Seminar: What Does Bilingualism Mean for Transnational Universities?



Professor Anwei FENG, University of Nottingham Ningbo China

Speaker Bio

Professor Anwei Feng is Head of School of Education of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China. He teaches, supervises and researches in bilingualism and bilingual education, intercultural studies in education, TESOL, international and comparative education, and minority language education. He has published a number of books, journal papers and book chapters in these areas. He is/was guest professor at a number of universities in China, including Guangdong Foreign Studies University, SIAS International University, Shanxi Normal University, Yunnan Normal University, Qujing Normal University, Southwest Forestry University, and Qinghai University for Nationalities.


This talk starts with a question and, during the talk, it will raise many other questions rather than answers. For example, since the turn of the 21st century, bilingualism and bilingual education have become frequently debated in China in academic discussions and even everyday conversations, but many struggle to define what they really are. Likewise, in minority dominated regions, trilingualism and trilingual education have been widely talked about and many have claimed themselves to do research into trilingual education. What most of them do is in fact study of how minority students learn English (or another foreign language). These confusions or misperceptions show how elusive the concepts could be, and indeed some scholars argue we may not be able to define what they exactly are. What we can do is to describe them.

Universities such as UNNC and XJTLU have at least one thing in common. We both claim ourselves to be English-medium universities. ‘Let’s speak English’ is a sign we can see everywhere on our campus. However, do the students the majority of whom are ethnic Chinese leave their home language at the university gate? Do they only use their home language in informal domains? The answer to them is obviously no. But how much/often is Chinese used in formal domains? How important is Chinese for everyday functioning of the university? How can we make better use of this language as a resource? And what does bilingualism or multilingualism mean to transnational universities like us? The answer to any of them is obviously less obvious. Although they all look important, strangely, very few people talk about them.

In this talk, I will make bold to discuss the concepts separately first and move on to the relevancy of these concepts to transnational education.