Nieuws - 3 oktober 1996

WAU shows tolerance in language use

WAU shows tolerance in language use

Mahmud Tang, from Indonesia, sprang a surprise on the university with his PhD. Except for a summary in English and Dutch, the thesis was written in Bahasa Indonesia. Tuesday September 17, he defended his thesis on the multiformity of social security arrangements in South Sulawesi. Anybody who wanted to hear more about Tang's research, besides the information in the summary, could attend the graduation.

Fortunately all the members of the graduation committee also spoke the main language of Indonesia well. On the other hand, Tang's fluency in Dutch and English did not always come up to the mark, so the discussion switched to Indonesian every so often.

However, an issue raised by this and similar cases is the question of the accessibility of the research for a wider audience. Frans von Benda-Beckmann, professor in Agrarian Law, admits he has ambivalent feelings: WAU is fairly tolerant regarding the language in which theses are written. Imagine, a university in the United States would never accept a thesis written in Dutch." Von Benda-Beckmann, one of Tang's promoters, explains that Tang's knowledge of English and Dutch was too limited and translation would have been too costly and time-consuming. He feels that the interesting parts and major findings of the research should be written up in an English article.

Hitze Gorter, head of the Legal Affairs department at the university, reads out the official PhD examination regulations over the telephone: Under point 3.7 the PhD regulations state that the report and statements should be written in Dutch, or in English, French or German." Gorter explains that writing a PhD thesis in a language other than those mentioned is accepted, as long as the members of the PhD graduation committee are able to read it. They are the ones who have to judge the quality of the final thesis report. According to Gorter theses written in other languages are exceptional cases. He can only recall one other thesis in Bahasa Indonesia and a few in Spanish.