Teaching in English creates problems for Danish universities

A conference tomorrow will recommend initiatives to make students and teachers more prepared for being taught in English at Danish universities

Just being able to read a map is no longer enough (photo: iStock)
May 2nd, 2013 7:46 pm| by admin
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Danish universities are increasingly teaching in English in order to remain attractive to international researchers and students, but the development presents challenges for the teachers and students for whom English is a second language.

To address these challenges, a collection of Nordic researchers have been studying the effect of increasing English-language teaching on university education in their countries.

Tomorrow they will meet for the last in a series of conferences entitled “Parallel language use and internationalisation at Nordic universities – costly but great!” that will sum up the findings drawn over the past two years.

According to the researchers, one of the major problems is that while most students adapt to being taught in English within a year, the introduction of English often makes students more passive during lessons and less willing to communicate in a language that is not their mother tongue.

The researchers recommend, among other things, that lecturers plan ahead and let students know which language will be used during the course. They also advocate for ensuring that there is enough material in this language to support them.

The researchers also suggest involving students in a discussion about the use of different languages and the problems and advantages it brings. Lecturers, it is argued, should not be afraid to use different languages and address the differences between them.

“Multiple languages do not end up getting in the way of each other but rather, on the contrary, may end up supporting each other,” the researchers stated in a recent report.

The researchers are expected to release a new report tomorrow recommending specific initiatives to boost English-language skills at Danish universities and strategies for making sure the universities remain attractive for talented students and researchers.

According to Jens Oddershede, the rector at the University of Southern Denmark, the challenge of increasing English-language skills is taken very seriously by Danish universities.

”There is no doubt that more and more teaching will take place in English in the future,” Oddershede told Kristeligt Dagblad. “If we need money and extra courses to make sure we are up to the challenge, then we need to find the money.”

The culture minister, Marianne Jelved (Radikale) is opening the conference tomorrow and argues that English is an essential part of the learning experience in Denmark.

“Regardless of whether we are talking about teaching, researching or publishing, researchers need to be able to communicate on a high level in both English and Danish,” Jelved told Kristeligt Dagblad.

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