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Sharing Perspectives on English-Medium Instruction

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Edited By Katherine Ackerley, Marta Guarda and Francesca Helm

English is increasingly used as a medium of instruction in European higher education not only in northern countries, but also in the European ‘south’. This volume is fruit of a project which was carried out in a public university based in the north-east of Italy with the aim of delivering professional development for university lecturers engaged in EMI. It begins with an overview of the European context, the Italian context, and some of the arguments against the indiscriminate spread of English as a medium of instruction in higher education. The volume then focuses on the microcontext of the university, giving voice to the various stakeholders in EMI. These include researchers, lecturers, administrative staff, those involved in professional development and students. The central part of the volume presents the views and experiences of twelve EMI lecturers from a range of academic disciplines. In sharing these perspectives on EMI, the volume hopes to stimulate critical dialogue and research on the many issues involved in this aspect of internationalisation in higher education institutions.

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The literary scholar (Alessandra Petrina)

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ALESSANDRA PETRINA1

The literary scholar

A few years ago, as part of an Erasmus exchange, I spent a few days in the English Department of a Swiss university. We began with a graduate seminar open to students from other departments, a seminar at which I was invited to give a short paper. When I asked in which language I should give my paper, they looked at me in some surprise. “Any language, really, but given the topic, perhaps it would be better to give it in English?”

What surprised me were the question-and-answer sessions that followed each paper. As it happens, most papers were in English, but questions could be in German, French or even Italian – in fact, any of the three major Swiss languages, as well as English – and answers would also be multilingual. What mattered, for one, was not the medium: it was the fact that the message was getting through. On the other hand, their extreme linguistic flexibility allowed for a correct pairing of language with subject matter: given the topic, one could then choose the appropriate language. Next to this cheerful multilingualism, life in the English Department of that university was equally surprising, if for opposite reasons, since every kind of communication, whether oral or written, was exclusively in English: the Department caretaker would tell first-year students where the common room was in English, and colleagues, though themselves Swiss and speaking French outside the campus, would...

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