2019, Cilt 9, Sayı 2, Sayfa(lar) 205-215
A Critical Look at the Phenomenon of A Mixed-Up Use of Turkish and English in English-Medium Instruction Universities in Turkey
Mehmet Akif Ersoy University, Faculty of Education, Department of Foreign Language Education, Burdur, Turkey
Keywords: Higher education, English-medium instruction, Language policy and practice, A mixed-up language use, Tarzanish
In recent years, many Turkish universities, particularly the foundation universities in the private sector, have adopted English either in part
or in full, as the language of instruction. In practice, this has meant that English should be the only working language of instruction in all
academic activities, ranging from lectures, seminars, presentations to thesis defenses. However, little attention has been paid to the fact
that the ideals of policymakers are not always in tune with the actuals of the policy implementers ( Jenkins, 2014; Karakaş, 2016a). In the
Turkish higher education, there is evidence that lecturers and students often breach the English-only policy by using a mixed-version of
Turkish and English, which is widely known as Tarzanca (Tarzanish in English) in Turkey (Collins, 2010; Karakaş, 2016b). This critical
review seeks to explore the phenomenon of Tarzanish in general and its use in English-medium instruction (EMI) universities in particular.
While doing so, it is also aimed to find answers to the following questions: (1) How is Tarzanish conceptualized and described in the
dictionaries, literature, online sources (e. g. blogs, discussion forums, etc.) and by scholars? (2) What are its descriptive characteristics in
terms of morphology, syntax, and lexis? (3) Why do EMI people (lecturers and students) resort to it? Moreover, (4) what can be done
to resolve the issue of Tarzanish in EMI universities? Drawing on the answers to these questions, the paper suggests that the notion of
Tarzanish means different things to different people, lay people and EMI people resort to it for different purposes, and its use by lay people
and EMI people show divergences due to some variables such as the level of language proficiency and the domains of language use (e.g.,
tourism, business, and higher education). Finally, some suggestions have been offered for the solution of the issue of Tarzanish in EMI
The teaching of academic subjects through the medium of
English is a new and growing phenomenon in many countries
of the expanding circle, particularly those of Europe (Dearden,
2014, 2015; Wächter & Maiworm, 2008, 2014). Nonetheless,
Turkey enjoys a long history of introducing English-medium
instruction (EMI) courses and programs at different levels of its
education, but mostly at the tertiary level (Karakaş & Bayyurt,
2019). In Turkish higher education, EMI has been implemented
in two ways so far. The first way of implementing EMI rests on
[t]he use of the English language to teach academic subjects
(other than English itself) in countries or jurisdictions where
the first language of the majority of the population is not
English (Dearden, 2015, p. 2). That is, English is embraced in
full across the disciplines as the sole medium of instruction.
Turkeys first EMI university in this sense is Middle East
Technical University (METU) which was established in 1956
in Ankara. The second way of implementing EMI programs in
Turkey is the use of English as the partial medium of instruction
in certain disciplines, such as international relations, and
electrical and electronics engineering (Başıbek et al., 2014). Of
these partial EMI universities in Turkey, Çukurova University is
a representative example (e.g. Küçük, 2018).
As regards the sociolinguistic status of English, Turkey stands
in Kachrus (1985) expanding circle where English is widely
studied as a compulsory school subject and has no colonial
past under an Anglophone rule. Therefore, English in Turkey is
not considered a relic of British or American colonization (Bear,
1985). However, some practices such as transition to English
in education and establishing intensive preparatory English
programs (PEP) for low proficiency students at EMI universities,
have given rise to discussions that, in terms of language choice
for instruction and language teaching policies and practices,
Turkey seems to hold a colonial mentality (Boss, 1999, para.
15). Thus, it is considered to act like a country colonized by an
English-speaking nation (Sinanoğlu, 1998, 2006).
What lies beneath such discussions is primarily the mismatch
between policy decisions and ground realities. There is
plentiful evidence that lecturers and students do not always
use English in EMI classes, but instead frequently switch
to Turkish, although these practices technically violate institutions English only policies (Karakaş, 2016a, 2017).
There is also evidence that lecturers and students frequently
use a mixed-up version of both languages that allows
expression in neither, more commonly known within Turkey
as Tarzanca, or Tarzanish (Boss, 1999, para. 14). Given that
such discussions and observations on the use of EMI in Turkey
have been proceeding since almost the advent of EMI in
Turkish education, few attempts have been made to address
the key issues around the medium of instruction debate (e.g.
Selvi, 2004). The current paper thus sets out to examine the
mismatch between avowed EMI policy principles and actual
practices (i.e. the use of Tarzanish), and address the concerns
raised by the relevant parties by drawing on best practices
to propose solutions to the mismatch between policy and
practice in the Turkish context.
English and English-Medium Instruction in Turkish
In the domain of education, Western languages, such as
French and German, have started to play a focal role in Turkey
following the establishment of the new Turkish state in 1923
by replacing Arabic and Persian, as the new state emerged
as a western-oriented country (Bear, 1985). English began
to supplant German and French when Turkey established a
regional alliance with the US towards the end of the 1950s
after the end of World War II. Since Turkeys alliance with the
US in the region, English has widely spread across the country
with a welcoming attitude, and become the most studied
compulsory foreign language in the Turkish education system
(Büyükkantarcıoğlu, 2004). Moreover, it has become the
most popular medium of education after Turkish (Doğançay-
Aktuna, 1998, p. 37) at different levels of education, now
ranging from kindergartens, primary schools, high schools to
higher education institutions, but mostly spearheaded by the
private sector (Coleman, 2006; Dearden, 2014).
As this paper examines English and EMI at Turkeys tertiary
level education, I first provide an overview of the historical
development of EMI at Turkish universities. As mentioned
earlier, EMI is not a new vogue in Turkey because Turkish
schools, especially those run by missionaries, have offered
education in English for a long time, though mostly for the
children of the minority groups and the elite Turkish families.
However, EMI in the early days of Turkey was mostly restricted
to secondary level education. As for higher education,
most resources refer to Bogazici University as the first EMI
institution in Turkey as it was turned into a university from
an American missionary school, Robert College, founded in
1863. However, since Robert College was handed down to the
Turkish government in 1971 and renamed Bogazici University,
some resources regard METU, established in 1956, as the first
state-funded EMI institution of Turkey. With the initiative
of the private sector that established Bilkent University in
Ankara, the number of EMI universities reached three in
1984. These three universities offered EMI programs across
their all disciplines in order to enable students
scientific and technological information published in English in
their related disciplines (Official Gazette, 1984, as quoted in
Kırkgöz, 2005, p. 102). As can be understood, the transition to
EMI in those universities at the time was an attempt to raise
qualified human resources for the country in line with the
countrys western-oriented policies.
A dramatic increase in the number of EMI programs occurred
when the number of universities rose to 193 in 2014, now
exceeding over 200 universities (Karakaş, 2016a). It is because
most newly established universities have turned to offer partial
EMI courses and programs, and private institutions have
largely adopted EMI-only policies in an effort to capitalize on
English to vie for more fee-paying students. The exact number
of EMI programs and courses are unknown, as universities
keep changing the language of their programs from Turkish
to English and at times, give up on English and switch back
to Turkish. However, a recent study estimates that more
than 20% of all undergraduate courses are delivered through
different modes of EMI, mostly partially (Arik & Arik, 2014).
This figure does not include EMI programs and courses at the
post-graduate level, though, so the actual number of programs
across all levels is probably much higher.
Key Issues Around English-Medium Instruction
Unsurprisingly, debates and discussions about EMI have
been never-ending in Turkey, often intense yet incredibly
scientifically unsound. To borrow Selvis (2014, p. 7) words,
the role of English as the language of instruction has always
been a matter of controversy in both academic and popular
circles. People of these circles generally fall into two groups:
those who want EMI policies to continue at public and private
institutions, and those who are against EMI and want Turkish
to be the medium of instruction. The advocates of EMI
policies, mostly scholars from the field of applied linguistics,
emphasize the positive impacts of EMI on the development
of students first language skills (Alptekin, 1998a, 1998b,
1998c, 2003; Kırkıcı, 2004) as well as intercultural competence
and cognitive functioning, e.g. improvements in knowledge,
intellectual strategies and practices (Soylu, 2003). Another
supporting argument is that concentrated exposure to English
in EMI classes can enable students to more effectively learn
English compared to the more traditional way of teaching
English at schools as a compulsory school subject (Sert,
2008; Zok, 2010). Empirical evidence to support this line of argument is also available in the recent literature, showing
students improvement in areas of vocabulary expansion (Lin
& Morrison, 2010) and major language skills (Muda et al.,
2012; Rogier, 2012).
The opponents of EMI policies come from different walks of
life, including journalists, politicians, writers, lecturers, and
students. Compared to the views voiced by the proponents,
the opponents views on EMI are rather varied. Their views
primarily revolve around four main concerns. The opponents
are concerned about: (1) didactic and pedagogical issues,
such as increased workload on lecturers (Arslantunalı, 1998;
Dalkız, 2002; Köksal, 2002; Sert, 2008; Zok, 2010); (2) language
and national loyalty issues, such as adverse effects of EMI
policies on Turkish language, culture and identity (Boss, 1999;
Duman, 1997; Sinanoğlu, 2000); (3) the issue of access to EMI
institutions and the outcomes of access to such institutions for
the public, which might give rise to the creation of a select class
among the society that benefits from the knowledge of English
as cultural [and economic] capital par excellence and one of
the most powerful forms of symbolic capital in the country
(Hu, 2009, p. 49); and (4) the planning and implementation
dimensions of EMI.
The language policy and planning issue is the most pertinent
one to the current research as the emergence of Tarzanish is
a matter of mismatch between language policy and practice.
Regardless of the mode of EMI courses/programs adopted,
there is empirical evidence that most classes planned to be
delivered in EMI turn out to be delivered in Turkish, or a hybrid
form of Turkish and English, branded as Tarzanish (Collins,
2010; Karakaş, 2016b). I turn now to consider this issue firstly
from a general and descriptive perspective and then narrow it
down to the institutions EMI-only policies in particular.
Tarzanish Phenomenon in General
At its simplest, Tarzanish refers to a way of communicating
with a foreigner, involving the use of gestures and a few simple
words (similar to that used by Tarzan and Jane) or (speaking)
using gestures and a few simple words, in the manner of
Tarzan and Jane (Tarzan İngilizcesi Nedir, 2018, p. para. 3).
Obvious from this definition is that the naming of Tarzanish
has been inspired by the manner of communication (Me,
Tarzan You, Jane) between Tarzan, brought up by a gorilla
in the African wilds, and Jane, an impeccably well-educated
lady. Currently, the notion of Tarzanish (more commonly
known as Tarzanca) does not have a comprehensive scope
within the relevant literature, which has thus led to a scarcity
of empirical research and theoretical discussion about it.
Nonetheless, it is a very well-known linguistic phenomenon
in the Turkish context often associated with the undesired
outcomes of foreign language instruction in Turkish schools
(Tüfekçioğlu, 1998; Vassaf, 2016). It has a wide coverage on
the printed and online media, primarily the discussion boards,
blogs, and opinion forums (see, for example Gezginsozluk,
İngilizce Bankası Sözlük, Onedio, Sesli Sözlük). From the scarce
academic literature and the discussions related to Tarzanca
on blogs and discussion forums, it has become evident that the term itself means different things to different people,
and it has, thus, been approached from several perspectives
depending on various factors (e.g. who uses it, what features it
has, what functions it fulfils, why people resort to it).
Is it a Pidgin or Not?
According to some scholars, Tarzanish should be regarded as a
pidgin, i.e. a language that emerges when groups of people are
in close and repeated contact, and need to communicate with
each other but have no language in common (Velupillai, 2015,
p. 15) as already defined in some online Turkish dictionaries,
İngilizce Bankası Sözlük (Tarzanca, 2018b). As is clear from
this description, Tarzanish is seen as a way of communication
between Turkish people and foreigners. Such regular language
contacts often occur in specific domains, such as tourism,
aviation, and business. Perhaps, it is because of this reason that
Velupillai (2015) goes as far to claim, despite not providing any
concrete examples, that Tarzanish in Turkey is an example of
tourist-pidgins as the Turkish people in the tourism sector and
the tourists are in such a consistent interaction that a pidgin
variety may emerge from this repeated interaction. To judge
whether this claim actually applies to the case of Tarzanish,
it is vital to see some examples of such form of language use
and its features in certain work-sphere domains. For instance,
in fixed locales like those of hotels, nightclubs, or restaurants,
Turkish young people trying to approach foreign women have
been reported to utter the following sentences in entries and comments written in various discussion forums and blogs (e.g.
Table 1 demonstrates that the language use draws primarily
on non-grammatical English, with simple words and simple
grammatical structures that obviously fail to convey the
desired meaning to the interlocutors. It is also evident from
the examples that users have a poor command of English, just
exploiting their existing knowledge of English to pick up girls.
Moreover, users of such form of language often garnish their
language use with nonsensical facial and hand gestures along
with some widely known simple words, such as yes, no,
come, good, bad, and ok (Tarzanca, 2018a; Tarzanca
Konuştuğumuzun 11 Kanıtı, 2018).
Click Here to Zoom
|Table 1: Examples of a Mixed-up Turkish-English (Tarzanish) Use
in the Tourism Sector
However, unlike the above examples, there are other instances
in which people with high level of English proficiency prefer to
speak and write, especially among themselves, by interspersing
their Turkish with English words, mostly verbs and nouns.
The conversation exchanges below are from a TV show (available
that attempts to raise concerns over such language use in a
humorous manner. Company employees entered into these
exchanges in a high-level meeting over the sale of fermented
sausage produced by the company.
As can be seen from the given examples, the speakers are all
Turkish primarily communicating through Turkish with one
another, yet with the insertion of English words related to
business terminology. From a descriptivist perspective, the
above examples are relatively revealing about Tarzanish form
of language use in a particular way. We can see that codemixing,
i.e. the embedding of various linguistic units such as
affixes (bound morphemes), words (unbound morphemes),
phrases and clauses from a co-operative activity where the
participants, in order to infer what is intended, must reconcile
what they hear with what they understand (Gumperz &
Hernandez-Chavez, 1975, p. 155) is a key feature of such
language use. It is because users of this form of language
mostly show an inclination to intra-sentential alternation (at
clause/word boundaries) in interactional exchanges despite the absence of bi/multilingual foreigners in interaction. It is
therefore highly likely that the English linguistic elements
embedded in this form of language use are already part of
each speakers vocabulary repertoire, which explains why
conversation flows smoothly among speakers.
Additionally, the sentences are formed according to the rules
of Turkish syntax in which, unlike the canonical word order of
English (subject + verb + object), verbs are put at the end of
sentences and change of place between verbs and objects is
possible. Morphologically, it is Turkish rules that shape the
word formation, too. For example, case suffixes are employed
in Turkish instead of some English prepositions, e.g. to, from,
at, and in. These suffixes are attached to proper names and
nouns (people, cities, countries). Take, for example, the case of
motiveyşınımızı our motivation in the above example in which
the accusative case suffix follows the English word (i.e. motive
+ yşınımızı) as a result of applying rules of Turkish morphology
to English words.
Turning now to the question whether Tarzanish form of
language use can be considered a pidgin, we can, in the light
of the examples illustrated and overall features of it described
above, aptly conclude that it is not a pidgin variety because
English acts as the common language when the interaction
is between Turkish people and foreigners and serves as an
additional language when the interaction occurs among
Turkish people who already have a common mother tongue.
That is, the features of Tarzanish described above do not carry
any characteristics of a pidgin variety.
Is It a Case of Foreigner Talk or an Outcome of Imperfectly
Another predominant view postulates that since so-called
Tarzanish is largely used by Turkish people in their contacts
with foreigners, but not by foreigners in their contacts
with Turkish people, as Bakker (1994, p. 26) argues, it is
probably not a pidgin but either a form of foreigner talk or an
imperfectly learned second language. Some Turkish scholars,
such as Malkoç (2009), also equate Tarzanish with the notion
of foreigner-talk. First coined and used by Ferguson (1971),
the notion of foreigner-talk refers to the way native speakers
modify and simplify their talk, often using ungrammatical
structures when interacting with non-native speakers.
Describing Tarzanish as foreigner talk does not match the
definition of the term, foreigner talk, and the way people
use a mixture of Turkish and English. Firstly, it is because
the use of Tarzanish mainly occurs when Turkish speakers
address other Turkish speakers to a large extent through
Turkish peppered with English words, phrases, and grammar
constructions. Sometimes, it might be predominantly Turkish
used among speakers but by intermixing their conversations
with foreign words and phrases, and
starting to use English
grammar and constructions with Turkish words (Boss, 1999,
p. 3). Additionally, Turkish people chiefly make use of this
form of language when interacting with foreigners whose
first language is not English. Finally, as distinct from the
definition of foreigner talk, it is not, in the case of Tarzanish, native speakers who modify and simplify their language use,
but Turkish people using simple and ungrammatical language
forms in their talk with Turkish people, and with foreigners
whose level of English is far better than theirs. Hence, it could
be conceivably hypothesized that Tarzanish forms of language
use are indeed a form of broken language that emerged out
of peoples efforts to simplify the target language in several
ways due to their being at different levels of proficiency and
imperfect competence in the language. Tureng, one of the
most used bilingual dictionaries by Turkish people, defines
Tarzanca as Broken English, too (Tarzanca, 2018c).
Tarzanish Phenomenon in EMI Universities
Tarzanish form of language use in EMI universities may share
common features with those described above in relation to
its use in non-educational domains. Nevertheless, it is also
probable that the use of Tarzanish in EMI contexts might
contain unique features, as both lecturers and students
are required to have a certain level of English to be able to
fulfill their academic tasks (Karakaş, 2016a; Karakaş, 2016b).
All activities, e.g. lectures, seminars, discussions, and thesis
defenses, need to be carried out through English and all
materials used are therefore in English. This is why most
EMI universities require their academic staff and incoming
students to certify their English proficiency for admission and
employment by obtaining certain scores in either standardized
international (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS) or in-house English language
entry tests (Jenkins, 2014). This means that unlike the users of
Tarzanish whose English competence is rather low as shown
above, the stakeholders of EMI institutions have a sufficient
command of English. Therefore, they may have different
motivations and purposes for resorting to a form of Tarzanish.
The phenomenon of Tarzanish has become so well-established
in EMI institutions that the term is even coupled with local
institutions, like Bogazici Tarzanish and METU Tarzanish. It is
largely Turkish functioning as the main code in such language
use, with a judicious amount of linguistic units of English, e.g.
words, phrases, and clauses.
From the examples of actual classroom dialogues and the
dialogues outside of the classroom (between students/
lecturers and non-academic personnel) which have been
obtained from EMI students entries and comments in several
blogs and discussion boards/forums, it has become noticeable
that its use is predominantly shaped by code-mixing at
the word and phrase level and, to a lesser degree, by codeswitching.
This is exemplified in the following conversation
exchanges that were observed in some major EMI universities,
such as Bogazici University and METU.
It becomes apparent from the below examples that the
use of English does not go much beyond the role of being a
lexifier since English, being a language of high prestige, largely
provides the basis for most of the technical vocabulary related
to course content and acts as superstrate, while Turkish, being
a language of lesser prestige compared to English, provides
the basis for the majority of non-technical vocabulary, thereby
serving as a substrate (non-dominant language (Velupillai, 2015). However, some researchers, such as Selbach (2008),
argue that the notions of substrates and superstrates are out
of the question when two languages are used in a mixed-up
manner as the languages act equally as adstrates, i.e. languages
in contact with one another with no clear recognizable lower
o higher prestige. From this perspective, Turkish plays the role
of a lexifier because the majority of the lexicon in Tarzanish are
Turkish in most cases, yet it is still not the dominant language
that contributes most of the technical words in the use of
Apart from these examples obtained from different internet
sources, recent research into a mixed-up use of Turkish and
English has presented examples that are more illustrative as
to the use of English along with Turkish at varying levels of the
mixture. For instance, Raman and Nuroğlu (2015) presented
several excerpts providing instances of code-switching for
different purposes in their findings based on their observation
on EMI lecturers code-switching practices in classes. Two of
these instances are given below:
Excerpt 1: Teacher: What happened to the boy and the
chocolates? Was he found guilty? Think about the boy who
stole the chocolates. Was he found guilty?Suçlu bulundu mu?
[Was he found guilty?; emphasis in original] (p. 7).
Excerpt 2: Teacher:
We are looking for some words related
to technology. Okay. And then we are going to find some
words about money and business. Peki nerden bulucaz
bunları? [Okay, from where will we find these?] (Wait time:
four seconds). From the text. Okay
(pp. 10-11; emphasis in
Similar examples also exist in the international research
context. Take, for example, the case of Norwegian students
in Ljoslands (2010) study on monolingual and multilingual
practices in a Norwegian EMI university. The following excerpt comes from a group meeting in which group members (except
one, all are Norwegian students) work together for preparing
a presentation. For the sake of saving space, only the part that
includes instances of code-switching is presented below:
Excerpt 3: Student 1: Kan vi bare defi nere ordet perform?
Og så lager vi et lite skuespill om LCA? Og så bare er vi ferdig.
[Student 1: Can we not just define the word perform? And
make a little play about LCA (Life Cycle Assessment; the
name of the module)? And then were just finished.] (p. 109;
emphasis in original).
It is evident that in addition to code-mixing, there are instances
of code-switching in the last two examples in Table 3 and in
Excerpts 1, 2 and 3. This shows that speakers of Tarzanish do
not follow a particular pattern of language mixing because
they can either mix languages at the phrase or word level or
even alternate between two or more languages [Turkish and
English in our case] simultaneously or interchangeably within
one conversation (Grosjean, 1982, p. 145). Considering the
earlier and above examples, compared to code-mixing, codeswitching
is a rare case in Tarzanish use, though. Thus, unlike
code-mixing, code-switching may not be a strong defining
feature of Tarzanish compared to code-switching. In summary,
we can infer that users determine the extent to which they
will mix their Turkish use with English and which linguistic
elements to include in their talk on an ad hoc basis. However,
what is more important than the extent of language mixture is
the driving force that leads lecturers to use a mixed-up version
of Turkish and English. The findings of previous studies suggest
that the driving force may be manifold, ranging from facilitating
students content comprehension, eliciting responses from
students, sustaining students interest in classes to giving
additional information and correcting students errors in
language use (Karakaş, 2016a, Küçük, 2018; Raman & Yiğitoğlu,
So far, we have seen examples of spoken Tarzanish form.
However, there are particular spots, especially in EMI
universities, where the written form of Tarzanish can be seen
in their linguistic landscape (Karakaş & Bayyurt, 2019). One
of such spots is the notice boards within university buildings.
Although it is dictated in the policy documents that English is
the official working language of EMI universities/programs, it
is probable to see that even academics might feel obliged to
violate this policy by resorting to Tarzanish rather than English
or Turkish. Table 4 illustrates some examples of such language
use from notice boards of different EMI universities.
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|Table 2: Examples of a Mixed-up Turkish and English (Tarzanish) Use on Visual Media
Click Here to Zoom
|Table 3: Examples of a Mixed-up Turkish and English (Tarzanish) Use in EMI Settings
Click Here to Zoom
|Table 4: Examples of a Written Mixed-up Turkish and English (Tarzanish) Use in EMI Settings
Unlike the former examples, the above examples show,
from a descriptive point of view, that when used in written
form, especially by those with a good command of English,
the English words are orthographically grafted on the syntax
of Turkish as they are in original without experiencing a
Turkishification process. That is, English words are written
in accordance with the original way they are spelled rather
than the written form of their pronunciations in Turkish (e.g.
approve [original] epruv [Turkishified]). From a language
policy and planning perspective, the display of above sentences
in the notice boards reveals that the linguistic phenomenon
of Tarzasnish-English has been unofficially embraced by EMI
shareholders and can even be used in formal spots, like notice
boards, where English-only or Turkish announcements are
supposed to take place (see, Karakaş and Bayyurt, 2019, for
similar arguments). Based on the preceding examples, the
observable fact is that EMI policy has not been successfully
implemented as it has rather been sidestepped by massive
language mixing and switching that does not allow clear and
coherent expression in either English or Turkish, but a hybrid
language form semantically penetrable to its users only.
In short, when compared to the use of Tarzanish by lay people,
it is evident that the form of Tarzanish used in EMI settings is
far cry from being labeled as broken English. As it stands now, it
is more like technical parlance of a specific community, i.e. EMI
group, that may prefer it for various reasons. In what follows, I
will turn to the issue of why EMI people opt for Tarzanish.
Why do EMI Stakeholders (Lecturers and Students) Resort
After seeing the paradox in the implementation of teaching
strategies of EMI universities where the ideal of policymakers,
i.e. EMI-only policy, is in conflict with the actual of lecturers and
students, i.e. resorting to a mixture of Turkish and English, the
question that needs to be addressed is why EMI people turn to such form of language use rather than either using English
or Turkish. Several reasons might be cited for EMI peoples
such tendency. For instance, in academia, both teachers and
students may desire to avoid fully breaching the English-only
policy, at least, by preferring partial use of English in the form
of Tarzanish, and mostly by letting scientific terms creeping
into their Turkish during the classes. The main motivation for
this may be that most scientific and technical terms do not
have exact Turkish equivalences because of Turkish scientific
terminology being less developed in most disciplinary areas
compared to that of English.
Related to the excessive use of technical terms and words in
their talk or writing, it may be the case that Tarzanish form
emerges as a result of the fact that EMI people have not
properly learned the Turkish equivalents of English terminology
in their discipline or are not accustomed to using them in an
academic register. Therefore, they may find it easier to codemix
by letting English terms and phrases infiltrate into their L1
(Costa, 2012; Küçük, 2018; Raman & Yiğitoğlu, 2015).
Even some lecturers believe that preferring to use Tarzanish
over English-only or Turkish-only in classes is due to an
instrumental purpose that serves maximizing students
learning, especially those with weak language skills (e.g.
Karakaş, 2016b). It is also believed that it is through this way
rather than the sole use of Turkish in classes that students can
develop adequate English scientific terminology related to
Above all, moreover, there is a value dimension behind using
Tarzanish. Considering the status of English in Turkey and its
significance for the Turkish public, it can be put that Turkish [p]
eople feel more valuable if they speak bad, broken English than
correct English (Boss, 1999, para. 16). A possible explanation
for this is that mixing Turkish with English words is perceived
to be a symptom of ones linguistic superiority over those who
cannot speak English. Accordingly, a mixture of Turkish and
English is considered to enjoy greater prestige than speakers
native language. Additionally, those using Turkish and English
in a mixed manner prefer this type of language use to look
cool, show off, and manufacture group cohesion by creating a
small speech community whose doors are closed to those not
speaking English (e.g. Boss, 1999). Namely, part of the function
of Tarzanish use may be to deliberately obstruct the outsiders
of EMI community.
However, the reason for resorting to Tarzanish via different
forms of language mixing (e.g. code-mixing, code-switching) when interacting with overseas students in classes may have
a communicative purpose (e.g. Raman & Yiğitoğlu, 2015). For
almost all EMI universities have international students, full
time or part time, despite the number being not so high, it
is possible for these students to develop some basic Turkish
in time and engage in Tarzanish form of language use with
Turkish students. In such a scenario, using Tarzanish might
function as a language-contact strategy between Turkish
students and overseas students given that mixing languages
in communication might serve communicative functions
(Hultgren & Thøgersen, 2014). Given that it is largely
overseas students in Turkish universities having higher English
proficiency than Turkish students, it is very probable that they
can provide scaffolding in English to Turkish students while
communicating through a form of Tarzanish. Likewise, Turkish
students can provide scaffolding in Turkish to their foreign
Solutions to the Discrepancy of EMI Policy and Practice of a
Mixed-up Turkish and English (Tarzanish) Use
Having seen the above picture of EMI implementations in
practice, it is crucial that we need to face and deliver effective
and workable solutions to the use of Tarzanish. In this sense,
one practical solution might be overturning the EMI policy by
switching back to Turkish in teaching, especially in institutions
where partial EMI has been adopted. The main reason for this
proposal is because that most stakeholders, including students
and lecturers at such partial EMI institutions, rarely use English
in all academic activities in their classes. This conclusion is also
supported by research-based evidence that has accumulated
in the recent years, showing that most teaching staff and
students have favored Turkish-only policy over partial or full
EMI policy (e.g. Başıbek et al., 2014; Kılıçkaya, 2006; Kırkgöz,
2008; Sert, 2008). What lies at the crux of the problem in
such institutions is primarily the lack of teaching staff who
can deliver their subject courses through English, and that
students level of English, particularly that of academic English,
is too restricted to follow courses entirely in English (Byun et
al., 2010; Kırkgöz, 2014; Sert, 2008). Additionally, in case of
resistance to transmission to Turkish, it is, at least, advisable
for universities to look for some innovative ways to prevent
students content learning attrition at the expense of using
heavily Turkish or Tarzanish in classes. In this regard, a recent
study by Macaro, Akincioğlu, and Dearden (2016) highlights the
positive impact of collaboration between language teachers
and content teachers on students academic performance due
to a high level of content comprehension.
As reported above, one key reason for lecturers to turn towards
using Tarzanish is their claim that they prefer to use such kind
of English in an effort to help students gain sufficient levels
of content comprehension with a judicious amount of mixed
Turkish and English use. In response to such a claim, several
researchers (e.g. Brown, 2014) argue for a workable solution
by deriving from the benefits of CLIL (Content and Language
Integrated Learning) approach in EMI lectures. Because
teaching language is not an explicit purpose in EMI (Airey,
2016; Smit & Dafouz, 2012), the integration of a CLIL approach, i.e. the teaching of content in the target language with little
or no explicit effort to separately teach the language itself
(Krahnke, 1987, p. 2), might be to the advantage of students
as they will get language support from content lecturers while
learning discipline-specific courses. It is considerably likely that
actual receipt of such support may persuade both lecturers
and students against resorting to Tarzanish.
Finally, Turkish EMI universities can modify their language
policies and learn some lessons from the Scandinavian reality
by adopting the notion of parallel language use in practice.
Parallel language refers to the use of English and other
languages in research and education (as well as a range of
other areas) in EMI programs in parallel with one another. The
main tenet behind this practice is, as Hultgren (2016, p. 158)
explains, that no language should encroach upon another
and it is enacted as a proposed solution to the threat of the
domain loss. It is highly likely that provided that Turkish
and English are used concurrently without neither of them
being abolished nor replacing one another, no need is bound
to arise for lecturers and students to prefer using Tarzanish
over Turkish or English. In addition, the dual use of Turkish and
English can enable institutions to strengthen the international
dimension and at the same time to ensure the development
of subject-specific terminology and disciplinary discourses in
the local language (Kuteeva & Airey, 2014, p. 536). As such,
parallel language use can also contribute to stakeholders
acquisition of bilingual scientific literacy in such a way that
students may conduct their disciplinary studies in Turkish and
English quite easily. It is worth noting that parallel language
use has no stable form of co-existence. That is, depending on
some variables, e.g. students and lecturers level of English
proficiency, group composition and institutional policies,
either of the languages can be used in varying quantities while
carrying out different academic tasks (Shaw & McMillion,
2011). For example, in an engineering class, students may have
to study the course literature through English if there has been
domain loss in terms of textbooks on the subject, yet can shift
to Turkish for instructional purposes, i.e. in lectures, seminars,
In this critical review, I explored a relatively controversial
language use, i.e. so-called Tarzanish in Turkey, especially the
higher education context. I have firstly outlined the current
face of EMI as well as the historical background of it in Turkey,
then moved on to the reactions to English being the medium
of teaching shown by people of opposite camps. Having drawn
an overall snapshot of EMI in Turkey, I have addressed several
issues surrounding Tarzanish use, primarily beginning with its
definition and then continuing with its defining characteristics
based on some examples from different blogs and websites.
These accounts were followed by some solutions, drawing on
best practices implemented in similar contexts. It is my hope
that the concerned authorities can find some feasible solutions
to the Tarzanish dilemma bearing in mind the suggestions
However, it should be noted here that the current analysis and
given suggestions are largely applicable to higher education
institutions and do not have a scientific basis as they are not
based on actual data, but a limited number of examples.
Therefore, the solutions suggested in this paper are not
one-size-fits-all and it is recommended that more concrete
research be undertaken on this issue with actual qualitative
data, classroom recordings, and interviews with students
and lecturers, to more specifically see the nature of this code
mixing and switching and bilingualism by those interested in
foreign medium instruction and EMI.
I would like to express my gratitude to Prof. Moody for his
thoughtful, constructive and valuable comments on an earlier
version of this paper, as well as the anonymous reviewers for
their positive feedback and helpful suggestions. I would also
like to extend my thanks to Yunus Emre Şirin for making the
necessary edit to the final draft.
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