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EMI: The changing roles of EMI academics and English language specialists

In recent years we have witnessed a rapid growth in the number of academic subjects in universities being taught through the medium of English rather than through the language of the majority of people of the home country. The growth is attributed primarily to a desire for universities to “internationalise” and a desire to ensure that home students are advantaged on the global job market. In this growth there are a number of assumptions that have not been fully evidenced by research:that students’ proficiency in English will improve as a result of immersion through EMI;that the transition from lecturers teaching through their first language to teaching through their second language (English) will be an unproblematic one and most importantly, there has been little consideration as to what will become of the many English language specialists in universities who have hitherto been teaching general English as a Foreign Language (EFL), English for Academic Purposes (EAP) or English for Specific Purposes (ESP).The first time that I considered the developing role of English Language teachers, whether they teach EFL,EAP or ESP, was during a series of research interviews that I conducted with a group of English Language teachers from a university in China. During the interviews the English teachers explained how they were expected to re-train to become subject teachers; they were being asked to study for a PhD in other academic subjects such as Philosophy so as not to become redundant: their skills purely as language teachers were no longer needed. In their university at least, it was considered that English Language teachers giving EFL lessons would become extinct, superseded by EMI lecturers delivering their academic subject content in English. In this talk I would like to challenge the view that in Higher Education, on the premise that lectures take place through English Medium Instruction (EMI), students somehow learn English automatically. Instead of a new EMI world where there is no need for English teachers or English language support, I propose that English Language teachers are needed now more than ever not only for language support for teachers and students, but also for the interactive pedagogy which is often already part of their teaching toolbox.EMI subject academics will also need to adapt as language awareness and interactive pedagogy take on an increasingly important role.


Julie Dearden    
Hertford College, University of Oxford
United Kingdom


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