Article published in:Taalpolitieke kwesties in Nederland: 24 maart 1979 in Eindhoven
[Toegepaste Taalwetenschap in Artikelen 6] 1979
► pp. 167–173
Over de behoefte aan vreemde-talenkennis in de technische vetenschappen
The author's discourse is based on four propositions: 1. Language is an organized way of thinking, just like mathematics. Knowledge of words is not enough; grammar and syntax are essential for a consistent, effective and correctly structured way of thinking, just like propositions in mathematics. 2. The section of the population that has attended a secondary school is decisive for the professions that shape the cultural, technical and scientific aspects of a nation. Their education is therefore of vital importance for the cultural future of a nation. 3. The abolishment in the Netherlands of the obligation to acquire at secondary school a working knowledge of the languages of the three great, surrounding nations at reading-, listening- and "faltering" level is a historical blunder of the first magnitude. 4. The partial loss of knowledge of the foreign languages, especially of the indispensable grammatical grasp, weakens the mastery of the native language as well. It significantly increases the danger of faulty interpretation of difficult sentences in scientific literature, both in native and in foreign languages, but also in business contracts'. Research has shown that the large majority of academic staff and students at technical universities in the Netherlands can use English and German with reasonable facility, whereas the skills listening and reading (not to mention speaking) in French have nearly disappeared during the last few years. Both categories admit the importance of a minimal grasp of French, and the Russian and Spanish languages are considered to be useful (or even very useful) by many. The results of these enquiries are discussed briefly. In the coming period of government induced impoverishment of university studies in the Netherlands an increase in time allotted to language courses within the technical curricula seems improbable. The student who wishes to improve his mastery of languages will therefore have to study these as optional subjects. This makes it all the more important for language courses offered by the universities to be highly attractive. Extension of the secondary school curricula with an extra language would be a more effective measure, though, because of the better possibility of paying attention to grammatical aspects. Language courses at univer-sities must, due to the limited amount of time available, be restricted to reading and speaking lessons and exercises. There is an unforunate tendency to forget that knowledge of languages like Spanish or French improves the cultural and aesthetic development of the student. The importance of this has been mentioned under 2.
Published online: 24 March 2014