From a recent BBC New article:
One of Italy's leading universities - the Politecnico di Milano - is going to switch to the English language. The university has announced that from 2014 most of its degree courses - including all its graduate courses - will be taught and assessed entirely in English rather than Italian.
I still remember my master thesis dissertation at Politecnico in 1997. My thesis, "Modelling the Self-motion and Environmental-motion Coherence in Yaw" was entirely developed in English during a stint at Delft University in the Netherlands. At the time, I was forced to translate back in Italian a 10-page summary of the thesis and my slides. The defense presentation was also delivered in Italian.
I for one welcome the change. English is (still) the language of international business and academia. It will only benefit students to spend a few years prepping for communications in an English-dominated world.
But some strongly disagree:
Something of the precision and quality of teaching and learning will be lost in translation, when both teachers and students are using a second language. "Speaking Italian to our countrymen is like watching a movie in colour, high definition, very clear pictures. On the contrary, speaking English to them, even with our best effort, is, on the average, like watching a movie in black and white, with very poor definition, with blurred pictures," says Professor Matricciani.
What do you think?
let me add to your post that the Department of Computer, Control, and Management Engineering at Sapienza University of Rome has already been offering two English-only M.Sc. programs since the last three years: "Computer Engineering" and "Artificial Intelligence and Robotics". First, this has fostered the enrollment of foreign students in our university, which can only be considered as a benefit, either in terms of social activities, either in terms of enlarging the university target segment beyond Italian citizens. Second, and here I'm focusing on technical faculties, such as engineering, most of the topics are so tied to the English world, that teaching in English may also be easier than in Italian (at least, this has been my personal experience in this).
I agree with Prof. Matricciani that today we, as teachers, are still not fully skilled to attend classes in a foreign language (btw, this is also arguable). Still, the today students will be the tomorrow PhD candidates, post-docs, and professors that will teach in Italian universities. English-only degree programs will enable these people to properly communicate their skills in English, a gap that public school should fill, but does not actually.
I agree. The issue is generational, meaning that within a generation cycle of teaching positions, the issue of language will be largely non-existent.
To improve the standard of English to maintain international competitiveness, the Italian Education Ministry should consider to make it compulsory to pass the English language paper in Italy.
The widely acknowledged weakening of the English language proficiency in Italy continues to weaken our global competitiveness in science, technology and the economy. The Ministry of Education’s latest attempt to improve English language proficiency is the policy to “Uphold Italy and Strengthen the English Language”, which serves to replace and reverse the policy of the“Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English”.
My experience is that the success of such courses depends primarily on the English proficiency of the professors. Unfortunately, in many secondary schools in Italy (and France), English is still often taught by non-native speakers with heavy accents. Coupled with out-of-date teaching methods, it is no wonder that so many high school graduates still lack proficiency in English. This stands in stark contrast to teaching methods and requirements for teachers of English in northern European countries (such as The Netherlands).
Update for 2013: The prestigious (founded in 1583!) Accademia della Crusca, an Italian society for scholars, linguists and philologists is publishing the result of a study on this topic.
Synopsis [in Italian. Sic!]:
"Nei mesi scorsi si è aperto un vivace dibattito sull'inglese come lingua esclusiva dell'insegnamento universitario in Italia. L'occasione è stata data dall'annuncio del rettore del Politecnico di Milano di voler avviare dal 2013-14 i corsi magistrali e dottorali solo in inglese, escludendo quindi l'italiano dalla formazione superiore di ingegneri e architetti. Diverse sono state le reazioni e l'Accademia della Crusca ha cercato di costruire un momento di dialogo e confronto sul tema. Sono stati invitati a partecipare rappresentanti dell'università, del ministero, del mondo giuridico, scientifico, linguistico, alcuni accademici della Crusca stranieri, scrittori e studiosi di differenti settori culturali. Il volume raccoglie i numerosi interventi: dai diversi modi di concepire l'università alla costituzionalità di una decisione che esclude la lingua ufficiale della Repubblica, agli sbocchi professionali dei laureati in Italia, fino a possibili modelli di sviluppo economico e sociale, oltre a temi specificamente linguistici. Dal puntuale riferimento al quadro linguistico nazionale, caratterizzato ancora da troppe differenze e lacune, alla sfida del multilinguismo/plurilinguismo cui l'Europa e il mondo ci chiamano."
Fuori l'italiano dall'università? Inglese, internazionalizzazione, politica linguistica
Prezzo € 20,00
Dati 288 pp.
Collana Percorsi Laterza
Data uscita Gennaio 2013