New language policy: Make yourself understood in both Swedish and English!

25 March 2011

Lars-Olof Delsing, Professor of Nordic Languages, has been project manager for the new language poli

Correct, simple and understandable. This is how the language used at the University is to be, according to the new language policy that is almost ready.

“The language policy is important because it gives the University a common linguistic foundation on which to stand”, says project manager Lars-Olof Delsing, Professor of Nordic Languages.

The policy that has now been drawn up provides guidelines on how and when Swedish should be used in different contexts at the University and on how the University can improve its employees’ and students’ skills in Swedish and English. The document covers everything from the rules for syllabi to websites and signs in university buildings.

“The policy has three main aims. There shall be plain language, parallel language use and multilingualism”, says Lars-Olof Delsing.

Plain language means that the language used at the University should be clear, simple and understandable. Parallel language use means that both Swedish and English should be used as far as possible. Sweden’s Language Act safeguards the Swedish language and requires Swedish to be used in certain contexts, while internationalisation of the University presupposes use of English.

“There is an intrinsic conflict, but we can solve it with parallel language use”, says Professor Delsing.

He says that some documents may need to be translated into Swedish, others into English.

Documents that contain safety and employment information, for example, or information to enable students to follow the teaching must exist in Swedish under the Language Act.

“But for international researchers and students it is important that it also exists in English.”

A third goal is for the University to be multilingual – and not just in Swedish and English.

“If your research field is Eastern European history, for example, it may be difficult to conduct research if you don’t speak Russian.”

In the language policy, the project group offers suggestions for how the policy should be implemented. According to Lars-Olof Delsing, one of the most important proposals is the one that concerns translation.

“All theses are to contain a summary both in English and in Swedish. Our proposal is that the Translation Service could help the researchers with the language that is not their mother tongue. If neither is, help would be available for both languages.”

The cost of producing the policy has been the equivalent of 20 per cent of a full-time post for six months for Lars-Olof Delsing and one further member of the project group.

“For the other members of the group, the cost has been covered within the administrative part of their posts.”

Lars-Olof Delsing says that the next major step in the University’s language work, after the policy has been out on a consultation round, is to draw up an action plan of how the University is to meet the demands placed on it by the language policy.

“That is a new project. My task comes to an end now. The budget and time frame for the next step will be decided by the vice-chancellor”, says Lars-Olof Delsing.

- Marie White

See also the English language platform, http://awelu.srv.lu.se