WETENSCHAP VAN DE ZIEL – Does it sound better now?
Recently, the usage of English as the main language of Maastricht University has been disapproved by some noisy intellectuals who are frequenting talkshows for the elderly. According to these gurus, Dutch universities should stick to the Dutch language, especially in case of studies such as psychology.
Well, as an international member of staff here, at FPN, this news came as a disappointment to me. I see Dutch people as extraordinary resourceful, pragmatic, the most open to other cultures, and people who see the richness in diversity. Dutch people do not waste energy and time (and money) playing the card of their national identity and irrational fear that it will be somehow taken from them. At least, that is what I thought, but even the smart people sometimes have a need to shoot themselves in a foot.
The arm chair philosopher who really believes that Dutch students are somehow discriminated by the official UM language, probably never spent some time with Dutchies. According to statistics (and real-life experience), the Netherlands is the number one country when it comes to English proficiency of all non-English speaking countries. And not just English, Dutch people are often proficient in German and French too. The reason behind this polyglot feature was to be able to trade with the rest of the leading countries in the world (read – money), right? Well, it appears that suddenly other countries’ money does not appeal to the Netherlands? I don’t think so. Let’s be honest, the education institutions today are not much different from a brand that needs to be sold. Dutch Universities – including UM – are an excellent brand and so they attach talented people from all over the place. What exactly is wrong with that? The main purpose of any educational institution is to pass the knowledge on young people who want to learn. So why limiting these people by the language they speak? Check the websites of all major universities in the Netherlands, and you will see diversity as the number one selling point. When students see that Uni’s are open to everyone, it helps them feel welcomed and that their background will not be an obstacle in their path of becoming future scientists, practitioners, or whatever they want. The issue of language restriction concerns the lecturers, tutors, and researchers too. They (we) are also a part of the brand. We also give the international “vibe” that appeals to those applicants. We, by also using the knowledge that we gained in our countries, contribute to the broadness of knowledge we can share with students. Therefore, switching to the Dutch language would discriminate not just students, but also the university staff.
The latter argument, concerning English language in psychology studies, actually is a paradox. The word “psychology” literally means “science of the soul”. Is that different in Dutch? With all the respect of individual and cultural differences, my opinion is that psychology, in particular, should be thought in the language that majority speaks. The power of psychology is stronger the moment people call the same constructs with the same labels, and explain the similar phenomenon in a similar way. This is especially important now, considering today’s emigration flow. People, future clients, do not care in which language their psychologist studied, but how much knowledge s/he has and how good of an expert s/he is. As long as Maastricht University worries about such values, UM students will be just fine /fijn.
Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience