University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > MEITS Multilingualism Seminars > Opening the Pandora Box of the “E” in EMI: A quest for standardization, ELF, or something more?

Opening the Pandora Box of the “E” in EMI: A quest for standardization, ELF, or something more?

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English medium instruction (EMI) has been a widely adopted response to the growing forces of globalization that shape part of the higher education reality in the 21st century. However, while EMI has received much enthusiasm on the policy level, defining what the English language means remains a highly contested process. To explore how the “E” in EMI is unpacked, in this presentation I draw attention to the tensions between two conceptualizations of English in EMI settings: English as an idealized, homogenous entity, and English as a lingua franca (ELF). Drawing on classroom observation and focus group data collected from a larger study, I show how lecturers at a Taiwanese university construct and communicate knowledge through a diverse set of languages, semiotic resources, and modalities. Specifically, English is collectively shared by all participants in the classrooms, creatively and strategically employed for meaning-making. Nonetheless, the majority of the students aspired for “standards” that resembled North American English, even though being fully aware of the controversies surrounding native-speaker discourse. The uncomfortable reality unveils some affordances and constraints of ELF : while ELF is a pragmatic solution to facilitate communication between speakers of different languages, it is still ultimately about English, which may implicitly, albeit unintentionally, strengthen the hegemony of the language and further the depth of English penetration. This presentation concludes by borrowing inspirations from current decolonization movements in higher education, highlighting how thinking in “decolonial” ways may be useful in challenging the “business as usual” model commonly adopted in policy-making, teaching, and research.

This talk is part of the MEITS Multilingualism Seminars series.

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