Professor Brenda Yeoh Saw Ai (National University of Singapore)

Abstract:
Scholars have pointed to the central role played by English as the language of international reach in the strategies of globalizing universities, as seen in the provision of English language programmes such as language boot camps for international students in western universities as well as academic programmes in English in non-English speaking countries in order to attract international students unwilling to learn the local language. Indeed, the study of English is almost concomitant with a ‘global curriculum’ and proficiency in English has also been considered an important component of global literacy skills. Using two contrasting case studies – The University of Tokyo and the National University of Singapore – and by drawing on both quantitative and qualitative data generated by a project on ‘Globalising Universities and International Student Mobilities in Asia’, this paper examines the discourses and debates around the place of English in a globalising university, given attention to the paradoxes and tensions embedded in language policy. It also explores the ways in which international students at both universities cope with (un)familiar language environments and deal with language barriers in the universities where they are enrolled. The paper aims to deepen understanding of the everyday politics of language that international students confront, and the strategies they employ in negotiating these encounters.

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