Chinese Learners' Use of Translation in Learning Academic Subjects in English-Medium Instruction Context

Xiaohan Zhang, Bin Zou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many researchers have identified learning strategies that university students adopt to overcome difficulties in programs taught in English, among which translation is a potentially helpful one. This study explores Chinese undergraduate students' perceptions of translation as a learning strategy when learning content in the English-medium instruction (EMI) context. Although a number of studies have investigated translation used by learners in second or foreign language acquisition, those studies were rare in the EMI context of tertiary education, particularly in China. By focusing on students' perspectives, this study provides an insight into how translation is used to assist academic learning in EMI context and highlights its effectiveness. Data consisted of semistructured interviews with 14 volunteer Chinese undergraduates of various majors. It is found that most of the participants resorted to translation to deal with language-related problems, especially in English reading and writing activities. They usually translated utilizing various machine translators, which did not always have a fulfilling effect on students' learning. Although the majority considered translation helpful for academic learning, it might not be the preferred solution to subject-related confusion for Chinese undergraduate students learning in the EMI context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)424-437
Number of pages14
JournalChinese Journal of Applied Linguistics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • English-medium instruction
  • higher education
  • learning strategy
  • translation


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