Every day, the editorial staff at the UK wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? A weekly look behind the scenes.
Only a few years ago, walking the halls of the university meant you heard a bit of German here, some English there. But for the most part, the University of Groningen was a Dutch institution.
That’s rapidly changed over the past few years. No matter where you are, whether it’s at the Harmonie complex or the Zernike campus, people are speaking German and English everywhere. And Spanish. And Italian. And Chinese. And other languages. Internationals are flocking to higher education in general and the RUG in particular.
It’s also become noticeable in the newsroom, much to our amusement. Regularly, a student will enter the UK offices, which are next door to the Aletta Jacobs statue. Often, it quickly becomes clear they are confused and lost. ‘Oh, sorry. This isn’t the copy shop?’ (Contrary to popular belief, they’re not actually asking for the nearest coffee shop.)
Please forgive me for any mistakes, but here are the numbers: The RUG has a total of 32,000 students, and approximately 7,500 of those come from abroad. That is almost 25 percent (quite a bit more than the number of female professors at the universities, but that’s a story for another time).
If the Universiteitskrant is meant for the entire RUG, we editors feel that that creates a certain obligation. So over a year ago, we decided to make an effort to become more bilingual.
Starting this academic year, we took that a step further. Almost everything we write and produce (including subtitles in videos and animations) is translated. And if we can help it, we publish the Dutch and English versions of articles simultaneously to ensure that internationals know what’s going on at the same time everyone else does.
The same goes for the reverse, by the way. A few of our freelancers are internationals, and they write their stories and articles in English, and these get translated into Dutch. To facilitate this process, we work with two professional translators. When they don’t have time (which happens quite often), we do it ourselves.
If you’ve paid attention, you’ll notice that I said almost everything gets translated. So not everything? No, not everything, but approximately 95 percent. Because some stories aren’t relevant or even comprehensible to internationals (such as a typical Dutch joke during the Groningen Studenten Cabaret Festival), or their style is too difficult to translate (such as our new columnist James Young from the US).
Over the next few years, internationalisation at the RUG will continue. There will be fewer Dutch students, and more foreign ones. I hope we’ll be able to continue to publish the UK in two languages for at least 95 percent. But it’s clear that this comes at a price.
Rob Siebelink, editor-in-chief