[lg policy] Language policy at the Swiss National Science Foundation

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sun Mar 27 20:19:51 UTC 2011

Language policy at the SNSF

Switzerland thrives on linguistic diversity. But English is now the
dominant language in academia. The Swiss research community must find
a balance between regional identity and internationalisation.

The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has developed a rich
linguistic practice. Members of the Research Council generally speak
English when discussing proposals, while also using German and French
for institutional and political matters. This “Swiss equilibrium”
stands in contrast to the current trend towards globalisation. At the
same time, English is also increasingly being used by the SNSF’s
“clientele”. It is in this context that the Swiss National Science
Foundation (SNSF) adopted its own language policy which is not
intended as a dogmatic set of rules but rather as a pragmatic

Diversity as an asset

The principles of the SNSF underscore the advantages that linguistic
diversity lends to Swiss research. This diversity has enabled
Switzerland to become a European and global hub. It is important to
cultivate this asset and expand international research at the same
time. English, the “lingua franca” of science, is indispensable, but
it is not sufficient on its own. The SNSF encourages the use of
English while ensuring that scientific and academic practice in
Switzerland do not become standardised under the influence of
globalisation. Language is an important element in the construction
and circulation of knowledge (see editorial).

Internally, the SNSF enjoys a balanced representation of languages in
its bodies even though scientific debates on the evaluation of
proposals and scientific communication with researchers are generally
held in English (except in some disciplines of the humanities and
social sciences). The institutional communication of the SNSF is
conducted in German and French. In international contexts, English and
occasionally Italian are used. The SNSF is expanding the use of
English to make services more accessible to researchers who have
recently arrived in Switzerland. Hence, the periodical SNSFinfo print
and the electronic newsletter will be available in English as of now.


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