Language is a complex phenomenon. Many of us students, despite our academic abilities and successful entries into a prestigious university, have yet to educate ourselves on how to communicate productively and identify the common semantic errors we make in our first language. So having said that, how should we appreciate the university students who go the distance (literally) to study an already demanding degree, but in a foreign language?
In 2017, international students comprised 30 per cent of our student body. Whether from China, Greece or Poland, it is possible that some 10,000 students here face linguistic and cultural clashes of varying degrees.
The University of Edinburgh recognises that it is a ‘global’ site of continuous miscegenation; it has visibly tried hard to equip second language students with the academic, personal and social assistance they may require to integrate restfully into a new community. One strategy comprises of the ‘Test of English at Matriculation’, aka TEAM, which delivers free, though optional, English classes to any non-native English speaking student who may benefit from it. The university also advertises the Peer-Proofreading Scheme, connecting second language English-speaking students with native English-speaking ones, to provide academic advice on improving the general clarity of their written work.
There are also plenty of volunteer-based societies catered specifically for international students such as Global Buddies, the Tandem Language Café and the International and Exchange Student Society, all of which help foreign students settle into the new city, invite first and second language English speakers to experience each other’s native language and organise highly entertaining events.
As an international student myself, I believe it important to point out that although the university has thought considerably to avoid under-appreciation of second language English speakers in Edinburgh, I have witnessed a common misjudgement of second language speakers here. It is so imperative to be aware nowadays that a second language English speaker cannot be deemed lesser than a fluent first language English speaker in this university, just as a fluent speaker of English should not be looked down upon by their imperfect or absent attempts at speaking another language.
The courage which multilingual students share in learning an already difficult subject through a foreign language is an impressive skill, not only on your curriculum vitae, but in terms of personal growth and social awareness.
On a personal note: the university could also prioritise intercultural events and bring different cultural societies together in the academic year. With all the politics floating around about globalisation and national independence, it would be nice to feel more support from those higher up on making university life more celebratory and united.
Image: Timisu via pixabay.com