Back

“This year we will launch an ambitious action plan concerning the use of Catalan at UPF”

“This year we will launch an ambitious action plan concerning the use of Catalan at UPF”

We are talking to Mireia Trenchs, the UPF Commissioner for Language Policy. She has led the Rapid Response Team (RRT) regarding the languages of instruction at the University. RRTs are interdisciplinary teams made up of members of all the University bodies whose aim is to find innovative solutions to key issues affecting UPF.

19.01.2022

Imatge inicial

One of the first actions undertaken by the new UPF governing team is the launch of the Rapid Response Teams (RRTs). These interdisciplinary teams are made up of members of all of the University’s bodies (students, PAS, PDI and Alumni) and, in some cases, by people from outside the University, that aim to find innovative solutions to key issues that affect Pompeu Fabra University.

As the name suggests, they are working groups that in a short period of time, a maximum of 90 days, must diagnose, evaluate and propose solutions for application. To date, seven have been carried out on such a diversity of topics as the organization of teaching timetables, improving relations with adjunct lecturers, or the strategy to be followed with alumni.

Mireia Trenchs, a full professor of Applied Linguistics and Multilingualism at the Department of Humanities and Commissioner for Language Policy at UPF, is one of the people who has led one of these teams. In her case, the team has specifically dealt with the subject of languages of instruction to identify language policy strategies that improve the distribution of the three languages; Catalan, Spanish and English in degrees and their use in the classroom.   

Mireia Trenchs is a full professor of Applied Linguistics and Multilingualism with the Department of Humanities. She is currently the University’s Commissioner for Language Policy. She has held various positions of responsibility at the University, including vice-rector for Teaching and Academic Planning and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities. As a researcher with the Intercultural Spaces Languages and Identities Research Group (GREILI-UPF) and Language Acquisition from Multilingual Catalonia (ALLENCAM), she dedicates her research to studies on language ideologies and practices in contexts of multilingualism and multiculturalism, on language acquisition and teaching, and on cross-cultural competence in internationalized educational contexts and stays abroad. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the European Language Council (CEL/ELC) and of the Catalan Society of Sociolinguistics (SOCS), in addition to being a member of the Council for the Evaluation of the Education System of Catalonia and member of the Regional Advisory Committee (Europe) of The Global Council for Anthropological Linguistics (GLOCAL) of the SOAS-University of London

You have led the Rapid Response Team regarding the languages of instruction. What brought about its creation and what goals does it pursue?

One of the strategic lines of the current governing team is to promote the participation of members of the university community to rethink how we do things.  The Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) are interdisciplinary teams that work on different key topics to be transformed at our University and are made up volunteer professors, PAS colleagues, students and alumni. They diagnose the problems and openly devise a set of proposals that can be integrated into the different UPF action plans. This has been the case with the RRT on languages in teaching.

Who has made up this Rapid Response Team?

The Rapid Response Team has been made up of people from all bodies of the University: teachers, administration and services staff, students, alumni and, in this specific case, people from outside have also been invited, on this occasion from the Catalan language NGO Plataforma per la Llengua.

The PDI has involved lectures Josep Ferrer, full professor of Civil Law, former dean of the Faculty of Law and former vice-rector for International Relations, Josep Maria Castellà, tenured lecturer of Catalan Philology and dean of the Faculty of Humanities, and Carmen López, professor of Hispanic Philology and researcher in the Language Learning and Language Teaching Research Group (GRAEL). As members of the PAS, Coro Pozuelo, vice-manager of the teaching area, Maria Naranjo, director of Languages UPF, Xavier Martínez Granell, head of the Economics and Business UGA, and Anna Petit, an officer with the Projects, Studies and Quality Unit who gave us her technical support. Other participants include the undergraduate student Eduard Pla and the Humanities alumni Guillem d'Efak Fullana, director of Communication and Corporate Social Responsibility and Coordinator of the Arts in Health Expertise Care Programme at the Catalan Institute of Health, former director of the Carmen Balcells Literary Agency, former president of Tria Llibres publishing house and former director and founder of Barcelona International Training & Education. Finally, participating as a guest was Biel Pallarès, a member of the education committee at Plataforma per la Llengua.

Where would you say we stand as a University insofar as the distribution and use of Catalan, Spanish and English as languages of instruction?

In the 2020-2021 academic year we offered 48.5% of teaching hours in Catalan on bachelor’s degrees, 23.5% in Spanish and 28% in a third language, principally English. This percentage also includes the degrees taught in English and the UCA degrees in Translation and Language Sciences. If we take these degrees into account, the percentages change slightly to 53% in Catalan, 26% in Spanish and 21% in a third language. With regard to master’s degrees, we offer 60% in a third language, 32% in Spanish and 8% in Catalan.

Could it be understood, perhaps, that English is in a very good position and that the presence of Catalan should be increased?

In the vast majority of bachelor’s degrees there is a significant presence of English as a language of instruction, which, as was the aim of the previous Plan of Action for Multilingualism (PAM), ensures that all UPF students receive training in their disciplines in this language and, therefore, achieve a sufficient command to develop in their professional or academic future. In some degrees, however, this training in a foreign language should be better ensured. As for Catalan, the vast majority of UPF degrees offer a significant percentage of both compulsory and optional subjects taught in Catalan. However, all we academic leaders need to be aware that care must be taken to maintain them and to ensure that all undergraduate students can have a high percentage of subjects taught in Catalan in their individual study itinerary. In some areas, moreover, an extra effort needs to be made to offer more teaching in Catalan to ensure better training, especially in the first and second years of studies, which is when the disciplinary bases are established. specialized terminological knowledge and skills are developed in textual genres specific to each discipline.

“All we academic leaders need to be aware that care must be taken to maintain them and to ensure that all undergraduate students can have a high percentage of subjects taught in Catalan in their individual study itinerary”

What outcome does the diagnosis made by the Rapid Response Team leave us?

What I have just explained in relation to the languages of instruction is precisely part of the diagnosis carried out by the Rapid Response Team. We have also found that, given the increase in international students and faculty, we need to better showcase the fact that UPF is a Catalan university where Catalan is the institutional and the working language. Thus, these groups would be more aware of it and would more easily incorporate the language into their linguistic repertoire, even before their arrival at university. The RRT has also noted out that local and foreign PDI, PAS and students at UPF are not sufficiently aware of the principles of linguistic transparency and security such as rights and duties and that it is therefore necessary to improve the information we provide regarding academic language use and language regulations. The aim would be to avoid incidents related to languages of instruction which, though scarce and at similar percentages to other Catalan universities, continue to arise in the classroom.

“Given the increase in international students and faculty, we need to better showcase the fact that UPF is a Catalan university where Catalan is the institutional and the working language”

And what concrete measures are planned in the coming months to increase of the presence of Catalan as a language of instruction?

As Commissioner, I have just prepared a first plan of action in the field of language policy at UPF and, in particular, in relation to the use of Catalan; these actions will be worked on and implemented throughout 2022 and 2023. This first plan, which will be available to the entire University community once formally approved, was born as a result of the work by the Rapid Response Team, as well as my analysis and reflections between September and December 2021 and my participation in the Vives Network Language Committee and the Language Policy Committee of the Interuniversity Council of Catalonia. This first Action Plan will be presented to the UPF Board of Directors, the University’s Language Policy Committee, the Board of Governors, the Senate, and the Board of Trustees. Its presentation and deliberation at these bodies will enable its modification as well as the inclusion of other actions deemed timely. We will also continue to receive the advice of the Pompeu Fabra Chair.

Of all the measures mentioned in the Plan, I would like to highlight two that would be more urgent and correspond to agreements adopted by the UPF Senate on 1 December 2021. First, and during this academic term, the academic leaders of each field and degree —except in degrees that, according to the curriculum, must be taught in English— must detect shortfalls in teaching in Catalan and design the most relevant actions for the characteristics of their field that allow ensuring increased teaching in Catalan, especially in the first two years of the degree. This is especially necessary in studies where teaching in Catalan currently accounts for less than 60%.

“The academic leaders of each field and degree must detect shortfalls in teaching in Catalan and design the most relevant actions for the characteristics of their field that allow ensuring teaching is conducted in Catalan”

Secondly, we have already begun to encourage continuing education in languages for teaching staff, and especially in Catalan, from the time they are contracted, through an increased offer of training by Languages UPF from level A1 up to C2. This training will facilitate the accreditation of teaching staff language proficiency as required by Decree 128/2010, of 14 September. We would also like more teachers, not necessarily native speakers of Catalan, to try to teach in Catalan, hence we have added a methodological support course to the Languages UPF courses on offer. In addition, we wish to promote the publication of materials in Catalan within the framework of the UPF Knowledge initiative.

In a scenario of the increasing internationalization of universities, how can we make the increased presence of Catalan compatible with the increase in the number of students coming from abroad?

It can be rendered fully compatible if we implement some of the actions of the Plan. First, we need properly to inform students from outside Catalonia about the situation of languages in Catalonia and at the University: in particular, the use of Catalan as an institutional, teaching and working language; they must also be clearly informed, right from day one, about the concept of language security. Second, we must provide students from outside Catalonia with face-to-face and online Catalan language and language intercomprehension courses, MOOCs and A1 and A2 basic level self-learning materials online prior to their arrival at UPF. Third, they must be offered continuing training in Catalan throughout their stay at UPF. Finally, and most importantly, there would be a need, by means of certificates, specific recognitions or mentions, to encourage their interest and effort in learning the language; in the case of those who reach higher levels of training or with a Romance language background, we could also encourage them to enrol in subjects taught in Catalan.

“Students from outside Catalonia must be properly informed as to the situation of languages in Catalonia and at the University, in particular, the use of Catalan as an institutional, teaching and working language”

And how do we ensure that the language of instruction is respected and does not change half-way through the subject?

UPF regulations in this regard are very clear: according to the principle of linguistic security, the language of instruction assigned to a specific subject or group must be respected. As I have said, some incidents in this regard still arise, although, as reported by the Interuniversity Council of Catalonia, in very low percentages, similar to those of other Catalan universities. However, we do not want to be complacent and we need to take action to improve. On the one hand, we are already increasing the channels available to report issues related to the language of instruction. On the other, we will also carry out actions to improve the information that PDI, PAS and students have about the concepts of linguistic transparency and security in teaching; this could be done through an information campaign on UPF premises, on training courses for new teachers and in the documentation welcoming both new teaching staff and international students.

“UPF regulations in this regard are very clear: according to the principle of linguistic security, the language of instruction assigned to a specific subject or group must be respected”

What work is being done with external agents in relation to languages at the University?

As I have already mentioned, UPF has been actively involved in the interuniversity Vives Network Language Committee and we pay special attention to its Annual Language Policy Plans to incorporate the actions promoted therein. As a commissioner, I am also a member of the Language Policy Committee of the Interuniversity Council of Catalonia, where agreements are reached binding all member universities. Finally, as I have also mentioned, we have exchanged views with members of the Plataforma per la Llengua who have expressed an interest in the work of our Rapid Response Team, and we invited one of its members to attend two of our work sessions.

Recently, data have been published pointing to a widespread decline in the use of Catalan in Catalonia. How can the University help reverse this situation?

The University can help reverse this situation if we ensure that Catalan is not only the language of instruction on bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but also the institutional, working language in all areas and spheres of UPF. We also need to ensure that it is used as a scientific language to produce knowledge in the drafting of bachelor’s and master’s degree final projects and doctoral theses and a working language and to disseminate it at specialized conferences and academic meetings such as inaugural lectures, round tables, symposia and conferences with renowned experts.

“The University can help to reverse this situation if we ensure that Catalan is not only the language of instruction on bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but also the institutional, working language in all areas and spheres of UPF, as well as a scientific language used to produce knowledge”

Multimèdia

Multimedia

Multimedia

ODS - Objectius de desenvolupament sostenible:

ODS - Objetivos de desarrollo sostenible:

SDG - Sustainable Development Goals:

Els ODS a la UPF Los ODS en la UPF The ODS at UPF

Per a més informació

Para más información

For more information

Notícia publicada per:

Noticia publicada por:

News published by:

Unitat de Comunicació i Projecció Institucionals

Unidad de Comunicación y Proyección Institucionales

Institutional Communication and Promotion Unit