Language policy at universities

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tungemål
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Language policy at universities

Postby tungemål » Thu Jun 10, 2021 6:18 pm

Language policy at universities in non-english speaking countries

What is the situation in your country if you live in a country where English is not the native language?

I just saw a debate about the use of English as a working language in a Norwegian university. Things have changed since I was a student and the universities here are now more international, which is good. But Norwegian is losing out. So the situation is:
  • textbooks only in English
  • some lessons in English, I guess both because of foreign students and foreign professors.
  • staff meetings in English, because of foreign professors who haven't learned the language.
The professors are obliged to learn Norwegian within three years, but universities focus on attracting competent people and not on enforcing this rule. Which leads some Norwegian staff to complain that they can't use their own language.

Lastly universities need to publish articles in international journals, and that means that writing those articles in English is a given.
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Re: Language policy at universities

Postby Le Baron » Thu Jun 10, 2021 7:57 pm

Oh dear. This has been in effect for some time in NL. I remember it being implemented when I was working at a well-known University here in the centre of the country. I'm no longer in that field and I don't care to follow its progress, but I know from others (colleagues, students) that English is firmly ensconced.

I don't know what the results of this are over time. I don't believe it is doing anything particularly for students of the home country, but this is always shouted down. There's no denying the fact that some of it is to attract (high) fee-paying students, often from the U.S.and some parts of Asia, for masters courses.

My personal experience of this is students from native English backgrounds being catered to and outstripping others who are working through a foreign medium; even when they themselves are often adamant that they are capable.

I'll be interested to see what others have to say.
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Re: Language policy at universities

Postby tiia » Thu Jun 10, 2021 9:00 pm

I've seen similar discussions in Finland, although I don't think there is any requirement for the people to learn Finnish or Swedish in a certain time frame. I have been recently reading a few essays about this topic, but I guess it doesn't make sense to link them down here, because they're in Finnish.

Going a more international path is great on the one hand and it's nice to mix local and international students in the courses, but on the other hand it is not enforced enough that foreigners actually learn one of the local language(s). The follow up problems are that those foreign students will/may not be able to stay in the country as workforce, or only with special arrangements and/or in certain fields (mainly IT).
Even the natives may not learn the technical vocabulary sufficiently, if their studies are entirely in English.
The university-setting is one of the best opportunities one can get to learn a local language in my opinion. I think it's disappointing it is not really used as such.
Fortunately the Universities of Applied Sciences are still using more Finnish (and Swedish).

I'm afraid how this will continue in the future, if more and more staff doesn't know the local language(s): Who will take care of the Bachelor's students? Those still have lectures, tests etc in the local languages. Will there be actually any university degrees left in Finnish? At least one university went the path down to only 1,5 Master's programmes still being in Finnish. And even those require in fact English as well.
When I had a summer job there, the staff was mixing languages and because I was so eager to improve my Finnish, they also spoke Finnish with me, when no non-native was involved. However my impression was, that I was almost the only foreigner there speaking/using Finnish... (At my current job I've met far more.)


In Germany the situation was different: There were some Master's programmes in English, but those had a very limited amount of students. Most students studied in German, also a few coming from other countries. Slowly they are becoming better at connecting international and German students, but due to those seperate programmes it's actually less than it could be. The only time I spoke to some English Master's students from the same faculty was at a language cafe. Not because we were studying at the same faculty.
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Re: Language policy at universities

Postby tungemål » Fri Jun 11, 2021 10:51 am

tiia wrote:In Germany the situation was different: There were some Master's programmes in English, but those had a very limited amount of students. Most students studied in German, also a few coming from other countries.
...


Well, in Germany they demand B2 in German before you can enter university, right? Probably they also demand foreign professors teaching there that they speak German. I think the policy in Norwegian universities is to take care of and develop Norwegian as a professional language, but English ends up being used for expedient reasons.
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Re: Language policy at universities

Postby Ogrim » Fri Jun 11, 2021 2:30 pm

I'm not an expert on the question, but I have some experience from a couple of countries, and this year also because my son will start university after the summer and we've been looking at different options with the condition that the studies are in English (because that has been his first "education language" since he was 5 years old).

In France you hardly find any courses given entirely in English, and I am pretty sure that you will not be employed as a full-time university teacher if you are not proficient in French. (The exception is for temporary staff teaching foreign languages, where an intermediate level of French is required.)

Edit: In France it will depend on the type of subject as well as the type of university. At "grandes écoles" there may be some courses given in English if you study "management", business or international affairs, and English as a second languages is mostly obligatory in those schools. I cannot imagine, however, that staff meetings would ever be in English at a French university.

In Spain it is pretty much the same. For state universities at least it is very difficult for anyone not having gone through school and university in Spain to get a job as a university teacher. And if you want to teach at a university in Catalonia, the Basque Country, Valencia or Baleares you will need Spanish and at least an intermediate level in Catalan, Basque, Valencian or Mallorquí. Still, more and more universities propose courses taught partly in English, but by Spanish natives, with the result that you often get courses taught in poor English. (There are of course a lot of Spanish university teachers speaking excellent English, but several writers and academics have criticised the trend to "force" English lessons upon Spanish students, arguing this will only hamper the students progress in the given subject.)

So my son is going to the Netherlands, because there you find lots of courses taught entirely in English. Actually from this year the Netherlands has become the new UK, at least for students from the EU: because of Brexit EU students now have to pay international fees in the UK, while in the Netherlands they pay the same low fees as Dutch nationals do.
Last edited by Ogrim on Fri Jun 11, 2021 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Language policy at universities

Postby alaart » Fri Jun 11, 2021 2:56 pm

At my German university in Leipzig, I have occasionally lectures in English, maybe 5% of the time. One of my teachers is French and doesn't speak German. In other courses English is very common for reading assignments, not everything is translated into German.

And of course guest lecturers are invited from everywhere, so they are very likely to be in English (or the respective languages of the language department, and that's mostly where I spent my time. So maybe not the most representative).

But in general I'd say that German is pretty dominant. When I was in the Netherlands 2012 it was also exclusively in Dutch, but yeah I have heard that things have changed.
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Re: Language policy at universities

Postby tiia » Fri Jun 11, 2021 3:04 pm

tungemål wrote:
tiia wrote:In Germany the situation was different: There were some Master's programmes in English, but those had a very limited amount of students. Most students studied in German, also a few coming from other countries.
...


Well, in Germany they demand B2 in German before you can enter university, right? Probably they also demand foreign professors teaching there that they speak German. I think the policy in Norwegian universities is to take care of and develop Norwegian as a professional language, but English ends up being used for expedient reasons.


There are study programmes in Germany that are entirely in English. Those have an English requirement, but no German. If you want to study a programme taught in German, then of course you need to have B2 in German.

Basically in Finland it's similar: If you want to study at a university (university of applied sciences is different I think) you need to know the course language. If the programmes is taught in Finnish, they require B2 in Finnish. For full degree students for the programmes taught in English, there's also an English requirement as far as I know. I don't know about the language requirements for Finnish students who did already the Finnish bachelor at the same uni.

The main difference I see is in the amount of study programmes offered in which language.

Back in my times as an exchange student, when most of the Master's programmes were still in Finnish at my guest university, the Finnish students were usually taking some courses in English and some in Finnish. Something like that was not possible at my German university. Although they had this English Master's programme at the same faculty and some lectures would have been exactly the same, except for the language. It may be different at other faculties/universities.
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Re: Language policy at universities

Postby Le Baron » Fri Jun 11, 2021 4:17 pm

B2 is the official 'requirement' for university entry here as well, for the undergraduate degrees. Immigrant students are the ones making up most of the NT2 (or similar) courses and some in order to attend university - which, as Ogrim said, are favoured because of lower costs (though they're not chicken feed). More of those undergraduate courses have increased numbers of English-based modules; especially for management and related type courses. Which makes me wonder why they bother with the Dutch requirement for university purposes.

There's a language school near to where I work which teaches: 'academic English', 'academic writing in English', 'scientific writing in English'. 'teaching in English' and an entire programme of 'business English'. Even though they teach Dutch (as well other languages), none of it is directed toward specifically academic needs. This should be a clue as to what they consider to be in demand.
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Re: Language policy at universities

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Fri Jun 11, 2021 5:24 pm

At the local university branch, 142 programs and courses are currently offered. 54 of them are in English. I'm sure that many of the other courses have at least some material in English. Nothing strange with that.
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Re: Language policy at universities

Postby AnthonyLauder » Fri Jun 11, 2021 6:50 pm

Here in the Czech republic, University is free for students if taught in Czech, or you can pay an annual fee of a few thousand euros to be taught in English. What this means is that many courses that tend to lead to higher paying jobs attract a lot of English speaking students. For example, there are multiple departments of medicine at the prestigious Charles University teaching hundreds of medical students in English. I am told that the standard of teaching is very high, and the courses are demanding, but that many students come here (particularly from the US) because the cost of attending medical school is so much cheaper than in many other countries.

Outside of that, I know several doctoral students in various departments who work pretty much exclusively in English, because "that is the international language of research". Additionally, my girlfriend (a Czech native) is a professor of political science, and was promoted quickly to head of department due to her high level of English fluency leading to a good publication record in international journals and attendence at international conferences. She has also been invited to do research, guest lectures, and take academic teaching positions at various universities internationally. Overall, I would say that academics nowadays often risk becoming almost invisible outside of their own department without a strong grasp of English.
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