In my last blog I wrote about mental health among international students. In this blog I will continue on the subject by adding aspects of language and identity. The lingua franca of internationalisation in higher education is English. More and more universities wonder if this is the correct approach, being afraid that the national language risks losing its depth and subtility, which would impact the quality of academic teaching.
Amanda Clare Murphy wrote an article on this subject in which she refers to a Dutch study that shows that incoming students don’t learn the local language, don’t integrate and don’t stay in the country to work after they graduate. In the Netherlands 60% of university courses at the 14 research universities are taught in English. Subjects related to this involve issues of language skills, teaching quality and the negative effect on the national language. The research expresses some social consequences as well: when everything is done in English, but this is not the local language, than how can a university produce graduates who can serve and promote a local community, in a local reality? Murphy says.
In the native English-speaking world, it’s easy to ignore that the global norm is not monolingualism. With the current political changes worldwide, it might be and idea to expand the options into the other world languages. Just an example, according to the United Nations there are 6 acceptable working languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. If English is losing its power due to political changes such as the Brexit, then exploring these other five languages as possible lingua franca of internationalization in higher education might be worth it.
To make a reference to my previous blog: seeing where currently many students come from, countries such as Syria and Venezuela, making a start with Arabic and Spanish at the very least recognizes that local universities work on their cultural skills. This can only positively influence the mental health of the incoming students, a win-win situation for both the academic world and the international student. As the image above this blog says: “all we have is words, all we have is worlds”.