Language matters

Uit Tilburg Wiki


In 2010, the University’s Board decided to call itself Executive Board, and the institution’s name was also Anglicized into Tilburg University (see also: Naming). From that moment onwards, the language of communication has been the subject of debate. Language policy made its entry, which largely came down to the following: research is reported in English, and all other communication is conducted in Dutch, unless … Now that internationalization has become an inescapable fact of life, however, Tilburg University also wants to entice international students and researchers to spend a few years in town. A precondition for this happening, however, is the University’s progressive Anglicization in more than just its research domain.

English as a standard

And so the new language policy, which will be operational as of lustrum year 2017, runs as follows: the standard language of communication is English, unless … This means that the default working language in all Master’s programs and most Bachelor’s programs is English. It also means, of course, that the University’s administration is to be conducted in English and that all administrative documents will be in English. In the year 2017, Tilburg University was offering 71 Bachelor’s and Master’s programs, 41 of which (58%) were in English. Well over two-thirds of all 1,800 Master’s programs in the Netherlands are exclusively conducted in English. A 2017 StudyPortals inventory showed that Dutch universities and universities of applied sciences are offering 1,212 Master’s programs in English, far outstripping all other non-English-speaking countries: Germany has 906, Sweden 801 and France 671. The Netherlands even beats Ireland (899).

What about Dutch?

There is little manifest opposition to this trend; no one likes to own up that their English is less than impeccable, even if they passed the English language test. But this is not the main thing, as shown in a 2017 KNAW report, which underscored that universities should also be paying attention to the Dutch language, as Dutch proficiency is essential on the labor market. Programs should also be examining intermediate modalities, the KNAW believed, such as a Dutch-language program with some of its subjects taught in English. And when education is in English, the KNAW proceeded, teachers should also possess teaching skills in that language. It is much harder, for example, to use humor or to improvise in a second language. And doesn’t Anglicization raise all sorts of barriers to children with disadvantaged backgrounds? And shouldn’t we be making English rather than Dutch compulsory in integration courses for those with academic ambitions? We need to do more research into the matter, the KNAW told the Minister in its recommendation.

Growing pains?

Perhaps these are no more than growing pains and English will prove to be the uncontested language of the academic world as Latin once was. Tilburg University, at any rate, was an early adopter, and this encyclopedia, in spite of its English summary, may prove to be one of the last Dutch-language publications. So be

Persoonlijke instellingen