"Use Norwegian when you can and English when you have to"

By Hallvard Lyssand

22 February 2010 19:05

(updated: 7 March 2016 19:06)

"Use Norwegian when you can and English when you have to"

NHH is increasingly international in its orientation; however, the institution also has a responsibility for upholding and developing Norwegian as a professional language in its domains. A committee is presently working on a proposal on how to strike the balance."One important step is to raise an awareness concerning these challenges, another is to focus on quality regardless of language," says committee chair Marita Kristiansen.

Since June a committee appointed by Jan I. Haaland, Rector at NHH has been working on a proposal for language guidelines for research, teaching, knowledge dissemination and administration at NHH.

"Our mandate is to propose guidelines and measures that will help the school in fulfilling its national responsibilities concerning the upholding and development of Norwegian as a professional language in the economic and administrative domains. This responsibility is established both through national legislation and NHH's own strategy."

"At the same time, the guidelines must help facilitate further internationalisation through parallel lingualism - use of both Norwegian and English where this is required," says Marita Kristiansen, language committee chair, with the Department of Professional and Intercultural Communication.

"The committee's view is that it is important to raise an awareness concerning the use of languages in general and that NHH must focus on quality regardless of whatever language or language variant we use," she adds.

Domain loss

Increased internationalisation is both an aim and a fact at NHH. Much research is already being published in English, the recruitment of international researchers and students is increasing steadily and an increasing number of courses are taught in English.

However, there is at least one serpent in internationalisation's own Garden of Eden, and this particular serpent speaks nothing but English.

"We run the risk of so-called domain loss, that one language gradually forces another out and replaces it, for instance within a professional domain. Some might argue that it's alright that English replaces Norwegian as the language used within the economic and administrative domains,, but I do not agree," Kristiansen states.

"Of course we need to have an international orientation, but we aren't always on an international arena. We also want to present our research to a Norwegian audience, and most people understand best in their mother tongue," she adds.

Best of both worlds

"The NHH-group's large-scale research and teaching project, Crisis, Restructuring and Growth, is a good example. The project is highly relevant both at home and abroad, but if everything had been communicated in English much of the content might be missed by many.

"Research also shows that students meet an extra barrier when they need to handle both a new subject and a foreign language at the same time. In addition, many Norwegian students will eventually work in Norway, and they need to be able to think and discuss in Norwegian," Kristiansen points out.

"Both languages are still required, she concludes, and adds a "fortunately."

Create an awareness

The pressure from English becomes evident in several ways when technical terms from English worm their way into Norwegian. The result is often a sort of "pidgin parallelism."

The following example is from a Norwegian language article on Paraplyen's main page in June 2009 (an invitation to a Master's Thesis competition):

(…) inviterer NHH-studenter til å delta i konkurranse om beste masteroppgave på Private Equity-områdene buyout og venture.

The Language Policy Committee also presents several examples from guest lectures at NHH, such as:

"Måtte aligne de og stakeholderne" and "da opptrer jeg riktig i forhold til vår governance modell," are two examples among many.

"A first step is to make everyone involved conscious of the problem at hand," Kristiansen says.

Among the proposals for consciousness-expanding language guidelines is the following relatively simple proposal: "Use Norwegian when you can, and English when you have to."

Clearer concept formation

Kristiansen points out that there are plenty of well-established Norwegian terms that can be used in place of English terms. And if the terms are lacking, the faculty need to contribute to establishing such alternatives.

"This will spark debate and necessary clarification of concepts," she believes.

One of the proposals discussed by the Language Policy Committee is that NHH establishes a Norwegian-English termbase within the economic and administrative domains. The termbase should comprise English and Norwegian terms for all relevant courses at NHH.

Kristiansen also envisions a language centre that has the necessary qualifications to help assure language quality, for instance in research publications. But she realises that it is all a question of resources.

Mild pressure

In some areas Kristiansen believes mild pressure might be in place. One example is to make a Norwegian abstract of publications written in English a requirement.

Another might be to make Norwegian language courses mandatory for employees that do not speak Norwegian. NTNU has introduced this practice in connection with permanent employment.

She believes that the latter measure might help improve the integration of international employees, and strengthen their ties to NHH.

At the same time it is important to clarify what information should be available in English, and make sure that the quality is high.

Concrete guidelines

Several other Norwegian universities and university colleges have already established language policies, and the Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions (UHR) has established a language policy platform with recommended guidelines.

"We find UHR's recommendations sensible and have used them as a starting point. But both these guidelines and those from other institutions are quite general. We want to present more concrete guidelines and possible measures," Kristiansen asserts.

The Language Policy Committee will assemble early this week to hopefully decide the final formulations of their proposals.

The final document will then be delivered to the Rector. At a later stage it will be sent out for comment.

Language Policy Committee

Marita Kristiansen, Department of professional and Intercultural Communication
Jon Iden, Department of Strategy and Management
Tore Leite, Department of Finance and Management Science
Norvald Monsen, Department of Accounting, Auditing and Law
Linda Orvedal, Department of Economics
Kjersti Danilova, Student and Academic Affairs Office
Sigrid Folkestad, Information department
Ingebjørg Myking, The NHH Student Union (NHHS)
Ingunn Aanes, The NHH Student Union (NHHS)
Frank Mortensen, Secretariat
Anita Søvik Jensen, Secretariat