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The University of Southampton
Centre for Linguistics, Language Education and Acquisition Research

A critical look at English-medium education in and out of context Seminar

17:00 - 18:30
10 February 2021

Event details

Invited speaker: David Block, ICREA and Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Against the backdrop of the neoliberalization of higher education (HE) and the global spread of English, in recent years there has been an exponential increase in the number of European universities offering English-medium education (EME) as a key part of their internationalisation policies. In some contexts, such as Spain, EME has often been introduced with an additional purpose in mind: not only is it seen as a key part internationalization policy, but it is also considered to be a means through which home students can improve their English language skills. At the heart of these developments are EME lecturers, who have moved from teaching their speciality subjects in their L1(s) to teaching them in English. Language and identity research has shown how language practices impact on, and indeed are integral to, the ongoing emergence of identity, and this means that EME cannot but have consequences with regard to how university lecturers position themselves and are positioned by others. Among other things, there are tensions arising around issues such as the lecturers’ self-portrayals as ‘not English instructors’, as pedagogues (or not, as the case may be), as subject specialists with ‘disciplinary identities’ (Hyland, 2012), as multilinguals deploying rich linguistic repertoires and (possibly) as puppets in a pantomime (in that EME is perhaps neither necessary nor actually happening as envisioned). Examining how EME is carried out in different contexts, one readily sees how lecturers’ experiences and their expressed views may differ considerably from the idealised (though often underdeveloped) versions of EME presented in the official language policies of universities and the public declarations of administrators responsible for the introduction of EME. Such a state of affairs should be food for thought, or even cause for concern, for those promoting EME in HE.

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