About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 5700-5703
Publication year: 2012
ISBN: 978-84-616-0763-1
ISSN: 2340-1095

Conference name: 5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 19-21 November, 2012
Location: Madrid, Spain

ENGLISH AS A MEDIUM OF INSTRUCTION: OPTIMIZING LEARNERS' EXPOSURE TO ENGLISH THROUGH NON-LANGUAGE SUBJECTS

A. McNeill

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HONG KONG)
However effective second/foreign language teachers are at teaching their subject, their hard work needs to be supplemented by providing students with rich and appropriate exposure to the language outside the language classroom. The research literature on language learning confirms that input is an essential element in the second language acquisition process. This paper examines the complementary nature of the roles played by language and non-language teachers in providing essential exposure to language learners within a school. It draws on data from Hong Kong’s recent experience of introducing a more flexible approach to medium of instruction in secondary education, by allowing schools to teach some subjects through English and others through Chinese. Formerly, the schools were required to teach the curriculum exclusively through either Chinese or English.

As far as formal aspects of English are concerned (e.g. grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary), English language teachers have the necessary training and opportunity to deal with these within English language classes. English language teachers also have expertise in teaching language skills (e.g. listening, speaking, reading and writing), as well as language-learning strategies. However, Hong Kong’s experience suggests that the challenge of ensuring that students receive sufficient exposure to English during their time at school is best shared by English language teachers and the teachers who teach content subjects through the medium of English. The importance of exposure in second language learning should not be under-estimated, particularly in relation to vocabulary acquisition. Research has established that a language learner needs to meet a new vocabulary item between twelve and twenty times before the word is acquired (Horst & Meara 1999, Zahar, Cobb & Spada 2001). Providing students with sufficient repeated encounters with target words is a serious curricular challenge since the exposure process may take several months. First of all, schools need to identify the lexis that requires special exposure across subjects. They then need to make sure that the vocabulary items occur in the texts students are expected to read and/or listen to. At school level, this type of vocabulary selection appears to be best undertaken by English language and non-language teachers working together, preferably through a Language-across-the-Curriculum (LAC) committee. As far as non-language teachers are concerned, their assistance is required in familiarizing learners with items from the 570-word Academic Wordlist (Coxhead 2000), since these words tend to occur naturally in content subject textbooks across disciplines and are often under-represented in the materials used by English language teachers. The paper considers examples of Academic Wordlist items, how they typically appear in texts used to teach different subjects, in particular mathematics and humanities, and how non-language teachers might handle this material with a view to supporting students’ second language acquisition.
@InProceedings{MCNEILL2012ENG,
author = {McNeill, A.},
title = {ENGLISH AS A MEDIUM OF INSTRUCTION: OPTIMIZING LEARNERS' EXPOSURE TO ENGLISH THROUGH NON-LANGUAGE SUBJECTS},
series = {5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2012 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-616-0763-1},
issn = {2340-1095},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Madrid, Spain},
month = {19-21 November, 2012},
year = {2012},
pages = {5700-5703}}
TY - CONF
AU - A. McNeill
TI - ENGLISH AS A MEDIUM OF INSTRUCTION: OPTIMIZING LEARNERS' EXPOSURE TO ENGLISH THROUGH NON-LANGUAGE SUBJECTS
SN - 978-84-616-0763-1/2340-1095
PY - 2012
Y1 - 19-21 November, 2012
CI - Madrid, Spain
JO - 5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2012 Proceedings
SP - 5700
EP - 5703
ER -
A. McNeill (2012) ENGLISH AS A MEDIUM OF INSTRUCTION: OPTIMIZING LEARNERS' EXPOSURE TO ENGLISH THROUGH NON-LANGUAGE SUBJECTS, ICERI2012 Proceedings, pp. 5700-5703.
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