Linguistics and English Language

Language in context seminar

Speakers: Begoña Bellés Fortuño and Lucía Bellés Calvera (Universitat Jaume I)

Title: Multilingual university classrooms: Health Sciences as opposed to Humanities and Social Sciences EMI practices

Abstract: Global uncertainty brings rapid, far-reaching unpredictable change in an increasingly inter-connected world. Blommaert (2015) argues that traversing, contesting and shifting national boundaries creates a change from a monocentric configuration of one nation, one language to a dialectic space for members of diverse speech communities. In sociolinguistic terms, accepting the uncertainty in these spaces and taking an ethnographic stance on local action and interaction in socially contingent situations can generate a fresh perspective that re-examines perceptions of linguistics and ideology in any research setting. The socio-linguistic setting in this paper, the Valencian Community in Spain, is recognisably superdiverse, with ‘excesses of languaging (language behaviour) which the institutional apparatuses of the state have been effectively unprepared to assimilate into official practices.’ (Silverstein, 2015:8), whereby from the beginning of the 80s the government of Generalitat Valenciana has operated de facto differential bias to the Valencian languages and its speakers.

Within this superdiverse situation in the educational setting, this study focuses on the university classroom where multilingual programmes take place urged by the EU premises (Horizon 2020) promoting the use of local minority languages as well as the learning of a foreign language. In this particular case we approach the Health Sciences classroom (Bellés-Fortuño, 2018) as opposed to the Humanities and Social Sciences setting. This multilingual classroom generates bilingual exchanges in Valencian and Castilian Spanish with English as the language of instruction. Our research analyses an ad hoc audio corpus sample of undergraduate students in their programmes of study, where English is the Medium of Instruction (EMI), as they engage in a self-directed, collaborative task with peers, consisting of spoken presentations. By analysing students’ language practices through a translanguaging lens, the purpose is to examine whether the presence of a bilingual teacher or a monolingual English native researcher mediates the communicative context. Examining the cultural context of the multilingual university classroom as a dialectic space of local and institutional imperatives and affordances gives insights into the ways multilingual speakers draw on linguistic repertoires as an integrated communication system (Canagarajah, 2011). Ultimately, we can see multilingual classroom exchanges as multi-layered and contested as speakers use meaningful discourse practices to negotiate convergent language and social ecologies.


  • Bellés-Fortuño, B. (2018). Multimodality in Medicine. How university medical students approach informative leaflets. System, available online 2 March 2018. DOI:
  • Blommaert, J. (2015) Chornotopes, Scales, and Complexity in the Study of Language Society. Annual Review ofAnthropology 44: 105-116
  • Canagarajah, S. (2011). Codemeshing in Academic Writing: Identifying Teachable Strategies of Translanguaging. The Modern Language Journal 95(3): 401–417.
  • Silverstein, M. (2015). How language communities intersect: Is “Superdiversity” an incremental or transformative condition?. Language and Communication 44: 7-18.


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May 15 2019 -

Language in context seminar

2019-05-15: Multilingual university classrooms: Health Sciences as opposed to Humanities and Social Sciences EMI practices

Room 1.20, Dugald Stewart Building, 3 Charles Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AD