Politecnico Milano switches to English: Good or bad?

Politecnico di Milano
Politecnico di Milano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From a recent BBC News article:

One of Italy’s leading universities – the Politecnico di Milano – is going to switch to the English language. The university has announced that from 2014 most of its degree courses – including all its graduate courses – will be taught and assessed entirely in English rather than Italian.

I still remember my master thesis dissertation at Politecnico in 1997. My thesis, “Modelling the Self-motion and Environmental-motion Coherence in Yaw” was entirely developed in English during a stint at Delft University in the Netherlands. At the time, I was forced to translate back in Italian a 10-page summary of the thesis and my slides. The defense presentation was also delivered in Italian.

I for one welcome the change. English is (still) the language of international business and academia. It will only benefit students to spend a few years prepping for communications in an English-dominated world.

But some strongly disagree:

Something of the precision and quality of teaching and learning will be lost in translation, when both teachers and students are using a second language. “Speaking Italian to our countrymen is like watching a movie in colour, high definition, very clear pictures. On the contrary, speaking English to them, even with our best effort, is, on the average, like watching a movie in black and white, with very poor definition, with blurred pictures,” says Professor Matricciani.

I am not sure I agree with the spirit of the objection. Do you?

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One thought on “Politecnico Milano switches to English: Good or bad?

  1. Clearly there will be pros and cons.
    The students themselves will eventually lose their skills of expression in the beautiful Italian language which, after all, is the language of Western art. On the pros, it will help students to access information and platforms to present their work.
    What about continuing in Italian and simply improving the English level of the students so that they can follow the lectures of invited professors?. This way, you can have the best of both worlds

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