To help foreign council members understand UvA jargon, the Central Student Council (CSR) is looking into providing a tailored Dutch language course.
Consider the terms ‘Kaderbrief,’ ‘consultation meeting’ (ov in UvA-speak), ‘joint meeting’ (gv) and many other words from the Higher Education and Scientific Research Act (WHW). ‘All sorts of policy documents are still drafted in Dutch that are not easily translatable, so it’s easy for our international members to miss crucial information’, says CSR chairman Pjotr van der Jagt. ‘They can take a Dutch language course, but it won’t help with university-specific jargon. We want to do something about this.’
The number of international students at the UvA is increasing. As a result, more and more non-Dutch students are participating in student councils at central and faculty levels. According to Van der Jagt, at least five of the fourteen current CSR members do not master Dutch or have a basic grasp of the language, but not enough to understand jargon-heavy policy documents. Last year, the CSR introduced simultaneous translations during the joint meeting with the Central Works Council (COR) which wanted to maintain Dutch as the official language.
During the meeting of the CSR or the consultation meeting with the Executive Board of the university, the official language is English. Nevertheless, not everything is understood by everyone. ‘To start, we want to offer the course at the CSR level’, Van der Jagt says, ‘but in order to uphold student democracy, everyone has to be able to join the discussion, so in an ideal world we want to offer the course at the faculty level.’ The university is currently looking into options for providing such a course. It’s is not clear who is going to pay for it.