Kristina Hultgren

EMI and multilingualism in non-English-dominant universities: reflecting on symptoms and root causes

The massive growth in English as a medium of instruction (EMI) in non-English-dominant universities in Europe and beyond is undisputed (Dearden 2014; Wächter and Maiworm 2014; Hultgren et al. 2015), as is the recognition that it both enables and constrains multilingualism. Considering the case of Nordic universities, the region of Europe which is most penetrated by EMI (Wächter and Maiworm 2014), this keynote adopts an inquisitive and critical stance not only towards ‘EMI’ by also towards ‘multilingualism’ as a Panglossian orthodoxy of much current socio- and applied linguistics. I ask questions about whose and what kind of multilingualism gains priority and why. Many Nordic universities have adopted a ‘parallel language policy’, which is meant to safeguard the national language(s) vis-à-vis a perceived encroachment from English. Drawing on my own and others’ research, I scrutinize the concept of parallellingualism and point to three key features: 1) its contested meaning; 2) its essentialised ontology; and 3) its excluding capacities. From this, I move on to ponder whether multilingualism is always and inherently an ideology that is worth striving for. I conclude by offering an additional concern for socio- and applied linguists to engage with which focuses more on root causes than on symptoms: the fact that EMI, and English as an academic language more generally, is inextricably nested within ideologies of neoliberalism and upheld by metrics-based performance indicators and international benchmarking systems.

Listen to the keynote here. Mac users please cut and paste link into Google Chrome.