Challenges in EMI

Back in 2005 I was a on an international work camp in Iceland. After a pleasant flight to Reykjavik, I found a hostel booked for our labour team. At the hostel, I tried to chat with a French guy and asked if he was hungry and ready to go find some food. He misunderstood me and responded, “No, I’m not angry!”

Those two weeks in Iceland taught me a great deal about communication in English in international environment. In the first place, people are more or less the same despite where they come from. Secondly, perfect language skills don’t matter if you are mute. The conclusion I deducted from this was that if I just talk anything – substance I found secondary at the time – I would get along just fine in multicultural environment.

At the University, it is impossible to disregard the substance of the communication anymore, but the core of the Iceland’s lesson is still valid. Communication isn’t just sharing information to one another, but it is also a moment where individuals share a common situation. This means that in communication, it is important that people can set themselves in a level where they can understand each other and also to be understood.

In this picture, I have drawn a basic model how I see challenges in English medium instruction. The model consists of three elements: individual element, cultural and institutional background and the topics that would be the actual substance of learning events. The key question is how one can find the common level of communication where all three elements would be included.