'Do you know how smart I am in Spanish?' Every time I get frustrated with the English of my fellow students I remember this line, voiced by Sofia Vergara’s character, who is Colombian, in one of the episodes of Modern family. What a powerful line it is! And how appropriate for such an international place like Wageningen.
By Kristina Simonaityte, student MSc Forest and Nature Conservation
Unlike many of my course mates I did my Bachelor’s in English in an English-speaking country. My writings in the latter language versus those in my mother-tongue (Lithuanian) are much more eloquent and vibrant – at least according to my mum. I suppose that’s because for the past 6 years I’ve been thinking mostly in English. But I also realise time and time again that my English is far from perfect. Over the past year I’ve met a lot of people here in Wageningen – mostly Dutch but from other countries as well – whose masterly use of it makes me feel like a total fraud.
At other times, however, I would catch myself reflecting on how amazing it is that here we are, a bunch of Europeans, Africans, Asians, whose first language is not English, effortlessly discussing these abstract concepts and ideas, and solving complicated problems. That said, I’ve also found myself irritated many a time with people talking too slowly or unclearly, their accents not cute but distracting or contributions to reports too mangled to comprehend. But then I would take a deep breath and ask myself: 'Do you know how smart they are in their native language?', and try not to be so quick to judge.
As WUR is debating whether to introduce fully English Bachelor’s, I’m trying to decide which side I am on. I keep thinking that today I am probably smarter in English than I am in Lithuanian. Whether that’s a bad thing or not could also be part of the debate. Language proficiency should not be a barrier to getting access to world-class education. But I do sometimes wonder if university is really doing itself or its students a favour with its rather lax English requirements. Studying at a Master’s or even Bachelor’s level in a language that is not your first is no easy feat. Despite how thought-provoking and humbling the above quote is, I would prefer not to have to entertain that question. I’d rather discover how smart you are directly by myself.
With this blog Kristina is competing to become a blogger for Resource