European Journal of Language Policy

The presentation of Catalan universities’ linguistic reality to a transnational audience

European Journal of Language Policy (2018), 10, (1), 121–146.

Abstract

This article seeks to explore critically the discourse strategies used by three Catalonian universities on their English-medium websites, directed at (prospective) transnational students, investigating how their higher education (HE) linguistic environments are portrayed. In recent decades, Catalan regained its status of lingua academica alongside Spanish; the use of Catalan in HE is regarded as vital for its long-term sustainability. In this context, efforts to attract transnational students jar with concerns raised about the hegemonic dominance of English as an academic lingua franca. After reviewing salient themes in the literature on the changing landscape of HE in Europe, we describe the linguistic and sociopolitical context of Catalonia in particular, and adopt Fairclough’s three-stage discourse analysis framework to our text analysis. Texts are described and considered in terms of how they can be seen to either reproduce or challenge these emergent themes. Results show that the websites identify English as the world’s undisputed academic lingua franca, and a linguistic gateway to international success. Simultaneously, the websites focus on the social and cultural significance of their local language to its foreign audience, trying to escape the risk of cultural and linguistic harmonisation that has been denounced in English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) in other comparable contexts.

Cet article cherche à explorer de manière critique les stratégies de discours utilisées par trois universités catalanes sur leurs sites web en anglais, à l’intention d’étudiants transnationaux (prospectifs). Il étudie la manière dont les environnements linguistiques de l’enseignement supérieur sont présentés. Au cours des dernières décennies, le catalan a retrouvé son statut de lingua academica aux côtés de l’espagnol; l’utilisation du catalan dans l’enseignement supérieur est considérée comme essentielle pour sa viabilité à long terme. Dans ce contexte, les efforts déployés pour attirer les étudiants transnationaux suscitent des inquiétudes quant à la domination hégémonique de l’anglais en tant que lingua franca academica. Après avoir passé en revue les principaux thèmes de la littérature sur l’évolution de l’enseignement supérieur en Europe, nous décrivons le contexte linguistique et sociopolitique de la Catalogne en particulier et nous adoptons le cadre d’analyse du discours en trois étapes, élaborée par Fairclough. Les textes sont décrits et considérés en fonction de la façon dont ils peuvent être perçus comme reproduisant ou contestant ces thèmes émergents. Les résultats montrent que les sites Web identifient l’anglais comme la lingua franca academica incontestée du monde et la passerelle linguistique vers le succès international. Simultanément, les sites Web mettent l’accent sur l’importance sociale et culturelle de la langue locale auprès de leur public étranger, en essayant d’échapper au risque d’harmonisation culturelle et linguistique qui a été dénoncé dans des études de l’anglais comme moyen d’instruction (EMI) dans d’autres contextes comparables.

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Author details

Elliott, Nicole

Vila, Francesc Xavier

Gilabert, Roger