Deciphering Challenges of Teaching English for Specific Purposes to Medical Students: Needs, Lacks, Students' Preferences, and Efficacy of the Courses


Department of English, Sheikhbahaee University, Baharestan, Isfahan, Iran


This study set out to examine the main challenges of teaching English for specific purposes (ESP) to medical students regarding their current foreign language needs, lacks, and preferences. Data were collected through questionnaires and interviews with 140 medical students. The findings indicated that in terms of language skills and tasks, the current English for medical purposes (EMP) courses do not meet the needs of medical students and the participants preferred ESP courses that emphasize all the four language skills. Moreover, they were not satisfied with the presented materials and methodology and favored approaches that deploy visual and multimedia modes of presentation. In the case of ESP teachers, it was found that even though the students were mainly satisfied with their ESP teachers, some significant points that are expected to be followed in ESP courses including considering students' needs and difficulties, introducing target discourse communities, practicing relevant genres, providing supplementary materials, and using authentic materials were not taken into account by ESP practitioners. Students also noted other factors, such as limited time, the number of credit hours, the way credits are distributed, and heterogeneous classes, which get in the way of achieving the goals and objectives behind EMP courses. In conclusion, concerning various challenges in ESP classes, more attention should be paid to the course design, technology can be utilized effectively, communicative approaches can be applied, and efficient use of time needs to be considered.