Nitobe Symposium 2013: English-Medium Instruction in Non-English-Speaking Universities

The spread of English as a language of instruction in countries across the world was the topic of this year’s Nitobe Symposium, held in Reykjavik, Iceland, July 18-20, 2013. Recent years have seen a marked increase in the number of courses and programs, particularly at the master’s level, taught entirely or partially in English – a response to the increasing international mobility of students and the growing interest of universities in international rankings, which pit universities of many types across the world in competition for resources, particularly research funding, and national and international prestige.

The symposium, hosted by the Center for Research and Documentation on World Language Problems, brought together an invited group of 40 higher education experts from a diverse group of 23 countries, ranging from the United States, Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, to China, Japan, Chile, Mexico, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and India. The Nordic countries (Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland) were particularly strongly represented. A forthcoming volume, English in Nordic Universities: Ideology and Practice, edited by Anna Kristina Hultgren, Frans Gregersen, and Jacob Thøgersen, to be published by John Benjamins, Amsterdam, was the immediate inspiration for the symposium.

Keynote addresses were given by Rainer Enrique Hamel (Mexico), Michele Gazzola (Germany/Italy), and F. Xavier Vila (Catalonia, Spain).

“While the use of a single language in higher education obviously benefits the international flow of information, it privileges certain people and disadvantages others, and it is often driven not so much by academic excellence as by academic prestige,” commented Humphrey Tonkin (USA), one of the organizers of the symposium. “It also erodes the ability of national and local scientific cultures to relate to their local populations, including young people,” he added. There is an urgent need to find other, multilingual solutions, he suggested.

The symposium, held at the Icelandic National Museum, was funded by the USA-based Esperantic Studies Foundation, with additional support from John Benjamins Publishers. The symposium took place under the auspices of the Árni Magnusson Institute for Icelandic Studies, the Icelandic Language Council, and the Vigdis Finnbogadóttir Institute for Foreign Languages. Ari Páll Kristinsson, of the Árni Magnusson Institute, handled local organization.

The Nitobe Seminars are named for Nitobe Inazo (1862-1933), a Japanese diplomat of the 1920s who pioneered the search for international linguistic understanding.


2013-08-10 18:19:33
Computers and science as a way to live

As you may know, I`m a programmer, I work most in web projects, but not only. This area is a mess! Each day you have to recycle what you know in many ways. The thing is, a knowledge that change so often can`t afford wait to be translated to Portuguese for instance, at that time, the known will be already deprecated. English to me is a functional requirement. I can`t imagine my daily life without it. I have been studding English for serious since 2009. In this section you can see what I`m working on. Have fun as I do.
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"A vida é curta demais para ser pequena / The live is so short to be small / Das leben zu kurz sind für kleine sein". (Benjamin Disraeli)