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The Language Legacy of Science without Borders

Science without Borders (SwB) has benefited over 92,000 undergraduate and graduate STEM students/scholars. Upon its implementation, however, linguistic hindrances have emerged or become apparent, such as: (1) lack of proficiency in English; (2) lack of English test centers to cater for the new demand; and (3) absence of a comprehensive policy for teaching English in the country. Brazil, for being a country of continental dimensions and with a very strong national language, has not always invested in specific policies aimed at the teaching of English. Similarly, many Brazilians, even in university settings, did not seem to feel the need to learn other languages, postponing this learning for an ideal moment, which almost never came. Proof of this was the high demand for Portuguese universities in the first editions of SwB (32,000 candidates in the first calls). Thus, Language without Borders (LSF) was launched. At the same time, undergraduate students who had not reached the English level as required by the universities abroad were granted with a language course (which lasted from 4 to 6 months) prior to the beginning of the academic courses.
The main aim of this study is to provide an overview of the language legacy provided by SwB specifically to those students/scholars who went to Canadian Universities. Data were gathered through surveys answered by over 1,000 respondents, which accounts by roughly 15% of the total universe of participants, being, then, considered a statistically sound sample. Questions are related to subjects’ English language acquisition and proficiency level. They were also asked to comment on their participation in the LwB Program, publications in English, and language support both in their home and host universities. Results show that SwB was indeed an important program to foster the development of English language proficiency, even though this was not its main aim. Also, LwB seems to have had an important effect in enabling scholars to improve their English and also in facilitating their access to English test centers. The English language component in the Canadian universities has as well proven to be beneficial not only for students’ English improvement but also to their learning about academic differences between Brazilian and Canadian university systems. Finally, the great majority of respondents affirmed Brazil should start investing more on the teaching of English at earlier stages, preferably at basic education.

Author(s):

Simone Sarmento    
UFRGS
Brazil

 

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