Overview of EMI Development

  • Wenli TsouEmail author
  • Shin-Mei Kao
Part of the English Language Education book series (ELED, volume 8)


Content teaching in English, also known as English as a medium of instruction (EMI), has become increasingly widespread due to globalization and internationalization, particularly for educational institutions that accommodate international faculty members, researchers, and students with different language backgrounds. Although bilingual and multilingual education have existed for a long time and practiced in many forms (National Association of Bilingual Education, NABE, Retrieved from, 2016), the accelerating trend of using English as an instructional language in higher education institutions (HEIs) in nonnative English-speaking countries is a more recent phenomenon.

EMI can be viewed as a specific educational mode under the umbrella term of bilingual or multilingual education that features any use of two or more languages in school–by teachers or students or both–for a variety of social and pedagogical purposes (National Association of Bilingual Education, NABE, Retrieved from, 2016). EMI distinguishes itself from other frequent models in bilingual education by the reason of choosing English as the instructional medium. Conventionally, the instructional media in bilingual education usually include the mainstream language(s), the native language(s) of the learners, or the desired second or foreign language(s) to be learned with the goals of helping the learners adapting to mainstream society, preserving a minority heritage, or learning a foreign language efficiently. In most EMI contexts, especially in higher education, English may not be the native language of any participant nor a mainstream language outside the classroom. Although some may argue that taking a multilingual approach in higher education can improve student access and success in academic achievement (Van der Walt C, Multilingual higher education: Beyond English medium orientations. Multilingual Matters, Bristol, 2013), English is chosen as the primary instructional medium in higher education, especially in Asia, mainly because it is one of the most widely taught foreign languages and its critical role in publication, technology, and academia in the twenty-first century (Graddol D, English next. British Council, 2006).

This new trend in higher education has caught the attention of administrative authorities, content teachers, and language specialists on the impacts and ecological changes in the classroom. Issues such as incorporating adequate teaching techniques, course materials, interdisciplinary collaboration, teacher training, and assessments have been raised among EMI practitioners. Regardless the trend, controversial issues in conducting EMI in Asian universities have also raised debates and skepticism. Questions, such as students’ diversifying English proficiency levels and content teachers’ readiness for EMI, remain unanswered. This chapter will provide an overview of EMI development in Europe and in Asia, including its history and current practice. The overview is then followed by EMI in Taiwan and its future trends.


High Education International Student Language Policy English Proficiency Bilingual Education 
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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Foreign Languages and LiteratureNational Cheng Kung UniversityTainanTaiwan

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