What to Expect of Students' Language Skills?
What language skills can you expect from your students, both for Dutch and other languages? How does the UGent assist them to improve their language skills and how can you help as a lecturer? And what can you demand with regards to the standard of their emails? This education tip will help you.
What language skills can you expect from incoming students?
- All Dutch bachelor’s programmes require a minimum language level of B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) as a prerequisite for the four skills (reading, listening, speaking and writing), with the exception of the Bachelor of Arts where a language level of C1 applies. Examples of language skills at B2 and C1 levels can be found at erknederlands.org (in Dutch). The attainment targets of secondary education also count as expected starting competencies.
- For the master's programmes, the faculty is allowed to determine its own minimum language level for Dutch and English. The study programme committee should clearly state the language conditions to the Department of Educational Policy, Registrar’s Office (see also: education and examination code (OER), article 10). If the faculty fails to do so, an ERK level of B2 for Dutch and English applies for all master's degrees.
What does the UGent do to assist incoming students with regards to their language skills?
An ERK language level of B2 often proves insufficient to complete the first year successfully. Therefore, the UGent focuses on:
- a test in academic Dutch as part of SIMON zegt. This test measures the cognitive skills in the areas of structure, word and text comprehension and form correctness. In the feedback report, the students receive links to revision pathways, e.g. ALICE-taal or Taalonthaal, the academic writing centre of the UGent and an initiative of DOWA-language policy. Other existing language skills tests, e.g., the hbo language test, can also be used to make students aware of the required language skills level.
- a self-study pack ALICE-taal to enable students to broaden their academic vocabulary, increase their understanding of text structure and text comprehension and refresh their knowledge of Dutch spelling, grammar and language control.
What can you do as a lecturer for the language skills of incoming students?
- Integrate language tasks in the first semester of the first year. An example is the project 'academic mathematics-Dutch' at the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture. This project is integrated into the first three revision weeks of an undergraduate degree. The emphasis is on formulating a logical reasoning, not spelling or grammar. The lecturer deliberately chooses exams with open-ended questions to assess the students’language skills, mainly relating to the structure of their answer. For more info, please contact Prof. dr. Hennie De Schepper.
- Get inspiration from the document Starting language competencies for university education. That document contains a theoretical section with concrete examples from lesson material.
- Refer students to the University Language Centre of the UGent (UCT) for language testing.
What prior knowledge of French, English and German can I expect from my students?
- In general, assume that students have acquired the attainment targets for French of secondary education.
- Do you want to include French text and as optional reading material? Then you can simply assume that students understand it.
- Do you want to use French texts to teach content? Then you have to mention in the starting competencies for your course unit what level of French you expect. Indicate this in your course sheet.
- Do you want students to acquire academic French in their field of expertise by the end of your course unit? Then you must mention this as part of the course competencies in your course sheet. Be aware that you will have to support the students in their learning activities to acquire academic French. You may include this course competency in your assessment.
- The above guidelines also apply to prior knowledge of English.
- Do you want to use German texts, either as optional material or to teach content? In both cases, you have to mention this as part of the starting competencies for your course, on your course sheet. Knowledge of German is less evident amongst Flemish youth.
What can you demand from your students with regards to the standard of their emails?
The UGent has a code of conduct stating how students should write a correct email. Refer students to these 10 rules. When students send an ‘incorrect’ email, you can opt for a soft or hard approach:
- The soft approach involves sending the student a reply to their question in which you point out that this code of conduct exists.
- In the hard approach you do not answer the question, but you only send the hyperlink with an explicit reference to the tip(s) the student has infringed.