Content adaptations in English-medium Instruction: comparing L1 and English-medium lectures

Zuaro, Beatrice (2023). Content adaptations in English-medium Instruction: comparing L1 and English-medium lectures. In: ELINET First Annual Conference, 13-15 Apr 2023, University of Glasgow.


In this talk I will present results from a study comparing five sets of matching lectures, from various disciplines. The lectures are delivered by the same lecturer about the same content, but at two different degree programmes: an English-medium one, and an L1-medium one. The main aim of the investigation is to identify which changes, if any, accompany the linguistic shift from L1 to EMI (English-medium Instruction). The study is theoretically informed by Vygotskijan views of sociocultural learning, positing a key role of language as a cognitive tool. The analysis presented develops over a two-step process: as a first step it identifies comparable content by means of matching macro-units, a notion here introduced building on Halliday’s “information units”; secondly, it proceeds to a micro-reading of matching macro-units in each set, to identify differences in content quantity and discourse organization. Results reveal a high correspondence of the core topics addressed in the lectures; however, significant differences in the way such knowledge is conveyed are also observed. Such differences are grouped into three categories: differences in content quantity, differences in content selection and differences in rhetorical devices used. The effects of such content and discourse adaptations over an entire university course remain to be investigated in future research. Nonetheless, the study’s findings raise important questions as to the implications of content and discourse adaptations in EMI lectures; the additional effort required of EMI lecturers; and the framing of EMI as an ‘internationalization’ strategy. Overall, in pointing out that EMI does not simply imply a change in the medium of instruction, but it, rather, necessarily entails specific adaptations, the present study hopes to contribute to the general understanding of EMI and help inform EMI curriculum design, as well as lecturer training.

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