Students' academic language-related challenges in English Medium Instruction: The role of English proficiency and language gain

Soruc A., ALTAY M., Curle S., YÜKSEL D.

SYSTEM, vol.103, 2021 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 103
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.system.2021.102651
  • Journal Name: SYSTEM
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, IBZ Online, Periodicals Index Online, Applied Science & Technology Source, EBSCO Education Source, Educational research abstracts (ERA), Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts, MLA - Modern Language Association Database
  • Keywords: English medium instruction (EMI), Challenges, English language proficiency, Language gain, Discipline-based differences, Higher education (HE), UNIVERSITY, STRATEGIES
  • Kocaeli University Affiliated: Yes


This article reports a quantitative empirical study that explored the relationship between English language proficiency and academic language-related challenges experienced by students when studying through English Medium Instruction (EMI). Questionnaire data using the EMI Challenges Scale and student English language test score data were collected at a public university in Turkey. Two academic subjects were compared: International Relations (a Social Science subject, n = 99) and Electronic Engineering (a Mathematics, Physical and Life Sciences subject, n = 99). Results revealed that in both subjects, English language proficiency statistically significantly predicted academic language-related challenges. Furthermore, a gain in English proficiency significantly predicted the challenges in International Relations but not in Electronic Engineering. Finally, Electronic Engineering students experienced significantly different levels of linguistic-related challenges in each language skill when at a lower proficiency (A2) compared to a higher proficiency (B2). In International Relations, a proficiency threshold was more evident; students experienced significantly higher levels of linguistic-related challenges as proficiency decreased. Important pedagogical implications of this established relationship between language proficiency, language gain, and language-related challenges in two academic divisions are discussed.