Would you take business, science, and mathematics courses in a foreign language?

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Any glance at a “Teach English as a foreign language,” catalog will tell you that the English language is growing in popularity around the world. Some claim China will soon take over global manufacturing and they call for more Mandarin classes in business schools, others believe that Spanish will soon be battling English for the most spoken language in the United States. As for now, there’s no doubt that English is currently the language of global studies in the United States and around the world. Nowadays, more and more Universities around the world are offering regular classes in English, not just English classes, but regular science, business, mathematics, and technology courses taught entirely in English. This method is referred to as English as a medium of instruction, or EMI.

There are certain benefits to learning a new language by immersion, but the use of EMI goes beyond that. It labels English as the language of higher education.

In parts of the world where schooling is minimal, such as many villages in Africa, teaching in English is a great way to prepare students for studying elsewhere in the world. The English language is quickly growing into a sort of passport for international travel and global interaction. A large percentage of global business transactions take place in English, and more and more travelers are finding that the English language is the most common language spoken around the world. Even though almost two billion people speak Mandarin Chinese, followed by 414 million who speak Spanish, compared to just 375 people who speak English, these other languages haven’t spread around the globe nearly as much.

Many countries around the world, including Denmark, China, and Qatar, are mostly pro-English and choose to promote EMI. At the University of Copenhagen, you can earn your Master’s or PhD without knowing any Danish whatsoever. This phenomenon is what poses problems around the world. Many countries, including Israel and Venezuela have instituted anti-EMI policies in an effort to help the national language survive in academic life.

There are additional problems with the use of EMI in the classroom. For example, when Universities attract international students, there may be a classroom full of speakers from dozens of different countries, many of whom may not speak the teacher’s native language. This makes every teacher a sort of ESL teacher, but one who often has no interest or training in teaching ESL When the British Council and University of Oxford set out to find more information regarding English as a medium of instruction, their report shows that they discovered a major disconnect between students’ and teachers’ expectations.

Teachers of these non-ESL subjects don’t consider it part of their job to teach English to their math, science, or medical students. Many of them had no prior experience or education in how to teach in an EMI classroom, making it more difficult for the students to keep up. When the teachers don’t feel the need to improve their students’ English, the students are left to fend for themselves.

There are even more hurdles than students’ poor English. Many schools and programs in places such as China successfully attract English-speaking students to their EMI classrooms, yet the students arrive and find it impossible to understand their teachers. EMI seems like an excellent way to help students further their English fluency, and it allows universities to market to a global audience, but the problems are complex and varied. Additionally, EMI establishes a single language for global studies, which is especially useful in international courses such as mathematics and medicine. However, it seems that the EMI policies and training within the educational system, or lack there of, are the major barriers this method will face in the years to come.

Reading Comprehension

Universities teaching courses in English.

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Writing Prompt

INTERMEDIATE: In 200 words, explain why you think some countries do not allow English as a medium of instruction, and give your opinion on whether it is a good idea or not for your country.

ADVANCED: List the cons of EMI (use those in the article and any others you might know) and write a potential solution to each issue. Each solution should be about 3 sentences long.

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