Google Translating our education?

The balance between quality and internationalization

3 Feb 2018 | News, Opinion

To illustrate the dangers of hasty internationalization, we translated our Dutch article using Google Translate. As you can see, the result isn’t great. That’s why we pressed the Board of Directors during the last University Council meeting to prioritize the quality of education above internationalizing programmes. Internationalization should add to the quality of programmes, not diminish it. In their reaction, The Board agreed that quality should always prevail.

Many historians recognize the book immediately: the autumn of the Middle Ages. Next year it will be 100 years since this pioneering book made the Groningen historian Huizinga the most famous Dutch historian, also abroad. Nowadays people sometimes look back with nostalgia on the time of Huizinga, when the Harmonie building was still a concert hall and Protestants from all over the world came to Groningen to learn Dutch.

Now we live in a very different time, which is very noticeable in the course of events at our university. More and more studies have English-language subjects, an English-language track or are exclusively in English. And that is not always positive. Lectures with only Dutch students, which are given in English, unfortunately this is an example that is reality. Lijst Calimero believes that internationalization can serve a purpose, but that this can never be an end in itself. The thoughtless transfer of studies to English is therefore going too far.

Changing the language involves risks. It can reduce enthusiasm and interaction with the teacher. Moreover, the influence of the Dutch language and style is lost sight of. Especially in language studies, language is a means of learning a culture and then studying it better. Language also entails a certain emotional value, which can be of decisive importance in, for example, studying poetry. By imposing hasty ‘turning’, we can sometimes lose sight of that value.

It is true that our society is globalizing and that training is part of that. Also, with the stimulation of internationalization, the value of different cultures is recognized. International students bring other cultural backgrounds. This helps to view problems from different angles. But we can not leave our own culture behind.

That is why we advocate not losing sight of the quality of education in the internationalization process. This must always be in the first place. Internationalization can only add value if it contributes to this.

Yesterday we presented this issue to the management through a survey. This in response to the article by lecturer Eelco Runia in the NRC about, among other things, the problems with internationalization in the bachelor’s history. The institute happily agreed that quality should always be in the first place. The rector will therefore discuss the situation with the history of the Faculty of Arts. So that new lighting historians can appreciate the fall time of the Middle Ages in their mother tongue.