Student Organization Groningen Sint Walburgstraat 22 9712 HX GRONINGEN 050 - 363 46 79 firstname.lastname@example.org Spokesperson: Gerben ter Veen email@example.com
“Language and internationalization” By the International Student Council: Aman Sharma (chairman) Kirsten Blaszkowski Johanna Kemper Gintaré Morkuté Polina Petrova Christian Rausch Lukas Wiese
The Problem The international student population currently accounts for a significant proportion of total students of the University of Groningen (about 10%, according to UCI advice on students and internalization, 2011), but the Rector Magnificus, Mr. Elmer Sterken, is striving for a percentage as high as 25% (ibid). Now take this in context. If it is possible for certain conflicts to arise in Groningen between stadjers and other Dutch students who all come from a similar cultural background, but still have issues living with each other, think about the difficulties that the international students face in integration, bonding and communication, coming from cultures that can be very different from the Dutch itself. They do not make the right judgement at times, particularly because information is not always available to them in a manner that they understand, and there are occasions when the law is not obeyed, only because the rules could not be read and understood by those that broke it. These problems are not going anywhere, not by themselves at least. The positive here is that the international students in the city would like to change this. As a fact, most of the internationals staying in Groningen for a year or longer have the desire to learn some amount of Dutch â€“ at least till a level that helps them in the everyday scenario. Results from our study show that 54% have the wish to do so, while 26% want to excel at the language, leaving only 20% with no desire to learn any Dutch. With the current plans to increase the number of international students in the University, we deem it a good idea to work on the integration of the foreign students into the Dutch society through language learning.
Our Methods Firstly, we designed a questionnaire survey, analysing the needs and desires of the students for Dutch learning, and to better understand the reason for the present situation. Are they studying Dutch? Why / Why not? Would they like to learn it? And till what level would they like to go? What do they think about existing opportunities? These are the obvious questions that come to mind. At the end, we have questionnaire results from a decent sample survey of 300 students of the University of Groningen, all from different faculties. Secondly, we reviewed the existing opportunities of learning Dutch and the methods that are being put to good practice. We contacted the people responsible and explored the feasibility of applying these successful practices on a bigger scale, or even just modifying the current facilities to make them more attractive for the international students. Finally, we found a few interesting scenarios and decided to concentrate on them to find the best solutions possible: the highly successful Dutch programme at the Psychology Department at the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences as well as at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, involving students studying languages in the teaching process, the promotion of existing relevant information, and collaboration with student organisation ESN, and possibly other organisations in Groningen as well.
The Results We surveyed 300 international students who are to stay in Groningen for more than a year. Our findings were quite constant throughout, suggesting that: o hardly any of them speak Dutch. o incomplete information is a major reason for them to not take up a course. o in terms of money, most cannot afford to pay for the Language Centre, while some cited less time as being the deterrent for them. o those who have learnt the language, learnt it at the Language Centre. o most importantly, nearly everyone wanted to learn the Dutch language till a decent level. After further research and discussion, we have found the following to be the most viable solutions, with the first option being our main proposal:
Option 1: Taking the Psychology Department model to all faculties Presently, the Psychology Department is the only one in the University of Groningen offering Dutch courses to their students at reasonable costs. It is the result of collaboration between the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences of the University and the Language Centre. International Psychology students have the option of taking a 7 week Dutch language lesson at the start of their semester, an intensive 20 hour course. The lectures are given by staff from the Language Centre itself (10 hours in total), and Student Assistants of the Masters programme "toegepaste taalwetenschap"(Applied Linguistics) are instructors for practice lessons and assignments (10 hours in total). This course is optional and no EC’s are granted for it. In September 2011, 200 students from the Psychology Department itself signed up for the course. There are certain expenses for the faculty as development costs, coaching of student assistants, as well as for the lecturers of the Language Centre. This figure stands at about €2500 per year, €2233 of which is paid to the Language Centre for their staff. There are some other marginal costs for the organisation and location of classrooms, but these have not been included in the figure above. From their side, students pay €20 each when they sign up for the course. Books usually mean some extra financial outlay, but material for this course is readily available at the library. We met with Ms. Berna de Boer, Head of Dutch Department at the Language Centre, and she told us that this course gets students to a decent level, although there are no estimations made about which formal standard level the students stand at when the course comes to a close. Rather than striving to meet formal requirements, the course starts from scratch, teaching the Dutch language as well as a little bit about Dutch culture. According to Ms. de Boer, the Language Centre is willing to cooperate with other faculties as well. We have the green light to go ahead with continuing our research and approaching the various faculties with a proposal based on the model described above.
Option 2: Getting present students involved in teaching process This proposal focuses on using the expertise of certain students from the University itself to give lessons and teach international students the Dutch language as part of a course. While this model will be highly beneficial for the internationals taking the course, it would
also give the ‘Student-teachers’ practical classroom experience in teaching that will better prepare them for a possible future job, giving them a unique addition for their CV’s too. To figure out the possibilities of creating such a model, we approached the departments for the Master degree programmes in Nederlandse taal en cultuur (leraar eerste graad), Engelse taal en cultuur (leraar eerste graad) as well as the Director of Teacher Education. After a little research, we feel that cooperation with the department of “Engelse taal en cultuur” is a feasible option. We spoke with Dr. J.P.M. Hans Jansen. We found that most of their students are native Dutch speakers. However, they are not trained in the didactics of teaching the language. Still, there are a small number of students here who participate in an exchange programme with a British or Irish University and in fact teach Dutch there. These students would be highly suitable for our purposes after their return from exchange. The department offers to help us get in touch with some of these former students who could assist us in further developing our idea. A realistic outlook suggests that only 3-4 possible student-teachers at hand cannot be expected to deal with a large number of potential students. Hence, this can be seen as the beginning of something much larger, and also a constant activity practiced under the umbrella of a broader organization, such as ESN for instance.
Option 3: Making international students a better informed group While we toil hard to create newer and better opportunities for the international students to learn Dutch, there are obviously some very decent options that already exist. The students of the University, as well as Hanze Hogeschool, are often not aware that they are entitled to a 40% discount on all Language Centre courses, for instance. Our study shows that 63% of the students blamed incomplete information as the biggest reason for them to not have taken up a language course already. We believe that sharing information and raising awareness is an essential component of creating a successful system at the University and in Groningen. The best option here would be to hand-out flyers to the students at the faculty buildings. This way we share vital information with our target group, while creating a source of communication that is impactful and lasting. We have been in touch with staff at all the faculties of the University regarding the feasibility of distributing these flyers at their buildings, and received positive responses from all except one, the Faculty of Spatial Sciences. They informed us that students at their faculty are only here in Groningen for 612 months, and learning Dutch is hardly on the agenda for them. The rest are excited with the prospect of setting this idea in motion.
Option 4: Collaborating with international student organisations To have a big impact and create a positive change for good, it is vital that we reach out to as many people as possible. We plan to do this by collaborating with other international student organisations in the city. Doing so will create a larger audience for us, which will in turn become the group that benefits from our ideas and concepts. While creating partnerships with other organisations is an ongoing process, we have already been in touch with ESN Groningen and had a short piece on the International Student Council and its language project printed in the mini-Erasmus Magazine. This magazine will be in the hands of at least 500 incoming international students on 3rd February 2012, the first day of their ESN Introduction Week.
Appendix I Contacts The following is a list of the most important people within the university we contacted for this report. Judith Barthel Economics and Business firstname.lastname@example.org Ms. Berna de Boer Head, Dutch Department, Language Centre email@example.com Dinie Bouwman Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences firstname.lastname@example.org Margo Slebus Arts email@example.com Paul van Steen Spatial Science firstname.lastname@example.org Anke van Trigt Medicine email@example.com Ms. Vrijens Theology firstname.lastname@example.org Kirsten Wolkotte Law email@example.com
Appendix II Summary survey results Total number of respondents: 300 Medium of study: English (for everyone) 185 speak no amount of Dutch 115 speak a decent/good amount of Dutch
Firstly, for those who speak no Dutch.
Reason they haven’t studied Dutch yet: • • • •
no time 52 (29%) no money 49 (26%) no motivation 41 (22%) no information 43 (23%)
Would they like to learn Dutch: • • •
no 37 (20%) at least some amount 100 (54%) yes 48 (26%)
Do they have language course information: • • •
none at all 48 (26%) incomplete information 116 (63%) yes 21 (11%)
2. Finally, for those who speak at least some amount of Dutch. Their satisfaction of own Dutch knowledge: • • •
none at all 20 (17%) good enough 61 (53%) perfect 34 (30%)
Where they learnt their Dutch: • • • •
self 8 (7%) study 22 (19%) friends 31(26%) language centre 54 (48%)
Appendix III Survey results Please see additional document