Fears for Norwegian as English papers rewarded

February 10, 2006

The Norwegian language is under pressure in Norway's universities as academics are encouraged to use English when publishing their research.

The University of Oslo has become the first institution to appoint a committee to develop a language policy. It comprises three senior academic staff and a student representative and is researching attitudes towards English and Norwegian and the extent to which the languages are used in teaching and research at the university.

"The university doesn't have a particular policy in place at present. But we're trying to find out how Norwegian and English can best coexist as working languages," Ragnhild Hoen, the committee's student representative, said. "Some people fear English is being used at the expense of Norwegian.

For example, there are instances when a Norwegian lecturer teaches in English to a class of students where the majority are Norwegian speakers."

Ms Hoen said that the initiative was a response to the recommendations of the Norwegian Language Council. "They published a study last year ( Norsk i hundre ) that recommends that every university department develops a language policy for coping with Norwegian and English."

Birgit Brock-Utne, professor of comparative education science at Oslo, claimed the report did not go far enough to protect the status of Norwegian at universities. "An important paragraph about university teaching was taken out. It read: 'The language of education should ordinarily be Norwegian.'"

Professor Brock-Utne also feared that academics were being discouraged from writing in Norwegian. "My own department rewards academics financially for publishing in English."

The Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions, another funding body, also gives more weight to publications written in English.

But Anne-Brit Kolst?, former pro rector, told Oslo's university newspaper that researchers strived to make their research available internationally, which in effect means writing in English.

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