Discussion among researchers

Researcher coming from abroad faces many challenges at the university. One of the issues concerns understanding the language(s) used in society. There are different justifications for learning (or not) the language. Some people are trying to integrate through language learning and progress fast. Others realize that although they invest a lot of efforts in learning, their language skills are never enough to maintain complex professional conversations, which are essential for a full integration. As a result, it might feel that hard work does not pay off. Yet many others are trying to keep up with a competitive academic environment, and as they have a lot of work, and their possibilities to dedicate time to the language are limited.

Through my discussions at several universities and research interviews, I have realized that somehow within the university community there is both a lack of English-speaking environment (as well as events, courses) and lack support for the national languages, diminishing the use of Finnish and Swedish*. Opportunities for foreigners to learn and practice national languages also vary across campuses and universities, especially on the advanced level. At times, it might be difficult to combine classes with work and family duties.

I started researching internationalization, because it felt that this is the only way to create a cosmopolitan university capable of generating critical knowledge. It was evident to me that especially in social sciences this depended on multiple points of view and diversity that is not just celebrated, but used to reflect power imbalances and colonial legacies, and injustices generated by globalization. Language issues add another layer to this discussion.

So, is there a way to create a common space within the university, which would include speakers of multiple languages and benefit from existing multilingualism? Can an institution of higher education pursue internationalization as well as protect minority languages? Is there a possibility of an equal treatment to all?

What kind of expectations do you have of the university?


*Surprisingly, despite a different number of speakers, these languages are put in the same box within this discussion.