Teachers’ Identities, Attitudes and Beliefs in English-Medium Instruction at a Catalan university

2018 edition

Balbina Moncada Comas

English is the dominant language in academia, and English-mediated activities are common in all disciplinary subjects, such as publications in international journals and conferences. Many countries where English is not a national language have now adopted English-medium instruction (EMI) as a result of the internationalization of higher education in an attempt to promote multilingualism and diversity in language learning. Internationalization has been accompanied then by the Englishization of tertiary institutions, strengthening and consolidating the status of English as the language for internationalization and accelerating the proliferation of EMI. 

EMI, understood as the teaching of academic subjects in English in contexts where this language is not typically used, is implemented to facilitate communication where students are linguistically diverse (Dearden & Macaro, 2015). Nevertheless, the assumption is that language learning takes place because of EMI’s immersive nature (Fortanet-Gómez, 2012). EMI has therefore become CLILised, converted in some sense to Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), because institutions generally suggest that EMI-students improve their English proficiency by being taught via English.

My research attempts to analyse how and to what extent the implementation of EMI at a Catalan university impacts on teachers’ attitudes and beliefs about their teaching activity and their sense of identity as multilingual professionals and how they evolve over the course of EMI, since instead of using the shared language with the majority of their students (Catalan/Spanish), lecturers are required to use English. Data collection includes interviews, logs and observation/video-recording of EMI classes. By examining critical episodes from classes and accounts of EMI experiences provided by teachers and students, the study explores EMI from different angles. Among other things, it examines how professors position themselves as specialists in their field and as conveyers of their English expertise, focusing on how their self-positioning as EMI professors converges with and diverges from the university’s official language policy and the putative purpose of EMI gleaned from university documents. 

Preliminary findings show that English is not the only language present in class: communication among students is carried out in their L1, lecturers and students make use of code-switching and translation is used as a teaching strategy. The general picture I glean from my research is probably not what the organisers and administrators of EMI programmes had in mind when they began to offer subjects on their courses in English.

Dearden, J. & Macaro, E. (2016). Higher Education Teacher’s Attitudes towards English Medium Instruction. A Three-Country Comparison. SSLLTT (3): 455-486.
Fortanet-Gómez, I. (2012). Academics’ Beliefs about Language Use and Proficiency in Spanish Multilingual Higher Education. AILA, 25, 48-63.