European Journal of Language Policy

The Englishization of Nordic universities

What do scientists think?

European Journal of Language Policy (2018), 10, (1), 77–95.

Abstract

In the context of an ongoing Englishization of higher education in the Nordic countries, much of the language policy discourse has centred on the notion of “domain loss”, a diffuse and under-defined concept based on the idea that English encroaches on the status and functionality of the national languages. In response to such concerns, “parallel language use” has been launched as a language policy concept to ensure the continued use and functionality of the national languages. In such language policy debates, however, the voices of the scientists themselves are rarely heard, which prompts questions about the extent to which alarmist discourses about threats to national languages have any purchase among the key stakeholders in this domain, i.e. the scientists themselves. Within a theoretical framework of critical language policy, this study investigates the attitudes to Englishization among Nordic scientists, and reports on the findings from a questionnaire of over 200 physicists, chemists and computer scientists working at universities in Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. The overarching aim is to investigate if concerns about “domain loss”, operationalised here as a lack of national language scientific terminology, are replicated by scientists. Findings suggest that Nordic scientists do believe that local language terminology is missing, but the extent to which they find this problematic is less clear. Some possible reasons for this apparent lack of concern among scientists compared to other participants in the debate are discussed, as are the implications for language policy.

Dans le contexte d’une anglicisation continue de l’enseignement supérieur dans les pays nordiques, une grande partie du discours sur la politique linguistique s’est centrée sur la notion de “perte de domaines”, concept diffus et sous-défini basé sur l’idée que l’anglais empiète sur fonctionnalité des langues nationales. En réponse à de telles préoccupations, “l’utilisation parallèle des langues” a été lancée en tant que concept de politique linguistique afin de garantir l’utilisation continue et la fonctionnalité des langues nationales. Dans de tels débats sur les politiques linguistiques, cependant, les voix des scientifiques eux-mêmes sont rarement entendues, ce qui soulève des questions sur la mesure dans laquelle les discours alarmistes sur les menaces aux langues nationales ont une prise chez les principaux acteurs dans ce domaine, les scientifiques eux-mêmes. Dans un cadre théorique de politique linguistique critique, cet article étudie les attitudes à l’égard de l’anglais chez les scientifiques nordiques et rapporte les résultats d’un questionnaire de 200 physiciens, chimistes et informaticiens travaillant dans des universités en Islande, en Norvège, au Danemark, en Suède et en Finlande. L’objectif principal est d’étudier si les préoccupations concernant la “perte de domaines”, opérationnalisée ici comme un manque de terminologie scientifique en langue nationale, sont reproduites par les scientifiques. Les résultats suggèrent que les scientifiques nordiques croient que la terminologie en langue locale est absente, mais il est moins claire combien ils trouvent cela problématique. Les raisons possibles de cette apparente absence de préoccupation parmi les scientifiques par rapport aux autres participants au débat sont discutées, tout comme les implications pour la politique linguistique.

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Hultgren, Anna Kristina