Language Use in University Teaching and Research
Throughout Europe there is nowadays an increasing tendency to use English as the language of academic instruction and research. This tendency is stronger in the sciences than in the humanities. The tendency to adopt an "English-only policy" in scientific publications and as the exclusive medium of discourse in international (and even national) conferences is growing fast. In such situations, there is no doubt that progress made in international communication is won at the cost of all languages other than English.
The situation is similar in the social sciences and the humanities. In non-English-speaking countries the need to be part of the international scientific community can seem to require the use of the English language rather than the national languages.
This growing attitude represents a very real linguistic, cognitive, and cultural risk. English is not a neutral all-purpose medium of communication. By the predominant or even the exclusive use of English, important traditions, concepts and methods developed in other languages are ignored or forgotten. In addition, the mainstream of the various disciplines - determining those themes and problems considered most relevant - can easily become dominated by speakers from Anglophone countries. This has already been shown to influence the allocation of financial support for research in other countries.
- EFNIL, the association of the central institutions for the official languages of many European countries, regards the current tendency towards the use of English as a language of academic instruction in non-Anglophone countries with deep concern. This tendency to use English instead of the standard languages of the various countries in university teaching and research restricts the domains of these languages and their development and thus endangers the linguistic diversity of Europe that is essential for the cultural diversity and wealth of our continent.
- EFNIL fully acknowledges the practical use of English as an auxiliary language for communication between scientists and scholars who have no other language in common. It cautions, however, against the use of reduced varieties of English as the dominant or exclusive medium of teaching and publication in other linguistic environments, as this devalues the other languages and gradually makes them more and more unsuited for scientific discourse. Needless to say, it also puts additional strain on teachers and other educators as well as on students whose creativity may be hampered.
- EFNIL acknowledges the advantages of using English as an international medium of communication, especially in the so called ‘hard’ sciences, where even a simplified form of English can be helpful in explaining other international semiotic systems such as mathematic expressions, tables, chemical formulas and graphic designs. However, the use of other languages in these fields beside English must be encouraged, in order to allow those languages to continue to develop a high-level scientific discourse and to also publicise scientific problems and results to the general public.
- Scholars should use their native languages and in addition languages appropriate to the context of their studies. It is not necessary to avoid English totally, but they should consider the use of English to be only a secondary route for demonstrating the relevance of their arguments and findings.
- EFNIL therefore appeals to the academic and political authorities in the non-Anglophone countries of Europe in the strongest terms to encourage teachers and students to use their respective national languages for research and studies.
- In the interest of the cultural and linguistic diversity of Europe, EFNIL also appeals to professors, students and administrations of universities in the Anglophone countries to pursue the study and use of other European languages. This will help to preserve the linguistic diversity of Europe and its values.
(approved by the General Assembly of EFNIL at the Accademia della Crusca on 28 September 2014)