Towards a digital bilingualism? Students’ use of machine translation in international higher education

Shu ZHOU*, Shuo ZHAO, Michael GROVES

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This study aims to investigate the way in which Machine Translation is used in practice by students at a transnational joint venture in China. This is a mixed-methods study, involving a questionnaire and focus groups with Chinese students who are studying on an English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) programme in China. The findings suggest that the students are using the technology in strategic and nuanced ways in order to support their academic studies and enhance their abilities in the English language. The students do not cede complete control of their writing to the automated system, but take a critical and thoughtful approach towards how a combination of their own knowledge and technological assistance can support them in their academic endeavours. They translate shorter pieces of language to produce more accurate output and critically evaluate this output, especially when culturally related. When faced with time constraints, they translate paragraphs or whole texts, but then refine the grammar and logical transition within the output. Therefore, students appear to regard MT as an additional strategy with which to achieve communicative success as opposed to a substitute for their own writing skills. The authors discuss these findings and draw parallels between this and the idea of translanguaging, suggesting that students are incorporating the digital resources into the repertoire of linguistic resources available to them.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101193
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of English for Academic Purposes
Early online date9 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was given ethical approval by the University of Surrey, UK. The reference number is FASS 20–21 004 EGA, and it was granted on November 17, 2020. Additional permission for running focus groups was granted by the Dongbei University of Finance and Economics on December 20, 2021.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • English for academic purposes
  • Machine translation
  • Translanguaging pedagogy
  • Transnational education (TNE)


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