When English is a medium of instruction, English is basically the means of learning. English- Medium Instruction (EMI) teachers are the content specialist who facilitate the understanding of content subjects such as Mathematics, Engineering, Information Technology, and others through English. It is believed that when learners are interested in a topic of a content subject, they will feel more motivated to acquire the language to communicate. In relation to EMI, there was a course entitled An Introductory Course to English as Medium of Instruction (EMI) for Higher Education Lecturers organised by the Regional Language Centre (RELC).
The course was fully conducted by language specialists. The main aim of the course was to develop an understanding of the key principles, theories, and practice of EMI at higher education among the participants. In addition, it provided the opportunity for the participants to demonstrate their knowledge in designing lesson plan that integrates content and language also, conducting micro-teaching.
The course was attended by content and language teachers from various countries in Southeast Asia including Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei and Myanmar. The writer was the sole representative of Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM). It was a great experience as the teachers were able to learn and discover EMI-oriented teaching practices applied in other countries and share their understanding and views on the concept of EMI. Also, the significance of integrating language components in teaching content subjects and the possibilities of having collaboration among the content and language teachers were also discussed.
After attending the course, the writer believes that it would be a wonderful idea if there is an integration between learning content and language components in UTHM. This could be achieved through several strategies namely:
- Faculties and the Centre for Language Studies go beyond the existing curriculum and work together to achieve learning objectives which comprise content objectives and language components. Faculties may consider embedding language components in their content subjects, and it should be more than just proofreading and translating like what we are practising now. At the same time, language teachers will be able to learn new knowledge from the content-subject and content teachers may enhance their English language as well.
- Content teachers may look into the prospects of benefits that the students can gain if their teachers accept EMI and collaborate with language teachers. They may collaborate in which the content teachers may focus more in developing tasks related to concepts of the subject area, meanwhile, the language teachers may work on the language demands which include follow-up activities. Besides obtaining technical knowledge on the subject, at the same time, the students are able to enhance and apply English language functions. This is in line with the university aspiration to produce graduates with global literacy skills.
- It is also might be a valuable effort if the university can provide necessary language training and support for the content lecturers to leave their first language (L1) comfort zone and teach more confidently in English language. For instance, an Engineering lecturer may incorporate English components when explaining the content objectives, providing written and oral instructions, and explaining conceptual diagrams with English terminologies. Nevertheless, teaching through English may require the content teachers to use variety of strategies such as code switching.
In brief, it can be concluded that this course is very helpful and could be a starting point for content and language teachers to take some time to re-evaluate their existing objectives and learning outcomes in their lessons. Also, it allows the teachers to have new perspectives and better acceptance of EMI in higher education. The teachers may consider paying attention to both language and content to ensure that the materials provide solid academic language and skill development. All in all, there are many benefits that can be gained from collaborative content and language teaching through EMI.
Nurzarina Abdul Samad
English Language Teacher
Centre for Language Studies
Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM)