To What Extent May EFL Undergraduates with EMI Develop English Vocabulary? The Case of Civil Engineering

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Wenhua Hsu


English-medium instruction (EMI) is gaining popularity among EFL higher education institutions. However, not all EMI programs provide the same English immersion as those in the Anglosphere. The researcher targeted English-medium university textbooks as a research focus, since they are first and foremost learning material of specialist knowledge and offer EFL non-English-major students a channel for exposure to English. A 6-million-token textbook corpus of civil engineering (CE) compulsory courses was compiled and the vocabulary level thereof along the word-frequency scale of the British National Corpus and the Corpus of Contemporary American English was measured. Then the researcher sought to estimate how many new words CE majors with EMI can encounter often enough to have an opportunity of learning them. Results show that CE textbooks reached the 5th 1000-word-family level at 95% text coverage and stretched to the 10th 1000 at 98% coverage. Beyond the first 3000 word families, only 3,433 word families occurred 12+ times. This frequency was assumed as a benchmark for incidental learning to occur. For EMI practitioners who are concerned with their students’ vocabulary development, the results can serve as a reference for future investigations into other disciplines.


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Author Biography

Wenhua Hsu, Department of Applied English, I-Shou University, Taiwan

A professor at I-Shou University, Taiwan. Her research interest includes frequent academic/sub-technical and lay-technical vocabulary as well as lexical bundles in specialized fields.


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