Italian university to teach in English
One of Italy’s leading universities has caused shockwaves with the announcement that it will begin teaching entirely in English by 2014.
Politecnico di Milano, which is considered to be one of the top 50 preeminent academic institutions in the world, explained that the switch to English from Italian is to ensure that it remains a competitive place of study.
Professor Giovanni Azzone, rector of the university, is committed to what is being described as an experiment, suggesting perhaps it will only become a permanent feature if it is met with success.
“I would have preferred if Italian was the common language, it would have been easier for me – but we have to accept real life,” he told the BBC.
“It’s very important for our students not only to have very good technical skills, but also to work in an international environment.”
Professor Azzone added that because English is the so-called global language of business and higher education, this move, perceived by many to be quite radical, will make students more employable.
The switch won’t be easy though, as it will require a significant overhaul of the university’s resources and infrastructure. Textbooks, course materials and information points will all need to be updated to include English.
Naturally, the move has been met with widespread criticism in the academic world, with many seeing it as a dangerous precedent, where “culture can be lost”. A petition has been launched and has already been signed by 300 academics.
One of these opponents is professor Emilio Matricciani, who teaches at the university. He fears that there will be a lot of important information, knowledge and learning “lost in translation” from teacher to student.
“Speaking Italian to our countrymen is like watching a movie in colour, high definition, very clear pictures,” he commented to the BBC.
“On the contrary, speaking English to them, even with our best effort, is, on the average, like watching a movie in black and white, with very poor definition, with blurred pictures.”
According to the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the world’s most spoken languages are Chinese Mandarin, English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese and Japanese.