English for specific academic purposes : a case study of English for law at the Ethiopian Civil Service College
The study aimed at exploring the English language problems adult students of law in
the Ethiopian Civil Service College (ECSC) face, establishing their needs for the
language to succeed in their studies and function effectively in their legal profession
and proposing guidelines for English for law courses that would address the established
needs and constraints. In addition to solving a practical problem, it was also the
objective of the study to contribute to the scarce theory and practice in Ethiopia and
worldwide in the fields of English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP) in general
and English for law in particular.
In order to address these issues, the study employed the qualitative case study approach
that used varied instruments for data collection and involved different stakeholders in
the teaching and learning of English for law. It mainly used semi-structured interviews,
participant observation and direct observation, focus group discussions, as well as
questionnaires, test results and document analyses. Law students, law and English
language instructors, law graduates working in legal and non-legal offices and their
immediate heads and or sponsors selected from half of the regional states of Ethiopia
participated in the study.
It was found out that law students manifested English problems at all levels of the
language, that is, in the four skills and also faced serious lexico-grammatical problems.
It was also found out that student background, the mechanisms employed by the
College in the processes of selection and admission of students, lack of relevance of the
current English courses to law study, among others, also contributed to the failure of
law students to gain the most out of the English courses offered by the College. This in
turn contributed to the difficulty students faced in studying law effectively because it
was also established that there is a strong relationship between law discipline and the
language it is embodied in and taught thro~ that is, English.
It was, thus, concluded that if law students at the ECSC are to study and function in law
effectively, the English courses offered by the College need to be relevant for these
purposes and address the specified target and learning needs. This could be achieved, it
is recommended, by introducing a new English for law syllabus that addresses the
needs and alleviates the English language problems of law students.