In 1974 the Ministry for Higher Education stated that every scientist in Vietnam must know one or two foreign languages (one of them being English), and be able to use it for his work. But even now, the number of people who have acquired the language as required is still small. This paper examines the causes of this problem and possible remedies. What has caused the situation to change so slowly? The reasons may be several, but the most striking one is that teachers do not understand the nature of EST, so they try to teach scientists the same language forms in the same way as they do with young students at Foreign Language Colleges. Consequently, the learners know a lot about the language, but can use only a little. The paper considers several aspects of the situation. Scientists and technologists need to learn only the language forms often used in scientific literature and the skills needed for their work. For this reason, teachers must first identify the learners’ needs, then draw up a list of objectives of the course, look for relevant materials and use appropriate methods of teaching. To help teachers to do these things, a training programme is needed. The training will familiarize the teachers with key scientific concepts, characteristics of EST, and the way to place learners in appropriate groups. Several approaches to ESP/EST are examined, but EST learners in Vietnam are rather different from those in other countries, so a special model for an EST course is designed; an example of a reading course to illustrate the model is given for teachers to refer to. Finally, some suggestions are offered to solve problems arising from present EST courses.
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