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Functional Pragmatics 2016

Plenary Adelheid Hu

Which language policy for an international university in Europe?

Adelheid Hu (Luxembourg)

With regard to the use of languages, internationalisation in universities and in science seems above all a matter of anglicisation. As a consequence of the neo-liberal developments in the Higher Education sector, the Bologna reform, the globalisation of scientific communication and the increasing significance of mobility in courses of study, many universities around the world are establishing English-language programmes or are even switching entirely to English. Not least, this is due to economic reasons which are linked to matters of teaching and student recruitment.

We are experiencing a return to monolingualism not only in university teaching, but especially in international scientific research. This can be seen as a great opportunity for global understanding; at the same time, there is nonetheless the danger not only of a lack of fairness, but also of a hidden ethnocentrism.  Because of this new uniform language, other research traditions and perspectives risk being marginalized and becoming invisible.

A growing number of universities, however, opt for a multilingual policy due to their specific location, history and mission. The University of Luxembourg, recently ranked 2nd  for its international outreach in the Times Higher Education Ranking,  represents such a case: Besides the three official languages (English, French, German), Luxembourgish plays a role, as well as the large number of other languages of the students and the teaching staff who come from many different countries. The discussion about an appropriate language policy for this university is ongoing, and the challenge consists in creating a policy which strengthens the international standing of the university while maintaining the multilingual culture.  In my talk, I will present the recent developments and arguments, and give some insights into linguistic pluralism as resource for learning and knowledge construction.

As for the relationship between internationalization and language policy, I will argue that the economic rhetoric which currently dominates the internationalization discourse should be complemented by a cultural perspective: The theoretical framework that has been developed within cultural studies/Kulturwissenschaften might be helpful for an innovative view on learning, teaching, research and communication processes within an international and multilingual university. From a cultural perspective, they can be interpreted as hybrid intercultural encounters where “third spaces” are created, identities are shaped and knowledge development can become multi-perspective.