Reconstructing the EMI environment: The space for Chinese in English courses in sub-degree programs in Hong Kong

Bernie C N Mak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The perception of EMI as an "English-only" approach makes Hong Kong local English teachers (LETs) have a tense relationship with the use of Chinese in post-secondary education. However, recent studies have proposed that the EMI environment is a setting where English is used as a lingua franca (ELF), not as a restricted code to replace the shared first language. This Hong-Kong-based action research aims to explore the roles of Chinese in freshman English courses where EMI is expected. One hundred sub-degree students were allocated into two groups, one given a lecture on academic writing in English only while another given the same lecture in English supplemented by Chinese. The students were asked to complete a questionnaire on their learning experience afterwards. Independent samples t-tests suggest that the latter might 1) enhance students' understanding of academic contents, 2) create more space for students to express complicated ideas, 3) motivate them to participate more actively, and 4) help them integrate into collaborative learning. The findings were supported by interviews with the student representatives. This study argues that it is principle and simultaneously adopt code-switching between English and Chinese in sub-degree programs. Such openness will create an authentic context benefiting mediocre students who are unconfident in English. It also suggests that LETs should avoid completely banning the use of L1 in class to reinforce a monolingual culture, which deviates from the multilingual practices in actual social interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-292
Number of pages21
JournalAsian ESP Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

User-Defined Keywords

  • Bilingual education
  • Code-switching
  • ELF
  • EMI
  • LETs


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