European Journal of Language Policy

Two types of reflections about English as a medium of instruction

European Journal of Language Policy (2021), 13, (2), 161–180.

Abstract

The worldwide introduction of English as a medium of instruction (EMI) programmes has stimulated numerous reflections within and outside academia. These reflections find their expression in both scholarly studies into EMI and public debates about its impact. In this article we argue that one can distinguish two types of reflections about EMI. The first type focuses on improving EMI. The second type focuses on the legitimation of EMI, that is whether EMI programmes are justified in view of their assumptions and consequences. We investigate the genesis and the differences between two separate discourses that express the different types of reflections. We unfold a history that shows that roughly three phases can be distinguished in the development of EMI: the incubation of EMI, its consolidation and its politicisation. We argue that the heuristic value of the two types of reflection is that they are conducive to comprehending this development of EMI and look at it with critical eyes. In addition, we suggest that politicised issues like the impact of Englishization on the cultural identity, language hierarchies, top-down implementations of language policies and the inequalities regarding the access to EMI programmes might be fruitfully addressed in terms of linguistic justice and democracy. By distinguishing two types of reflection, blind spots in EMI research can be revealed.

L’introduction mondiale des programmes en anglais (EMI) a suscité de nombreuses réflexions à l’intérieur et à l’extérieur du monde universitaire. Ces réflexions trouvent leur expression à la fois dans les études scientifiques sur l’enseignement en anglais et dans les débats publics sur son impact. Dans cet article, nous soutenons que l’on peut distinguer deux types de réflexions sur l’enseignement en anglais. Le premier type se concentre sur l’amélioration de l’enseignement EMI. Le second type se concentre sur la légitimation de l’enseignement en anglais, c’est-à-dire si les programmes EMI sont justifiés au vu de leurs hypothèses et de leurs conséquences. Nous étudions la genèse et les différences entre deux discours distincts qui expriment les différents types de réflexions. Nous dévoilons une histoire qui montre qu’en gros trois phases peuvent être distinguées dans le développement de l’enseignement en anglais: l’incubation de l’enseignement en anglais, sa consolidation et sa politisation. Nous soutenons que la valeur heuristique des deux types de réflexion est qu’ils sont propices à comprendre ce développement de l’enseignement en anglais et à le soumettre à la critique. En outre, nous suggérons que des questions politisées telles que l’impact de l’anglais sur l’identité culturelle, les hiérarchies linguistiques, la mise en œuvre hiérarchisée des politiques linguistiques et les inégalités concernant l’accès aux programmes EMI pourraient être abordées avec succès en termes de justice linguistique et de démocratie. En distinguant deux types de réflexion, des lacunes dans la recherche EMI se sont dévoilées.

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Gabriëls, René

Wilkinson, Robert