Speaking Difficulties and Strategy Use of EMI Undergraduates in Mainland China

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This study employed a mixed-methods design to investigate the speaking difficulties and strategy use of Chinese undergraduates in an English-medium instruction (EMI) context. The design of the study was driven by both theoretical and methodological gaps in the researched area, i.e. a theoretical gap of EMI students’ speaking difficulties and strategy choice in mainland China, and an absence of a valid quantitative instrument for assessing these students’ speaking strategy use. The qualitative research findings showed that students faced four main types of speaking difficulties in EMI programmes: linguistic obstacles, negative affect, inadequate academic English speaking skills, and cognitive speech processing difficulties. Moreover, quantitative results from the established questionnaire showed that the deployed speaking strategies could be categorised as social affective strategies, compensation strategies, cognitive self-practice strategies, and expression-related problem-solving strategies. Further inferential statistical analysis revealed that (a) the influence of gender on the strategy use was minor, (b) senior students showed a declining tendency in the use of social affective strategies, and (c) the frequency of speaking strategy use correlated positively with the students’ self-perceived English speaking level. Based on these findings, pedagogical implications for EMI instructors and English language practitioners were also provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-136
Number of pages26
JournalAsian EFL Journal
Issue number41
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese undergraduates
  • English-medium instruction (EMI)
  • Speaking difficulties
  • Speaking strategies

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