Dr. Fiona Willans

Discipline: Linguistics and Languages


Office: 306, SPACE building, Laucala Campus

Extension number: 32699



I have led the Linguistics and Languages programmes at USP since 2015. Much of my teaching and research is focused on fostering more effective ways to teach English within a multilingual framework, and I am committed to moving beyond a “this is the way it’s always been” approach to the use of English as the medium of instruction across the curriculum. I am also actively involved in establishing and supporting USP’s innovative programmes in Pacific vernacular languages. I have previously taught English at secondary schools in both Vanuatu and The Solomon Islands.


Educational Background: 

PhD Educational Linguistics, MA Applied Linguistics (King’s College London, UK), Diploma Pacific Language Studies (USP), BA Linguistics (University of Durham, UK), Graduate Certificate in Academic Practice (King’s College London, UK), CELTA (University of Durham, UK)



I welcome enquiries from potential research students with interests in multilingual education and meaningful change to the way English is taught in the Pacific region.

I am also available to advise on language-related aspects of curriculum development.


Research Interests: 

My research focuses on language policy, multilingualism, and multilingual education. I am currently leading three projects:

  • “Multilingual ECCE: Bringing language policy to life in the Grade 1 classroom” (with Rajendra Prasad), in which we investigate Grade 1 teacher talk in a range of schools across multilingual Fiji. We analyse the complexity of teacher talk (number of languages, range of vocabulary, proportion of different utterance types, and range of functions), in attempt to provide some empirical grounding to the debate: Is it really too complex to implement multilingual education?
  • “Linguistic landscapes of the contemporary Pacific” (in collaboration with undergraduate students), in which we compare the visual representation of languages in urban spaces with the highly multilingual ‘soundtracks’ of these cities. The researchers are: Salanieta Koro, Fiji; Jim Gure, Vanuatu; ‘Elenoa Veikune, Tonga; Timothy Rongoau, Solomon Islands; Nanise Senikabuta, Marshall Islands; Tereise Vaifale, Samoa; Aleysha Tamakin, Nauru.
  • “Moving academic literacy support into the mainstream” (with Tilisi Bryce, Ralph Buadromo, Rajendra Prasad and Aluwesi Fonolahi), in which we evaluate students’ engagement with academic literacy support built into a first-year linguistics course delivered via blended and online modes. Click here to read more about this project.


Research Students:

  • Roshila Singh (PhD). Academic literacies and English language support practices of lecturers at the University of the South Pacific: a case study of English Medium Instruction at a regional university in the South Pacific.
  • Evangeline Narayan (PhD). Exploring Fiji’s EMI classroom practices: A case study of lower primary mathematics classes.
  • Tupou Ratuva Singh (MA). How learners in Years 5 to 8 in Fiji acquire (or don’t acquire) verb forms in English: A systematic analysis of learner writing.
  • Ioran Teeta (MA). Syllabus on paper vs. syllabus in practice: A case study of Kiribati Year 3 English classes on an outer island.
  • Elizabeth Fifita (MA). Pedagogical translanguaging in a Tongan Year 4 classroom.
  • Reuben Tarihehe (MA). Inspecting vernacular language policy implementation in multilingual education: Insights from early primary schools in West Ambae, Vanuatu.
  • Ariteti Botibara (MA). Implementation of English curriculum materials in Junior Secondary classrooms: A case study from one school in South Tarawa, Kiribati.


  • Shaleshni Prasad (MA, 2023). Improving the oral English fluency of students at the University of the South Pacific: A case study of English for Academic Purposes students studying in face-to-face mode at Lautoka Campus.
  • Vimal Kumar (MA, 2023). Readability and lexical coverage of texts: An analysis of EMI texts in the Fiji context.
  • Evangeline Narayan (MA, 2021). In search of principles of second language acquisition in the design and unpacking of Fiji’s English syllabus.
  • Wilfred Fimone (MA, 2020). Variation and change of glottal stop deletion in Rotuman.
  • Romina Singh (MA, 2018). Sketch grammar and sociolinguistic topics in Bua Fiji Hindi.


Publications & Presentations: 

Willans, F. & R. Prasad (forthcoming). Multilingual, multimodal insights into the online learning experience: Getting in the zone. In B. Goodman & B. Seilstad (Eds.). Researching multilingually: Conceptual and methodological failures, struggles, and successes. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Willans, F. (forthcoming). Evaluating an embedded model of academic literacy support: A can-do approach. In B. Morrison, C. MacDiarmid, I.Haghi, & A. Williams (Eds.), Proceedings of the 2021 BALEAP conference: Exploring pedagogical approaches in EAP teaching. Garnet.

Prasad, R. & F. Willans (2023). Debunking ten myths about Hindi in Fiji: Taking some of the hot air out of the Mirchi FM debateTe Reo, 66(1), 39-59.

Willans, F. (2023). Separating the target language from the lesson frame: Helping teachers make informed decisions about when they should and shouldn’t make English teaching multilingual. In K. Raza, D. Reynolds & C. Coombe (Eds.). Handbook of Multilingual TESOL in Practice (pp.423-434). Springer.

Willans, F., J. Gure, T. Vaifale & E. Veikune (2022). Digicel! Topap long ples ia! An international telecommunications company making itself at home in the urban landscapes of the Pacific. The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 33(2), 210-246.

Willans, F. (2022). The scramble for EMI: Lessons from postcolonial ‘old EMI’ universities. Teaching in Higher Education, 27(4), 546-557.

Crocombe, M., R. Dixon, R. Early, W. Fimone, R. Fiu, J. Gragg, T. Ioane, M. Jione, S. Johansson-Fua, B. Lisimoni-Togahai, A. Lolohea, S. Nicholas, S. Naisau, V. Papatua, R. Rafai, H. Taleo, M. Taumoefolau, T. Thompson, A. Veikune & F. Willans (2022). New degree programmes in Pacific languages at the University of the South Pacific: Stories of success and determination. In State of the art of indigenous languages in research: A collection of selected research papers (pp. 264 – 269), UNESCO.

Willans, F. & R. Prasad (2021). From Hindustani to (Fiji) Hindi and back to Fiji Baat? Metalinguistic reconstructions of the national variety of Hindi in FijiJournal of Pacific History, 56(2), 101-118.

Willans, F. (2021). Developing teachers’ critical awareness through dialogic e-reflections. In A. Selvi & B. Yazan (Eds.) Language teacher education for Global Englishes: A practical resource book (pp.50-55). Routledge.

Willans, F. (2021). Working sideways for change: Extending the notion of ideological and implementational space. In K. Raza, C. Coombe & D. Reynolds (Eds.) Policy Development in TESOL and Multilingualism: Past, Present and the Way Forward. Springer Nature.

Willans, F. (2021). Mapping the curriculum or doing curriculum mapping? A view from Linguistics and Language programmesDirections: Journal of Educational Research, 35(1), 29-37.

Willans, F., J. Gure & S. Koro (2020). Signs of multilingualism in the urban linguistic landscapes of Fiji and Vanuatu: Reflections of national identitySocial Identities, 26(4), 475-498.

Willans, F. (2020). Old languages in new academic spaces: Emergent pedagogy for tertiary programmes in Pacific languagesThe Language Learning Journal 48(3), 346-355.

Willans, F., R. Buadromo, T. Bryce, R. Prasad & A. Fonolahi (2020). Supporting the transition to tertiary level: How students engage with academic literacy materials embedded into a mainstream course. In S. Naidu & S. Narayan (Eds.). Teaching and Learning with Technology: Pushing boundaries and breaking down walls (pp.137-163). Suva: University of the South Pacific Press.

Willans, F. (2019). 50 years of the University of the South Pacific’s languages: Who will take them forward? Directions: Journal of Educational Research, 33(1), 79-89.

Willans, F., A. Fonolahi, R. Buadromo, T. Bryce, R. Prasad & S. Kumari (2019). Fostering and evaluating learner engagement with academic literacy support: Making the most of MoodleJournal of University Teaching & Learning Practice 16(4).

Willans, F. (2019). Symbolic and functional bilingualism: Insights from an Anglophone school and a Francophone school. In L. Arsac, P. Metsan, J.-M. Virelala, & A.-S. Vivier (Eds.), From linguistic plurality to university bilingualism: Realities and challenges (pp. 55-70). Port Vila: Vanuatu Ministry of Education and Training.

Crocombe, M., R. Dixon, R. Early, W. Fimone, R. Fiu, J. Gragg, T. Ioane, M. Jione, S. Johansson-Fua, B. Lisimoni-Togahai, A. Lolohea, S. Nicholas, S. Naisau, V. Papatua, R. Rafai, H. Taleo, M. Taumoefolau, T. Thompson, A. Veikune & F. Willans (2019). They’ve always been here but we could not hear them. We could not see them. Unpublished.

Willans, F. (2018). Teaching English to young learners in the Pacific. In S. Garton & F. Copland (Eds.). The Routledge handbook of teaching English to young learners (pp.523-536). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Willans, F. & A. Jukes (2017). How far can the language ecology metaphor take us? A Pacific perspective on language vitalityLanguage 93(4), 263-274.

Willans, F. (2017). Grassroots talk back on social media: An analysis of public engagement in Vanuatu’s language-in-education policy. Current Issues in Language Planning 18(4), 371-387.

Willans, F. (2017). Another early-exit transitional model doomed to fail? Or is this the wrong model at the right time in Vanuatu? Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. 38(8), 699-711.

Willans, F. (2016). Carving out institutional space for multilingualism in the world’s most multilingual region: The role of Linguistics at the University of the South Pacific. Current Issues in Language Planning 17(4), 351-368.

Willans, F. (2016). Taking an interest: Competence in and affiliations with the expected languages of schooling in Vanuatu. In D. Starks & K. Taylor Leech (Eds.) Doing Research within Communities (pp.57-65). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Willans, F. & C. Leung (2016). ‘Empirical foundations for medium of instruction policies: Approximate replications of Afolayan (1976) and Siegel (1997)’. Language Teaching 49(4), 549-563.

Willans, F. (2015). Traces of globalised discourses within and around spaces for multilingualism: Prospects for education policy change in Vanuatu. Current Issues in Language Planning 16(1-2), 97-113.

Abongdia, J.-F. & F. Willans (2014). The position of English globally and nationally: A comparison of Cameroon and VanuatuCurrent Issues in Language Planning 15(1), 57-74.

Willans, F. (2013). The engineering of plurilingualism following a blueprint for multilingualism: The case of Vanuatu’s education language policy. TESOL Quarterly 47(3), 546-566.

Willans, F. (2013). Ol problem/s blong transcription: How can the ‘flexibly bilingual’ use of English and an English-based pidgin best be captured? In A. Archibald (Ed.), Multilingual theory and practice in Applied Linguistics: Proceedings of the 45th annual meeting of the British Association for Applied Linguistics, 6-8 September 2012, University of Southampton (pp. 263-266). London: Scitsiugnil Press.

Willans, F. (2011). Classroom code-switching in a Vanuatu secondary school: Conflict between policy and practice. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 14(1), 23-38.

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