“He's a Good Lecturer in Any Language”: Shifting From L1 to English and Implications for EMI Training

“He's a Good Lecturer in Any Language”: Shifting From L1 to English and Implications for EMI Training

Marta Aguilar-Pérez (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain) and Elisabet Arnó-Macià (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2318-6.ch008


With English-medium instruction (EMI) as a growing trend worldwide, a major concern is whether teaching quality is affected in the shift from L1 to English. Taking a broad view of effective EMI teaching, which goes beyond language proficiency, this chapter analyzes two parallel lectures delivered in the L1 and in English by the same lecturer, exemplary of good teaching. Combining qualitative and quantitative methods, this study explores what makes effective EMI teaching according to stakeholders' perspectives and whether it changes from L1 to EMI. By comparing lecturer's discourse and lecturing style (personal/impersonal, interactive/monologic, formal/informal), students' satisfaction, accounts of classroom practices, and participants' views of what makes effective lecturing, this study provides a detailed view of the elements that make up effective EMI lecturing in order to derive implications for EMI training.
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Within the growing number of programs and courses taught in English worldwide (Fenton-Smith, Humphreys & Walkinshaw, 2017) and especially in Europe (Wachter & Maiworm, 2014; Wilkinson, 2017), concerns have been raised as to the purportedly lack of teaching quality and impoverished content that changing from L1 to English may result in (Guarda & Helm, 2017; Ball & Lindsay, 2013Costa & Coleman, 2013; Bradford, 2013; Dimova, Hultgren & Jensen, 2015). As Doiz, Lasagabaster & Sierra (2011, p. 347) pointed out:

[w]hile the number of programs in English offered by European universities has increased considerably, their implementation poses various questions: the adequacy of the teachers’ linguistic competence to deliver the courses in English; the students’ understanding of the content knowledge; or the possible detrimental effect of English medium instruction on the quality of the programs.

Teaching quality may be an elusive concept encompassing pedagogy, language proficiency and content expertise. Thus, it is necessary to closely analyze those changes made in the transition to a foreign language (English) to find out whether they undermine quality, and it may be insightful to unearth those factors impinging on successful EMI. Studies seem to coincide in that effective EMI teaching resides in different key components that go beyond language proficiency, such as effective lecturing behavior and personal attitude (Tatzl, 2011); or academic skills and motivation (Rose, Curle, Aizawa & Thompson, 2019). While the impact of lecturers’ English proficiency is a contentious issue (Ackerley, Guarda & Helm, 2017)—either because of lecturers’ and students’ complaints or from lecturers’ refusal to integrate language in their classes—non-linguistic components (lecturing behavior and personal attitude) have probably not received as much attention. This study explores effective EMI lecturing precisely by examining lecturing behavior and personal attitude. By taking one case in point, an exemplary good lecturer (rated as such by students), this study presents a detailed analysis of the lecturer’s performance by comparing his lecturing style in L1 and in EMI and viewing it against the lecturer and students’ perspectives. Such close examination of the features of effective teaching in the switch from L1 to EMI can lead to an overall appraisal of what makes effective EMI teaching, thereby reducing the risk of quality loss in EMI implementation.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Translanguaging: The use of participants’ multilingual repertoire in an event which was supposed to be developed in a specific language (e.g. the use of the L1 in an EMI context). In contrast with code-switching, translanguaging is usually planned.

Effective Lecturing: A construct encompassing multiple factors (lecturer’s attitude, skills, strategies). In EMI, it extends beyond language proficiency, and helps ascertain participants’ satisfaction and attainment of learning outcomes.

EMI (English-Medium Instruction): The use of English as the language of instruction in contexts in which English is a foreign language (usually in higher education). It stands in contrast with ICLHE or CLIL, as EMI does not usually involve an explicit focus on language.

Signposting: Verbal markers used in spoken discourse to structure the message and thus to help the listener predict and understand the message (similar to textual metadiscourse).

CAF (Complexity, Accuracy and Fluency): Constructs commonly used in second language acquisition research to measure level of development in language production. Complexity (lexical or structural) refers to the richness and sophistication of vocabulary and syntax, accuracy refers to errors, and fluency refers to flow of message (here measured as syllables per minute).

Lecturing Style: The way a lecture is delivered in terms of interactivity, use of a personal/impersonal tone or a formal/informal style.

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