Translingualism at the University of Strasbourg

I spoke with Monsieur Serge Potier from the University of Strasbourg yesterday following his presentation about the PhD process at the university. During the Q&A after his talk, he mentioned that some theses are written in a combination of both English and French.

I was wondering what language(s) classes were usually conducted in. From M. Potier’s description, many professors actually conduct classes somewhat bilingually, with instruction in French but slides and materials in English. He said this is because slides are often reused at international conferences, and English is a more commonly used language.

It was interesting to hear about this translingual integration of languages, especially since M. Potier seemed to feel it was both expected and necessary for both faculty and students to communicate multilingually in the classroom. While translingual approaches are starting to gain purchase in some classrooms in the US, I wouldn’t describe it as an expected norm.

It has been interesting to see the integration of multiple languages in an academic setting, and I look forward to seeing what we find in southern Switzerland and Italy!

Here is a picture of Larry, who has kept me company on this trip.


Hallo Zurich!

Raclette and fondue at Swiss Chuchi
was a great way to kick off our first official day of the Global Perspectives 2013 program.

I have had a wonderful time traveling around Switzerland this past week, visiting a cheese factory, chocolate factory, winery, Zurich, Fribourg, Lausanne, and the amazing Matterhorn in Zermatt. And we have had the wonderful opportunity to travel with a Swiss friend who was an exchange student at Virginia Tech a few years ago. She kept us on time, well fed, and exhausted but deliriously happy.

However, I am definitely ready for a change of pace, and I look forward to visiting some schools and learning more about global higher education beyond what we’ve already discussed with Dean DePauw and each other. I’m excited to talk to people and hear what they think about their educational systems, and I’m really looking forward to how all this multilingual stuff works in a higher ed context. It seems like the definition of what it means to be multilingual shifts depending on the national and cultural context you’re in. I can’t wait to learn more!

Tomorrow: University of Zurich and ETH, here we come!


Different perspectives on different countries

Recently, I worked with a graduate student from China in the Writing Center. He’s graduating in May, and he’s currently debating whether to stay in the U.S. or to go back to China to try to find a job. He told me that he thinks it would be easy to find work in China, especially with his graduate degree from the U.S. However, he doesn’t know if he is willing to give up the comfort of life in the US. He told me that I don’t know how lucky I am to have been educated for my whole career in a country that has access to clean air, water, and food.

He asked me if I had ever been to another country, and I told him that I have been to Europe a few times as well as Australia. I told him that I’ll also be going to Switzerland, France, and Italy this summer, and I’m looking forward to studying higher education in a global context.

And he said, “So basically…no, you’ve never been to another country.”

Now, I don’t consider myself a particular well-traveled individual. I’ve had a few international experiences, but I recognize that it’s probably nothing like studying abroad in a country that does not use my mother tongue. And in all the countries I’ve been to, I had easy access to things like shampoo, electricity, clean food, water, and air.

I wasn’t insulted by his insinuation that I don’t know anything about what it’s like to be in a different country. But I was certainly surprised. And it made me think about what it really means to experience a different country, a different culture.