Setting the Catherine wheel in motion
An exploration of “Englishization” in the German higher education system
In today’s world, internationalisation is the key to survival for higher education institutions (HEIs). Many argue that English has become the most used language worldwide, the international language of wider communication in a variety of domains ranging from the professional to everyday life. Consequently, non-English speaking countries have entered into a process of introducing English-medium higher education as a means of overcoming any competitive disadvantage associated with their particular linguistic situation. As a result, an ideology has emerged amongst HEIs in non-English-speaking countries that internationalisation is synonymous with the introduction of English-medium degree programmes. This development has implications for the position of national languages in their higher education systems, and consequently as international languages of communication. It is, therefore, necessary to investigate the extent to which the adoption of such language-in-education reforms may potentially act as an impetus to a wider language shift in the countries comprising Kachru’s “expanding circle.” This paper explores the current process of “Englishization” within the German higher education system. By means of Strubell’s “Catherine Wheel” conceptual model, a potential language shift from German to English is postulated and its ramifications for German’s status and role as an international language are discussed.
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