Proposal for new language policy

Trine Dahl (head of working group), Jarle Møen, Gernot Doppelhofer, Irene Velle Waraas (secretary of the group), Jorun Gunnerud, Astri Kamsvåg, Ingelin Uthaug and Aksel Mjøs.
Trine Dahl (head of working group), Jarle Møen, Gernot Doppelhofer, Irene Velle Waraas (secretary of the group), Jorun Gunnerud, Astri Kamsvåg, Ingelin Uthaug and Aksel Mjøs. Photo: Hallvard Lyssand
By Astri Kamsvåg

25 January 2019 00:00

(updated: 25 January 2019 09:18)

Proposal for new language policy

The internal working group recently submitted its proposal for revised language policy guidelines to Rector Øystein Thøgersen. As expected, the group spent most of its time on the relationship between Norwegian and English.

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Read the proposed guidelines 

The working group is clear that both Norwegian Nynorsk and clearly recipient-oriented language are identified as important for NHH. 

"The main points in the NHH guidelines approved in 2010 are retained," says Professor Trine Dahl, who has chaired the working group. 

"But some new guidelines have been added and others have been deleted or toned down. We have also replaced 'ought/should' with the more obligatory 'shall' in a number of places", she says.

The members of the working group have reached agreement on most matters, but not all. The proposal submitted therefore contains dissenting opinions on two of the issues.

Must faculty know Norwegian?

One issue where the members of the working group have different opinions is the extent to which permanent academic staff must be competent in Norwegian. Should

NHH require them to acquire sufficient Norwegian language skills, over a period of a few years, to read Norwegian texts and take part in meetings held in Norwegian? And will a requirement for Norwegian language skills make it difficult for NHH to recruit good researchers from abroad?

Background documents

NHH's current language guidelines (2010)

NHH strategy 2018-2021: NHH shall pursue a language policy that effectively balances NHH’s social mission in Norway with its international ambitions (p. 21)

NHH's language guidelines (presentation of working group and mandate, Paraplyen September 2018)

English or Norwegian at NHH? (video with Sunniva Whittaker, Paraplyen June 2017)

The majority of the working group want permanent staff to be able to communicate satisfactorily in both Norwegian and English with students, colleagues and the outside world. The majority also want permanent staff who do not speak Norwegian or another Scandinavian language when first employed by NHH, to achieve Norwegian skills corresponding to Norwegian language test level B1 after three years. B1 is defined as the intermediate level in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

The minority do not want NHH to have a Norwegian language requirement.

"We fear that a requirement of this nature will be a deterrent for international candidates," says Aksel Mjøs for the minority.

The working group

•  Professor Trine Dahl, Department of Professional and Intercultural Communication (Chair)

•  Professor Gernot Doppelhofer, Department of Economics

•  Senior Adviser, Jorun Gunnerud, Office of Student and Academic Affairs

•  Communications Adviser Astri Kamsvåg, Office of Communications and Marketing

•  Associate Professor Aksel Mjøs, Department of Finance

•  Professor Jarle Møen, Department of Business and Management Science

•  Master’s degree student, Ingelin Uthaug, Head of Academic Affairs, the Norwegian School of Economics’ Student Union 

"Our experience is that most staff learn Norwegian using their own initiative after a while", Aksel explains.

NHH staff contribute actively to the Norwegian public debate, by communicating research-based knowledge and making expert contributions in the media and to government committees.

"Our main responsibility is to contribute to Norwegian society. So NHH needs staff who speak Norwegian and have expert knowledge about Norwegian affairs."

Trine Dahl, head of the working group

Norwegian or English Msc?

Should the primary language for the MSc programme in Economics and Business Administration be English in the future? Or should Norwegian, alongside English, continue to be an important language on this programme?

Members of the working group also had different opinions on this key issue.

The majority maintains that both languages should be important, while the minority wants English to be the primary language. 

"We have had lively discussions about these topics," says Trine Dahl.

"Now we are keen to know what the rest of the organisation thinks about our proposal, and it will be up to the Board to make the final decision. It will be interesting to hear which way the Board decides to go."

"We are now giving Board members the opportunity to reflect deeply on how bold they want NHH’s language policy to be," adds Trine.

Bachelor readings in Norwegian

The working group proposes that the prescribed readings for the compulsory courses in the bachelor’s programme will be in Norwegian, always presuming that good Norwegian language textbooks exist. Otherwise, how will NHH students learn the Norwegian terminology? Most of the mandatory readings are already in Norwegian, but the working group encourages the lecturers to take this factor into account in their choice of literature.

"NHH considers it important for our Norwegian students to be able to talk about their subject in their native language, not just in English," stresses Trine Dahl.

"Norwegian terminology therefore needs to be embedded early in the programme. There will be more English during the MSc programme and English is the required language for the PhD programme."

"Research shows that we learn best in our native language, so we believe that most Norwegian students will appreciate this guideline," says Trine.

"Likewise, we encourage our academic staff to find good textbooks in Norwegian or write such books themselves, even if this is not the most prestigious work in academia," she says.

Norwegian working community

NHH and the other universities and university colleges in Norway are obliged to develop Norwegian professional language in their fields of expertise. This has not been given high priority at NHH. The working group would now like the institution to do something about this.

The great majority of Norwegian students educated at NHH work in Norway.

"There is no doubt that we want a working community that uses Norwegian terminology," says Dahl.

communication skills

The working group also proposes that students on all study programmes will be offered tuition in the principles of communication and academic writing, in order to enhance their linguistic, textual and genre competence.

"Employers need employees who have good oral and written communication skills. We want to make our students even more attractive in the job market, through further reinforcement of their expertise as communicators," says Trine Dahl.

Consultation and Board 

The proposal will be sent out for comment internally in the organisation. The Board of NHH will then make a decision on the new language guidelines this spring.

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