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English Medium Instruction

English Medium Instruction (EMI) is defined as «the use of the English language to teach academic subjects other than English itself in countries or jurisdictions where the first language of the majority of the population is not English» (Macaro, 2018, p. 19). Different scholars (e.g., Aguilar, 2017; Dearden, 2015; Paulsrud, 2014; Hellekjaer, 2019) have also proposed similar definitions. Based on these previous definitions, Pecorari and Malmström (2018) summarised the four characteristics of EMI applications in various settings in the following way:

1. English is the language used for instructional purposes. 

2. English is not itself the subject being taught. 

3. Language development is not a primary intended outcome. 

4. For most participants in the setting, English is a second language (L2).

Macaro (2018) also classify EMI programmes as ‘hard EMI subjects’ and soft EMI subjects. According to him, academic subjects such as Biology, Engineering, Geography, Politics, and Economics can be grouped in the former category, whereas subjects such as International Business Studies, Applied Linguistics, or TESOL can be grouped in the latter. The classification is based on the assumption “the ‘hard EMI subjects’ can be perfectly well taught in the home language, but a choice is made by the institution to offer them in English” (p. 19). However, it would be quite hard in soft EMI subjects not to use English in the classroom. This hard vs soft classification, albeit at a different level, can also be found in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) settings (Ball, Kelly & Clegg, 2015). 

In EMI programmes, language gain is not one of the primary goals (Aguilar, 2017; Paulsrud, 2014). However, in some recent surveys, it is reported that some learners aim to improve their language proficiency and anticipate a dual focus in EMI programmes by focusing on both content and English at the same time (Galloway & Ruegg, 2020). This implication is regarded as the goal of «kill two birds with one stone» (p. 552) by Hu and Lei (2013). 

Models of EMI

Macaro (2018) identifies five EMI models used in different settings around the World, sometimes in isolation some other times in combination. Before they finish their secondary education in the Selection Model, the students who apply for EMI studies in HE, are asked to satisfy a proficiency level in English required by the EMI programme administrators. This model requires the students to prove that they have basic English knowledge before they start their programmes so the language teachers can support them with English for Academic Purposes (EAP) or English for Specific Purposes (ESP) during their studies, and content teachers can focus on teaching students the academic subject.

The second model, the Preparatory Year, includes an additional year for students willing to study in EMI programmes before starting their EMI studies focusing on intensive English. This is used in many Middle East North Africa (MENA) countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey. The intensive English courses can be either only general English or a combination of general English and EAP/ESP courses, depending on the context. 

The Concurrent Support Model gives priority to required content knowledge in a specific field so that all students who satisfy this requirement are eligible to enroll in EMI programmes in a university. During their studies, the students are offered language support (e.g., general English courses) and some EAP or ESP courses. Macaro (2018) reports that certain universities in Hong Kong and Italy use it even though it is not widespread. 

The Multilingual Model, which is also known as partial EMI, would imply that some aspects (e.g., courses, sessions in some courses, assessment) would be taught through English, whereas the students’ first language would be used in some other respects. It can be structured as in the case of Turkey (Curle, Yuksel, Soruc & Altay, 2020), where 30% of the courses are taught via EMI and the rest in the native language (L1), or it can include some somehow causal practise of switching between languages within one lesson so that the students can easily follow EMI courses. Macaro (2018) highlights the main problem with this model: Although it can be quite useful for the incoming home students with low English proficiency, this model may not be suitable for international students who do not share the L1 of the home students. Different versions of this model have been used in settings such as China (Wu, 2006), Hong Kong (Pun & Macaro, 2019), Japan (Macaro et al., 2018), Sweden (Malmström, Pecorari, & Gustafsson, 2016), and Taiwan (Chou, 2018) as well as in Turkey (Curle et al.; Source et al., 2018).  

Finally, Macaro (2018) discusses the Ostrich Model, as can be inferred from its name, where all stakeholders «bury their heads in the sand» (p. 233) and assume that no problem about EMI studies exist or they might go away if they are overlooked. This is not a model, but having no planning and adjustments for learners is categorized as one. 

Dr. Dogan Yuksel, Department of Foreign Language Education, Kocaeli University, Kocaeli, Turkey. 


Aguilar, M. (2017). Engineering lecturers’ views on CLIL and EMI. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 20, 722–735. 10.1080/13670050.2015.1073664. 

Ball, P., Kelly, K., & Clegg, J. (2015). Putting CLIL into practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chou, M.-H. (2018). Speaking anxiety and strategy use for learning English as a foreign language in full and partial English-medium instruction contexts. TESOL Quarterly52(3), 611–633.

Curle, S., Yuksel, D., Soruc, A., & Altay, M. (2020). Predictors of English medium instruction academic success: English proficiency versus first language medium. System, 95

Dearden, J. (2015). English as a medium of instruction–a growing global phenomenon. London: British Council. 

Galloway, N. & Ruegg, R. (2020). The provision of student support on English Medium Instruction programmes in Japan and China. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 45.

Hellekjær, G.-O. (2010). Lecture comprehension in English-medium higher education. Hermes Journal of Language and Communication Studies, 45, 11–34.

Hu, G., Li, L., & Lei, J. (2014). English-medium instruction at a Chinese University: Rhetoric and reality. Language Policy

Macaro, E. (2018). English medium instruction. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Macaro, E., Curle, S., Pun, J., An, J., & Dearden, J. (2018). A systematic review of English medium instruction in higher education. Language Teaching, 51(1), pp. 36-76.

Malmström, H., Pecorari, D., & Gustafsson, M. (2016). Size and development of academic vocabulary in English medium instruction. In S. Göpferich & I. Neumann (Eds.), Developing and assessing academic and professional writing skills(pp.  45-69). Peter Lang.

Minifie, J. (1998). Merhaba…Allaha ısmarladık: A sabbatical year in Turkey. Journal of College Admission, 158, 25–29.

Paulsrud, B. Y. (2014). English-medium instruction in Sweden: Perspectives and practices in two upper-secondary schools. Doctoral dissertation, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.

Pecorari, D. & Malmström, H. (2018). At the crossroads of TESOL and English medium instruction. TESOL Quarterly, 52(3), 497- 515. 

Pun, J., & Macaro, E. (2019). The effect of first and second language use on question types in English medium instruction science classrooms in Hong Kong. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 22(1), 64-77. 

Soruç, A., Dinler, A., & Griffiths, C. (2018). Listening comprehension strategies of EMI students in Turkey. In Y. Kırkgöz & K. Dikilitaş (Eds.), Key issues in English for specific purposes in higher education (pp. 265–287). Springer, Cham.

Wu, W. (2006). Students’ attitudes toward EMI: Using Chung Hua University as an example. Journal of Educational and Foreign Language and …, (December), 67–84. Retrieved from

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