Radboud Students at a Lecture
Radboud Students at a Lecture

Role and impact of second language on study performance in higher education

1 June 2014 until 30 June 2023
Project type

This study has investigated the challenges, benefits and disadvantages of studying in a language that is not your mother tongue, from the point of view of the non-native students themselves, but also from the point of other participants having to deal with non-nativeness in communication in an academic setting. Our primary concern has been the role of language.

The aim of this project has been to examine the study success of students in an academic educational environment as they have to operate at an academic level in a different language or different languages than their mother tongue. We have analysed the English situation, in particular the situation for German students at a Dutch University. This group of students was taken as an example for its homogeneity as well as for its numbers.

Most German students at the Radboud University enroll for a study in psychology where the language of instruction and testing is Dutch and part of the literature is in English; as a result proficiency in Dutch and English is required. We have determined what kind of academic literacy is needed. In former studies (Pitkänen et al. 2012) students reported that coping with the language of instruction was a challenge that was demanding and problematic to some but not to all.

Data consisted of quantitative data via questionnaires on the educational and linguistic background at first, and on study success later; qualitative data has been obtained via interviews with students and teaching staff. Finally, language proficiency data in written exams has been analysed.