are available in English.

Second, the oil rise of the early 1970s(oil exploration). According to Huchinson and Walters(1987), English suddenly become a big business and the constraint of time and money led to the need for creation of cost effective courses with clearly defined goals.

Third, was as a result of new ideas in the study of linguistics. Instead of the formal traditional ways of describing the formal features of the language, the new studies shifted attention to discovering the ways in which language is actually used in real communication(Widdowson,1978).There become an important difference between the language of a particular field of study which led to the argument by Linguist saying that, if language differs from one situation to another, it is then possible to determine the features of specific situations and then make those features the basis of learners’ course. The notion that, English needed by a particular group of learners could be identified by analyzing the linguistics characteristics of their specialized areas of work or study then gained ground.

“The guiding principle became; tell me what you need English for and I will tell you the English that you need”(Huchinson and Walters,1987)

Forth, was the new development in educational psychology which emphasized the central importance of learners and their attitude of learning(Rogers,1969).Learners were seen to have needs and interest which would have an important influence on their motivation to learn and therefore, on the effectiveness of their learning. This led to the creation of learner-centered curriculum design.

It is worthy of note that, the first conference on ESP was convened in the year 1969 (Mackey, 1976) when its original name was changed from the term “Language for special purposes” to its present name “English for specific purposes” due to the notion that, attention for this course is not only on the learners but also on the language resources of the learners like; English for law, English for medicine, English for engineering, English for business etc.

Furthermore, ESP is divided into two broad areas according to Kennedy and Bolitho (1984) namely; English for Occupational Purposes (EOP) and English for Academic Purposes (EAP). EOP is taught in situations where learners need English for work. while EAP is taught generally within educational institutions to students using English in their studies.

EOP is divided into two; English for professional purposes(medicine, law, business, etc) and vocational purposes(priest, mechanics, artisans, etc) and is further divided into pre-vocational and vocational English.Pre-vocational English is concerned with finding a job and interview skills while vocational English is concerned with language of specific trades or occupation.

It is pertinent at this point to state that this research work is to investigate the special language needs of workplaces in Lagos State..

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Commutation is an indispensable activity in the workplace. The most common means by which human beings communicate with one another is language. Workers’ ability to

Communicate with their employers and acquire sufficient language skills to function in the workplace are two of the key points to their success and the success of the business as well.

In recent years, language-related problems at workplaces have been at the center of controversy surrounding workforce. The statistics of the department of Labour (2004).

Bureau (2006) indicate that, the need for flawed English workers will continue to rise and that by the year 2020, 43% (24.7 million) of all prospective job ‘openings will be for people with effective communication skills of which many graduates have limited English proficiency. www.cambridgeenglish.or/roly-cambridge-english found that; in every industry, there is a gap between the English language skills required at work and the English skills that employees have.

Moreso, an analysis of speech error on[ English for occupational purposes (EOP) at the International Islamic university Malaysia (IIUM), (2014) examine that, workers make wrong use of grammatical words frequently e.g. wrong use of nouns, use of uncountable nouns, nouns use as verbs, wrong use of preposition in phrase, wrong addition of preposition, wrong use of verbs, wrong use of phrasal verbs, wrong of adjective ending in — ed and — ing and redundant expression. It was concluded that preposition was the most frequent type of grammatical error made by the learners. In addition, intra lingua transfer was found to be the most prominent source of error. It has also be found in a study conducted by Nita Falizee Selamant on EOP students (2014) that, the difficulty in communication among workers is actually the low English proficiency and the most difficult communication task is public speaking. Word Applied Science Journal (2015) indicates that Lagos employers have considerable reservations when it comes to graduates’ employability skill, particularly their flawed English Language competence. Given the challenges faced by scarcity of work in Lagos to match employers’ requirements.

Therefore there is need for a deeper understanding of how language in the changing workplace is related to the operations of companies in Lagos State.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to investigate the special language proficiency level of Lagos State workers. Specifically, the study is designed to:

  1. Identify the level of English proficiency of Lagos Workers.
  2. Determine the particular language problems workers are experiencing in Lagos State.
  3. Determine the nature of language skills a worker needs order to perform well in the workplace.
  4. Determine which workers from a particular workplace are most in need of training in a particular language skill.
  5. Determine if an existing ESP course designed adequately addresses the language needs of a potential worker.

1.4 Research Question

This study aims at the following research questions;

  1. What is the level of English proficiency of a worker in relation to the work tasks assigned to him?.
  2. What are the particular language problems workers are experiencing in Lagos State?
  3. What are the nature of language skills a worker needs in order to perform well in the work place?
  4. What type of ESP training course design adequately addresses the language needs of a potential worker?
  5. Which workers from a particular workplace are most in need of training in a particular language skill?

1.5 Research Hypotheses:

HO1: The level of English proficiency of a worker does not have significant effect on task assigned to him.

HO2: The existing ESP course design does not significantly address the language need of potential workers.

HO3: Workers do not have a significant need of training in a particular language skill.

1.6 Significance of the Study

The importance of language in our workplaces can never be over emphasized knowing that English language is a must for workplace communication especially in Lagos State that is populated largely by people of diverse ethnic groups. However, interpersonal communication skill is the key to every successful business venture and the ability of a worker to speak fluently is advantageous towards the development and progression of the work.

This study will be useful to the following:

Workers: It will benefit workers who need to improve on their language skills both and outside the workplace knowing that English is essential for work and survival society. It will improve work efficiency and enhances worker’s self-esteem and ns instrumentally and intrinsically motivated to learn more there will be no more hesitation in complaining of any observation, or giving instructions to junior workers, taking part in decision making etc. also instructional manuals will be easily interpreted since an operator can comprehend the instruction. Hence, mistakes are avoided and stress is reduced.

Moreso, the learner will meet EOP needs like reading and writing work related faxes and emails using information sources, communicating with foreigners about work1writing work related reports using tactful language with people especially customers, and understanding basic principles in work correspondences. Moreover, since English has become a necessary tool for job employment, EOP learners stand the opportunity to obtain a lucrative job, get promoted and perform effectively in the working world.

Curriculist: as suggested by many studies in the literature of this study, Dudley-Evans and St John (1998 60) assert that analysis of workers’ special language needs is a crucial step towards designing the curriculum, since it determines all course components. Also, it will help them to plan and improve Nigerian education by conducting the educational which the skills and competency gaps of EOP learners in Nigeria educational sector before drawing recommendation on how will be resolved. As such, the outcome workers’ needs which serve as the basis for evaluation strategies.etc.

Moreso, it will equip the curriculist with the knowledge of guidelines to be followed in planning programmes for EOP learners such as;

  • Knowledge on the part of employees, on the communicative function of EOP’
  • Understanding on behalf of employees of the expectations of those who need English in order to carry out a job.
  • Knowledge, on the part of the employees, the theory and practice of EO.

Moreover, sensitizes the curriculist that one of the most important characteristics of EOP is material writing and communicative competence which could intrinsically interesting since they focus mainly on course design approach idea and course objectives. Perhaps, subscribe to the idea that an effective syllabus must attempt to overcome the deficiencies of the workers’ commutative competence under which they are operating (Brian 1998).

The Teacher/Eop Tutors

Dudley Evans and St. John (199895) state that the teaching process of any kind of language for occupational purposes should take as a starting point the analysis of the four traditional skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) within an appropriate context, that being, as far as possible, the conditions in the workplace. The study will help the LOP tutors or teachers to take cognizance of the above assertion. Nevertheless, sensitizes them that the most important argument regarding selective learning is that adults need to obtain information they can apply outside the academic world. It will help them in the selection of authentic materials, contents and activities relevant to the LOP learners. The Study will also create job opportunities, investment opportunities and natural education growth to the EOP teachers by the government/foreigners (tourists or experts) e.g.

Chinese, Arabians, Indians, Portugese etc. when seeking their services in nation building.

The Researcher

The study will aid the researcher to the understanding of the basic phenomenon on the second language needs of workers in the workplace. It will give the researcher the knowledge on how to best address the world’s problem. Also Researchers had data in which they can base their discussions for policy making.

The Stakeholders

The Study will provide an insight to parents and guardians on the type of language skills their ward need when face with language related problems in workplace. Finally, it will be of benefit to all the stakeholders such as policy makers, managers of businesses, government, education educators etc. on their perception of EOP programmes for improvement and development of workforce in the larger society. Therefore, to cope with the advanced worlcl4one must increase his/her level of English proficiency.

1.7 Scope of Study

This study was carried out on special language needs analysis of workplace. The study was limited to technicians at a factory manufacturing microchips and other electronic parts located at Oshodi-Isolo Free Industrial Zone, Lagos state, Nigeria.

Chapter Five

Summary of Findings, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Summary Findings

The findings of this study reveal that,

  1. All the four skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing)are frequently used at the workplace. However, based on the analysis, training on speaking and listening should be of higher priority compared to reading and writing for this group of technicians. Based on the findings above, a workshop type training involving situations that are similar to what the technicians would typically experience at the workplace would be appropriate. This would allow the technicians to best practise their speaking and listening skills.
  2. While the technicians perceive that they would like to have some training on the English Language for certain events, some of the training identified can be at a lower priority due to a lower frequency of use or where the technicians are relatively more efficient compared to the identified events.
  3. Overall, it should be noted that the technicians are positively inclined to training in most of the listed events except for a few where the present communication method is deemed sufficient for their needs.

5.2 Conclusion

On the whole, this group of respondents is considered as a homogenous group by gauging their level of proficiency in English through their responses. All respondents possess positive outlook and are generally motivated towards the language. Therefore, receptivity towards the language program for them can be expected and would be a success if the program is carefully planned. Feedbacks from the questionnaires have thrown some light on the respondents‟ competence in the language.

The above findings disclose that the English language is indeed a tool for interacting with superiors and colleagues at work. On that account, English language does play an important role at their workplace. From the survey, it can be concluded that the technicians are quite involved with the English Language though there is still room for improvement. Therefore, an “English for Technicians” course specially designed with regards to their needs, lacks and wants, would be an added advantage.

To sum the above, the respondents possess a positive outlook towards the language as a whole based on the high score of the respondents‟ perceived training needs. They are willing to follow the ESP program for technicians as a big part of their work involves interacting in English with their superiors and colleagues. The data that concerns the respondents‟ background enables the teacher to identify their “wants” more specifically. For example, from the answers given by the respondents, the teacher knows that their activities at work are mainly involved with using the language in discussions, interaction, communication, reading and some formal writing. Thus, it is obvious that they need to improve proficiency in all the four skills. This should be a good indicator to the course designer to include and expose the variety of reading comprehension abilities such as extracting information, and eliciting data to the learners. Innovative teaching strategies must be thought up and exposed to this specific group. This is a set of students who have attained some level of English proficiency but still need to further improve their performance level.

Although there is considerable ambivalence on the degree of reliability and validity of the results as an effective measurement of the respondents‟ actual proficiency, nevertheless the analysis will be of help to the course designer in ascertaining the weaknesses and strengths of the respondents in related language skills and attitude towards the language and the appropriate training methodology.

Based on this conclusion, there is a need for an intermediate program for the employees of this organisation to broaden their horizons, and increase their power of communication. The content will be based on all four language skills, with prioritization identified by the mini survey. Yet, the course development should be viewed as an on-going process, whereby the teacher can make necessary changes to suit students‟ interests and needs, even as the course is in progress.

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