Multilingual Monday, 27th September

1. The first of no fewer than three sneak previews today of new publications on English Medium Instruction/Education in Higher Education, all with a gentle admonitory tone, my colleague Ann Veitch’s British Council  ‘perspective paper’ on English in higher education – English medium.

Ann’s introduction is admirably clear: “English, driven by geo-political forces (…) plays a central role in HE, particularly internationalised HE, around the world. EMI has rightly been labelled a phenomenon which is ‘unstoppable’, and it is this reality which must be addressed. British Council work in English is based on the beliefs that English provides young people with skills for employability, better access to networks and personal and professional opportunities. It follows that we do not protest or resist the existence of EMI in HE; nor, equally, do we promote ‘more’ EMI. This would often mean endorsing the poor policy and implementation which lead to many of the negative impacts outlined above. British Council work in the area of EMI is intended to promote better quality EMI which improves or, at the very least, maintains outcomes for students, content lecturers, language specialists, institutions and educational systems.”

PDF below.

2. The second sneak preview is of Global mapping of English as a medium of instruction in higher education: 2020 and beyond. A team led by Heath Rose from Oxford University surveyed the introduction and expansion of English as a medium of instruction (EMI) in higher education (HE) in 52 countries eligible for Official Development Assistance, in order to shed light on the whys and wherefores of EMI provision in many countries which are relatively less resourced and have been under-researched over the past decade with regards to EMI in HE.

As EMI develops (unstoppably?) in ODA recipient contexts, the survey recommends more research in a number of areas, including into “whether EMI is able to (combat) a potential Matthew Effect, such as by raising university reputation, or whether it contributes to new, local inequalities. There is a need for critical research examining the effects of EMI with respect to local socio-cultural factors and local student needs, including whether EMI is being implemented in the most appropriate way in terms of maintaining educational standards and ensuring quality of education”.

PDF below and more on the Matthew Effect here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_effect

3. Third, and yet more tightly focussed, written by a team led by Andrew Linn from the University of Westminster, is Current practice in English-medium education in higher education: Case studies from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, which takes a more detailed look at EME practice in four countries.

One of the report’s more sombre (and tentative and elegantly expressed) findings is the suggestion that those involved in EME in HE should be aware of “the possibility that EME serves to perpetuate existing global and societal divides. English, in other words, may act as a propeller of existing geopolitical and societal stratifications, accumulating privilege where privilege already exists and exacerbating challenges where challenges already exist”.

PDF below.

4. And, finally, some clicks and whistles! First, the whistles:

the ECML poster I shared two weeks ago made mention of the Silbo whistling language from La Gomera in The Canary Islands, and here’s a piece from The Guardian last year about how Silbo has been re-imagined as the language of the Bucharest Mafia in Romanian film director Corneliu Porumboiu’s new film https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/may/07/sing-like-a-canary-the-whistling-consultant-who-taught-romanian-noir-gangsters-a-tune

Second, a short video on Silbo which gives you a chance to hear it ‘spoken’ https://youtu.be/C0CIRCjoICA

Third, an interesting long read from last weekend’s Observer on the possibility that all speech began as whistles, which ironically makes no mention of Silbo https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/sep/25/could-whistling-shed-light-on-the-origins-of-speech-aas-shepherds-language

Nor does it mention Kuş dili, the Turkish ‘bird language’ https://youtu.be/l117wfB0g3o

I’d better keep the clicks till next time, I think!

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