Does Attending an English-Language University Diminish Abilities in the Native Language? Data from Turkey

Aycicegi-Dinn A., Sisman-Bal S., Caldwell-Harris C. L.

APPLIED LINGUISTICS, vol.38, pp.540-558, 2017 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 38
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Doi Number: 10.1093/applin/amv052
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.540-558
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


Does a native language suffer when students take all of their classes in a foreign language, even in their home country? Turkish students studying psychology, economics, or English literature with English as the language of instruction (N= 91) were studied across a three-year period. Test scores, word fluency measures, and self-ratings were broadly comparable with students enrolled in a standard Turkish curriculum (N= 74). However, differences were obtained among English literature students, many of whom anticipate careers as English teachers or translators. These students had lower Turkish entrance exam scores, and word fluency scores were higher in English than Turkish, while the reverse was found for all other students, including other English-medium instructed students. The self-assessed L1-Turkish writing abilities of the English literature students also declined slightly across the three-year study. We conclude that intense engagement with a foreign language may put the native language at risk for temporary attrition, but studying with a foreign-language as the medium of instruction does not.