IS SPAIN DIFFERENT? UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS’ PERCEPTIONS ABOUT THE USE OF ENGLISH
The internationalization of Higher Education together with the XXIst century economic and social needs, such as educating a globalised workforce, searching for new markets for international education or attracting international academic talent all have a common element: English as the medium of communication. In the business world, English is the lingua franca (Kankaanranta and Planken, 2010; Louhiala-Salminen and Kankaanranta, 2012) so many firms demand a good command of English as a basic requirement for their employees’ career development (Parey and Waldinger, 2011). For these reasons, many students are encouraged to study their university degrees in English. However, society and more specifically students’ perception about the importance of English varies (Biggs, 1985; Ramsden, 1991; Lizzio et al., 2002).
The objective of this paper is to analyse whether the language of instruction (English vs. Spanish) in undergraduate university degrees determines a different use of English, analysed in a five year horizon (2010-2015) through students’ perceptions. Specifically we posit the following hypotheses:
H1a: EMI (English as a medium of instruction) students are more motivated towards English than non-EMI students.
H1b: Both groups have increased their motivation towards English in the five year horizon under consideration.
H2a: Students’ use of extra-mural English is higher for EMI groups than for non-EMI groups.
H2b: Both groups have increased their use of extra-mural English in a five year horizon.
A questionnaire was designed and administered in two different waves to a sample of 146 undergraduate students of the Business Administration Degree taught in English and in Spanish at the Complutense University of Madrid. Half of the sample completed the questionnaire in the first wave in 2010 and half in the second wave in 2016. .Data was subjected to multivariate statistical tests reaching interesting results.
Firstly, it was found that both EMI and non-EMI students scored high in their motivation towards learning and studying in English. No significant differences between groups were found. However, EMI students show higher interest in working abroad and perceive a superior capacity to work in English as compared to non-EMI´s.
When analysing students’ motivation in the 5 year horizon it was found a decrease in non-EMI students’ perception of the utility of knowing English for their future.
Secondly, we found significant differences between EMI and non-EMI students in the use of extra-mural English. The former scored higher in all extra-mural activities. Both EMI and non-EMI students showed a low rate of reading English written books and newspapers although the EMI students scored higher. The most commonly used resources in English are Internet contents although EMI students also displayed higher use levels. A similar trend results can be found in watching English original version movies. The main contribution of this paper is to provide evidence that EMI students, having the same motivation towards the use of English for their professional future, show different use of English than their counterparts. The interest of this contribution lies in the empirical findings and in the possibility of using this research to support Higher Education Institutions in their implementation of EMI programmes and rethink their internationalization strategies.