Why this story matters:
Though English is Europe’s most dominant lingua franca, multilingualism is an inherent part of a larger European identity. When the Dutch use English as the main language for a majority of university courses, it is a step away from, not toward, multilingualism.
The economic benefits of an English-language bachelor and master’s degree are indisputable. A student from Singapore will evidently bring more money to a university than a student from Terschelling. Even without financial benefits, the accessibility to English-language degrees is important. It allows students to cross-pollinate ideas and talent across national borders.
In making English the norm, however, universities are also robbing international students of their international experience.
Many students who have signed up for English-speaking masters, including friends of mine back home, complain that the level of English is too low. Important details and nuances, especially scientific vocabulary, get lost in translation.
Learning a foreign language means there is room for errors. Teaching in a foreign language, however, requires a whole new level of mastery. In this case, it's obvious that much of the wealth and complexity that comes with teaching in Dutch is being cast aside to cater to the needs of international students.
Living in Amsterdam, the reclamation of space and heritage from tourist culture is daily dinner conversation. A cheese shop has recently taken up a court case after it was criticized for over-using English, to the clear benefit of tourists over local consumers.
The dominance of Europe’s lingua franca in the Netherlands, especially in Amsterdam, needs to be capped.
Details from the story:
- The Dutch are concerned that English is taking over universities. All psychology studies, for example, are carried out in English (except for Tilburg and Utrecht)
- In 2016, De Volkskrant published statistics on how dominant the English language is in the Netherlands. It found that 60% of the 1,632 different degree courses in all of the country’s universities (13 in total) were in English
- Only 30% of master’s degrees are taught in Dutch
- 90% of Dutch people speak English as a foreign language, and agree that it is imperative to speak or at least understand English
- Article 7.2 of the Dutch Higher Education and Research Act states that teaching and exams must be in Dutch unless a guest lecturer from another country is involved, or "if the specific nature, structure or quality of the teaching or the origin of the students makes this necessary"