AAAL 2023: Invited Colloquium

Researching Multilingually to Rethink EMI policy and practices


Andy Gao, University of New South Wales

Yongyan Zheng, Fudan University


Angel Lin, Simon Fraser University, Canada 

Colloquium Abstract

The rise of English as medium of instruction (EMI) in contexts where English is not used widely raises a few critical questions for applied linguists. Researchers need to work out how the implementation of EMI policies can be refined to ensure that EMI practices lead to the desired educational outcomes (i.e., students’ gains in learning English and subject content). Researchers should address a growing concern about educational equity as the widening gap in individual students’ access to learning resources put the ‘have nots’ at a clear disadvantage. Researchers also need to explore how the rise of EMI education does not undermine the efforts to sustain multilingualism in many educational contexts. In this colloquium, we contend that EMI practices inevitably rely on the multilingual resources that students and teachers have when implementing EMI policies. Research on EMI policy and practice to address the above-mentioned critical questions requires applied linguists of different linguistic and cultural backgrounds to research multilingually and collaboratively whereby researchers ‘use, or account for the use of, more than one language in the research process’ (Holmes et al., 2015). Researching EMI policy and practice multilingually also enables applied linguists, students, and teachers in underrepresented contexts to have their voices heard. To this end, this colloquium includes presentations that engage with EMI policy and practice from a variety of perspectives (e.g., indigenous, sociocultural theory, and critical) in a variety of educational contexts (e.g., secondary, higher education). The colloquium will have the following presentations:

Researching EMI policy and practice multilingually in China and Turkey (McKinley, Rose, Sahan, and Zhou)
Transnational students’ experiences of EMI in Myanmar’s borderlands (Li and Zheng)
Translanguaging en privado among college students in an EMI program in Spain (Prada)
Translanguaging and transsemiotizing practices of EMI teachers in China (Gu)
Developing Vietnamese teachers for using English as medium of instruction (Nguyen, Nguyen, Hoang, Gao and Starfield)
Between a multilingual ethos and an English pathos (Melo-Pfeifer)

Researching EMI policy and practice multilingually: Reflections from China and Turkey
Jim McKinley, University College London, 
Heath Rose, University of Oxford, 
Kari Sahan, The University of Reading, 
Sihan Zhou, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 

Abstract: Practices of researching multilingually have been increasingly foregrounded in applied linguistics research (see Andrews et al., 2020; Holmes et al., 2013; 2016; Phipps, 2013). In the field of English Medium Instruction (EMI), multilingual approaches are essential to carrying out research, because EMI policies are almost always produced in different language mediums for global and local stakeholders. Moreover, a vast body of evidence suggests that English-medium practices are inherently multilingual pedagogies, where L1 use is the norm rather than the exception in EMI classrooms (see Paulsrud et al., 2021). This presentation uses researcher reflection as a lens to explore the processes of researching EMI multilingually, adopting an approach illustrated in the handbook chapter, Researching Multilingually in Applied Linguistics (Andrews et al., 2020). It draws on the presenters’ own reflective experiences of utilizing multiple languages when researching EMI polices and practices in two projects in China and Turkey. In the first case of China, the research team of two L1 English speakers and two L1 Chinese speakers investigated 93 bilingual policy documents by drawing on both languages during data collection, data analysis, and data presentation. During fieldwork for the project, interviews with 26 policy arbiters were conducted multilingually using a translanguaging approach as opposed to translation or interpreting. In the case of Turkey, the lead researcher, who is an English-Turkish bilingual, analysed policy documents (n=145) and interview data (n=67) drawing on her knowledge of both languages. Additionally, 85 EMI classroom observations were conducted, necessitating the creation of research frameworks and coding tools to analyse the multilingual data due to the high prevalence of observed translanguaging. Together, these cases highlight how multilingual approaches can be utilised throughout the research process, from team formation, research design, data collection, data analysis, and presentation of findings in research reports. 

Capitalizing multilingual resources for EMI in the borderlands between China and Myanmar: Myanmar students’ transnational experiences
Jia Li, Yunnan University, China,
Yongyan Zheng, Fudan University, China,

Abstract:  Research on English medium instruction (EMI) has examined the role of language in shaping the learning experiences of students in different national contexts. These studies have identified the multilayered and multifaceted interactions between language and learning in EMI education. However, these studies tend to take the nation-state as the center of inquiry and how EMI education is experienced in the borderlands remains poorly understood. As a transnational social space, borderlands constitute a key site of intensive multilingual and intercultural contact. Students’ transnational experiences of EMI education in borderland institutions deserve more attention. Based on a large-scale ethnography of Myanmar migrants in the borderlands between China and Myanmar (Li & Han 2020, Li & Zhang 2020, Li & Zheng 2021), the present study focuses on the experiences of multilingual Myanmar students who received EMI education in secondary schools and continue their academic studies in Myanmar or Chinese universities. Data were collected through the use of linguistic autobiography, semi-structured interviews and policy documents. Adopting the borderlands theory (Anzaldúa 1987), the study foregrounds the indigenous epistemologies in enhancing the multilingual Myanmar students’ transnational experiences of EMI education. By revealing the affordances and constraints regarding the access to EMI resources, our study provides a new perspective on how multilingual resources might be incorporated into EMI pedagogical development when implementing EMI programs in borderland institutions for transnational students’ upward mobility and social participation.  

More like TMI: Translanguaging en privado among college students in an EMI program in Spain

Josh Prada, School of Liberal Arts, Indiana University (IUPUI),

Abstract:  Research findings in EMI classrooms show positive trends at different levels for students who (are allowed to) use their entire linguistic repertoires in the classroom. For example, such scholarship has documented how strategically including the L1 in the classroom helps students with lower English proficiency access technical terms, make better sense of stylistic use of language, and general content comprehension (Lin and Morrison, 2010), provides supplementary explanations of academic knowledge (Tsou and Kao, 2017), and appears to pose benefits regarding cognitive overload in specific tasks (Scott and De La Fuente, 2008). Additionally, Lin (2012) and others have advocated for frameworks that integrate different modalities, rather than just the students’ entire linguistic repertoires. As Lo and Lin (2015) explain, “[…] teachers have to assist students in accessing L2 academic literacies not only without denigrating, but also through actively building and capitalising on, other kinds of resources in their communicative repertoires (p. 7-8).” But how does this pan out in the strategies used by students when hidden from the teacher’s view?

Couched in translanguaging (Li, 2018), multimodality (Kress, 2001) and multiliteracies (New London Group, 1996), in this talk, I explore what college students do with their linguistic, and broader semiotic repertoires in an EMI classroom in order to make meaning and sense when en privado. Drawing from individual interviews with five students, this study investigates ways translanguaging supports and shapes learning processes. Through qualitative content analysis, translanguaging practices are linked to in-class note taking, at-home concept exploration, small group discussions and peer-collaboration, and composition writing. Beyond the initial focus on grassroots literacy practices, the analytical protocol also revealed how all students connected translanguaging away from the teacher’s view with their evolving identities as (emergent) multilinguals, with some reporting more positive views than others. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

The translanguaging and transsemiotizing practices of EMI teachers with different disciplinary backgrounds in China

Gu Mingyue, Faculty of Humanities, The Education University of Hong Kong,

Abstract:  EMI research has extensively researched the linguistic practices of teachers and students across multiple educational settings and problematized the monolingual language ideology dominating the language policy and planning in EMI.  Researchers and practitioners hold divergent views of EMI practices; and the challenges faced by the front-line EMI teachers have been reported in terms of issues of resources, culture, history, language proficiency and pedagogy (e.g., Gu, et al, 2021). Recently, emerging research attention has been devoted to how linguistic and semiotic resources have been co-ordinated for meaning making and knowledge construction in EMI teaching and learning. This qualitative study explores the lived experiences of a group of EMI teachers from different disciplines in Chinese universities through investigating how translanguaging, transemiotizing (Li Wei, 2018; Lin et al, 2021) and knowledge construction are dynamically intertwined in classroom teaching. Adopting interviews and lesson recordings, this study aims to theoretically contribute to the field on the the mutually shaping effect between human agents and environment in EMI context. In this study, rather than treat EMI space as static and abstracted from social practice, we regard space as a holistic construct with generative and agentive nature (Canagarajah, 2017). This allows us to 1) identify the emergent nature of meaning and to unravel the interrelationship among different values and structures that construct meaning in EMI lessons; 2) consider resources as self-regulating and generating meanings in interactions and activities (Canagarajah, 2018); 3) investigate translanguagung in EMI as a dynamic eco-social process in which languages, together with other resources, human and semiotic artefacts coordinate and integrate across mediums (Lemke & Lin, 2022). 

Developing Vietnamese Teachers for Using English as Medium of Instruction 
Hoa Nguyen, School of Education, University of New South Wales,
Hang Nguyen, Faculty of English Language Teacher Education, University of Languages and International Studies, Vietnam National University,
Trang Hoang, School of International Studies and Education, University of Technology Sydney,
Andy Gao, School of Education, University of New South Wales,
Sue Starfield, School of Education, University of New South Wales,

Abstract:  While Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) has emerged as a popular pedagogical approach to promoting the learning of subject content and English language in many contexts, little attention has been paid to teachers’ professional development for the use of English as medium of instruction in CLIL teaching.  To address this gap, we reported on an international collaborative project to address the professional development needs of Vietnamese teachers for CLIL teaching. Despite the Vietnamese government’s introduction of CLIL as part of the National Foreign Language (NFL2020) project in 2008, it is evident that the successful implementation of CLIL programmes still face numerous challenges. One of the pressing issues is the lack of teachers who are well trained to teach subject content in English. Drawing on the Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), this qualitative case study examined how Vietnamese teachers undertake professional learning and develop their professional capacity for CLIL teaching. Data were collected from the online interviews with a group of teachers, school leaders, and policy makers. Thematic analysis of the data revealed that Vietnamese teachers experienced many difficulties and challenges in teaching, such as those to do with their language proficiency, students’ and parents’ motivation, teaching resources, working pressure, and class size. Furthermore, the lack of both formal and informal training and professional development related to the use of EMI in CLIL teaching also contributed to the teachers’ pedagogical challenges. These findings inform the efforts to enhance the quality of teachers’ professional learning for implementing the use of EMI in CLIL teaching in Vietnam and beyond. In addition, the study, involving a multilingual research team, contributes to the development and refinement of CHAT as a conceptual tool in understanding teachers’ professional learning and development. 

Between a multilingual ethos and an English pathos: How multilingual scholars navigate the international academia?

Sílvia Melo-Pfeifer, Faculty of Education, University of Hamburg, 

Abstract:  English has been labelled a “lingua killer” in academia and framed as responsible for the homogenization of publication and teaching practices, methodological stances. While the use of English has been predominantly researched in terms of its use in academic publications and as a medium of instruction, less is known about how scholars navigate multilingual research teams and a growing internationalized campus. Research has just rarely analyzed the linguistic dynamics and the language ideologies that guide scholars’ choices and practices in different domains of academic life, such as publishing, doing research, supervising post-graduate students, and teaching. 

Taking a holistic and ecological perspective on what it means to be a scholar, I argue that it is not enough to see researchers as authors of published papers, but in terms of agentive managers of their multilingual repertoires, depending on specific tasks they are called to perform daily. I follow a case study approach, by focusing on the observed and self-reported practices of a group of multilingual scholars, engaged in the development of multilingual pedagogies, in general, and intercomprehension in Romance languages, more particularly. To diagnose and analyze the linguistic ideologies and dynamics that characterize these scholars, a questionnaire was filled out by all 25 members. All declared actively using at least four languages, alongside English, to perform different tasks in their institutions. The linguistic profile of the researchers and their research field are paramount to understand when, why and under which circumstances English is (not) used in researching, publishing, and teaching practices. More specifically, I will focus on how English is perceived as a medium of instruction by multilingual scholars, researching multilingual pedagogies. This case study shadows light on the complex and multilayered linguistic choices made by multilingual scholars to comply with multiple requirements of a multilingual academic life.

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