Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A language is a marketplace: Defending local languages versus teaching in English

A headline in Haaretz takes a strident tone on a sensitive issue, but the story presents both sides of a complicated argument, that revolves around the fact that not only are universities marketplaces, but so are languages: Israel's Academy of the Hebrew Language declares war – on English

"Tali Ben Yehuda, the academy's director-general, said "demands that students study in English represent the gravest expression of the trend" of minimizing Hebrew's role in academia. Demands that students speak or study in English constitute a phenomenon "that is expanding considerably."

"Unless steps are taken, she warned, "academic departments will instruct solely in English, and this will spread to the high schools, because a conscientious parent will not send his or her child to a high school that doesn't prepare the youngster for university study.
"Ben-Gurion University of the Negev's chemistry department has sent a letter in English to students saying that research papers written in Hebrew will no longer be accepted. It said advanced research seminars would be conducted in English. This is because "the language of science is English."
Yehuda Band, the head of the university's chemistry department, said last night that this English-use requirement did not apply to undergraduates. He said that "if someone tries to record research results in Hebrew, that consigns his or her work to oblivion - nobody will read the research summary. Every person who deals in science today in Israel reads English."
"According to Band, another argument in favor of English is Ben-Gurion University's desire to recruit foreign students. The moment there's a student in a class who doesn't speak Hebrew, the lesson has to be conducted in English.
"Of course, these circumstances make things harder for people whose native tongue is Hebrew, and yet the use of English is something that any scientist has to master to advance in his or her work," Band said. "If a researcher doesn't know English, he's finished. If he doesn't know how to write in English, he won't be able to publish on his own and will depend on the largesse of others."

1 comment:

Assaf said...

I just had to check it, and found it in one of the academy's protocols. No connection to Eliezer Ben Yehuda whatsoever.