[lg policy] Language Policy at University of Maastricht

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 30 15:34:17 UTC 2012

 Language Policy at UM
29-3-2012 -

When Dutch students in my tutor groups suggest that international students
should better integrate and learn the local language, I always ask them
whether they would consider taking a course in German as well. After all,
German is the language of the majority of our European Studies students and
is pretty useful these days in business and politics. They typically look
completely astonished.

I thought of these conversations when I read the article in the
*Observant*on the return of the Dutch language. It speaks of
tremendous provincialism
to ask 'the other' to adjust, particularly given that nobody really owns
our university. To my mind, a Chinese student from Beijing is as much a
'shareholder' as a Dutch student from Amsterdam. In fact, many students and
colleagues choose Maastricht, because it has become a genuinely
international university.

There are also serious practical considerations. Try hiring a lecturer in
European politics – let alone a professor – who speaks the Dutch language.
This is nearly impossible. What is more, a language requirement constitutes
indirect discrimination under EU law given that our teaching and research
is in English. It is simply prohibited. Finally, in terms of students, we
are competing internationally to attract the best and the brightest. They
are looking for advanced courses in modern finance, trade law and public
policy, not for Dutch language classes.

Make no mistake. I am a firm supporter of multilingualism. Our university
should indeed aim to establish an atmosphere where colleagues and students
speak three or more languages. However, instead of wasting our energy on
Dutch, I suggest that we actively promote French, German, Spanish, Chinese
and Arabic.

Dr. Hylke Dijkstra, postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Arts and
Social Sciences<http://www.observantonline.nl/Zoeken/tabid/67/agentType/ViewSearch/CustomFieldIDs/17/sortBy/Published/sortDir/Descending/Default.aspx?SearchValues=Dr.%20Hylke%20Dijkstra,%20postdoctoral%20researcher%20at%20the%20Faculty%20of%20Arts%20and%20Social%20Sciences>

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