New insights into the study programmes of the University
Determining the language needs of the various programmes at the University was an important part of the Language Strategy. The needs were identified either by means of questionnaire surveys or meetings with representatives from various faculties and departments.
Meetings with academic units
A total of 45 meetings were conducted between Language Strategy staff and various academic units, resulting in the following list of needs:
- Written academic English support, especially in the hard sciences.
- General academic reading support in English.
- Support for reading texts in, e.g., German, French, Latin and Classical Greek.
- Attention to the students’ academic Danish skills, especially written Danish.
Nine questionnaire surveys were conducted during the project period. The surveys served two purposes: to qualify the content of the completed pilot projects, and to form a basis for the recommendations proposed during the final stages of the Language Strategy.
Read a brief summary of the surveys in the following paragraphs:
Students on study abroad programmes between 2013-14 and 2014-15
Students who had studied abroad between 2013-15 were asked about their language needs while abroad. More than a third responded that they had experienced different degrees of language-related challenges during their time abroad. Having to function in a foreign language can present a wide range of challenges. The students typically described the challenges related to the social aspect of their study abroad experience as exciting but were less enthusiastic about the experience of studying in a foreign language. Many of the students identified the academic genre as a time-consuming obstacle both when reading and writing.
Students at the Faculty of Theology
Students at the Faculty of Theology were questioned about study-related language needs. A large number of students identified insufficient reading skills in German as a serious problem. For more information about the survey
Students at the Faculty of Social Sciences
Students at the Faculty of Social Sciences were questioned about study-related language needs. About a third of the students responded that they had experienced difficulties as a result of insufficient language skills. They identified academic English as a challenge, but also mentioned that French and German would be useful languages to know.
Students and teaching staff at the Faculty of Law
Students and teaching staff at the Faculty of Law were asked about study-related language needs. About a third of the students admitted that they had experienced challenges related to language and they asked for academic English support, but they also pointed to a need for French and German in certain academic situations. The teaching staff highlighted the students’ general lack of language proficiency and precision in Danish.
A survey among medical students revealed that although the large majority of medical students seem to cope well with the linguistic challenges of the programme, about a third have experienced language barriers at some point during their studies. Academic English was emphasised as a problem area. There also seems to be basis for further studies of the conditions for the students communication of the medical knowledge and the use of medical terminology in relation to patients. When asked what languages are most useful to medical students upon graduation, the majority said English, but interestingly about one-fourth mentioned Arabic and French.
Students and teaching staff at the Faculty of the Humanities
A survey among students and teaching staff at the Faculty of the Humanities (HUM) shows that more than 40% of the non-language majors have experienced linguistic challenges during the course of their studies. The language majors were asked if they had experienced a lack of proficiency in languages other than their major, and one-third responded with a yes. Academic reading skills in English, German, French, Italian, Latin and Ancient Greek are desperately needed at HUM since reading gives access to knowledge and sources. The students’ written language, especially written English, also requires more work as does their written Danish to some extent. Finally, there is a need for cross-disciplinary efforts to support students with Danish as a second language.
PhD students at Copenhagen University
At the end of 2016, a survey was conducted among the PhD students at Copenhagen University. The survey revealed that 94 % of the PhD students were planning to write their thesis in English, and it is therefore no surprise that the survey also shows a need among PhD students for academic English skills for writing purposes, oral presentations and academic discussions. Furthermore, there appear to be individual needs for German, French and Spanish skills for reading tasks, collecting and analyzing data, and studying abroad. Finally, the survey discloses a need for support in Danish language for students with Danish as a second or foreign language. This need is related to the students’ abilities to function in social, academic and administrative contexts, and the urgency of this situation is underlined by the fact that only 57 % of the respondents state that Danish is their first language.
Members of the employer panels at Copenhagen University
In 2017, a survey of the language competences of University of Copenhagen graduates was conducted among members of the employer panel Copenhagen University. The survey shed light on language use at Danish workplaces, where Danish and English are often used in parallel. A distinction is often made between everyday English and formal English. Employers generally expect their employees to have a functional command of everyday English, while formal language tasks are often passed on to, for example, professional translators. Languages other than Danish and English, e.g., German and French, are often used when companies want to explore new markets. The need for language skills is often satisfied through professional development rather than recruitment.