An Open Letter to Spanish Universities

An Open Letter to Spanish Universities

Photo credit: PhET Interactive Simulations

I have spent the last month or so visiting the websites of Spanish universities and identifying mistakes in the English they use. I have then, in each case, written to the institution in question pointing out[1] the most salient[2] mistakes and how to correct them. The fact that none of the two dozen universities I have written to in this way has replied[3] is of no importance; a lack of[4] common courtesy to me, nothing more.

What is startling[5] is that none of them has bothered[6] to improve[7] the mistakes identified. Many of these institutions claim to[8] want to attract foreign students and their website in English is their primary store-window[9] to the world. Some have entire courses taught in English. Having a website written in broken English[10] is likely to[11] put off[12] any prospective[13] students with a high level of English. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of perfect written English if you want to communicate values like ‘quality’ and ‘excellence’ to Anglos.

I should point out1 that I contacted both private and public universities. I commented on this – for me – bizarre experience to my own university students and one suggested that the English on the webpages was probably primarily there to impress the universities’ Spanish students and their parents, not foreign[14] students. It sounds like a ludicrous[15] idea but then I remembered that one institution in Madrid had the term “Business School” in its name, despite the fact that there was no other English on their webpage and, apparently, no classes were taught in English!

Of course, there are exceptions. I failed to[16] find a single mistake in the English contents[17] of the webpage of the Camino José Cela University; I know nothing else[18] about this university (honestly – I have no interest in promoting them!) but if I were an Anglo considering the possibility of studying in Spain, it would be one of the very few I wouldn’t disqualify as an option simply on linguistic grounds[19].

[1] to point outindicate

[2] salient – conspicuous, prominent

[3] to reply – respond, answer

[4] a lack of – an absence of

[5] startlingshocking, surprising

[6] to bothermake the effort

[7] to improve – (in this case) correct

[8] claim to – (in this case) say that they

[9] storewindowshop window, showcase, place where one’s products are visible

[10] broken English – sub-standard English as used by some nonnatives

[11] is likely to – will probably

[12] to put sb. off (put-put-put) – discourage, disincline

[13] prospective – potential, possible

[14] foreign – from abroad, from overseas

[15] ludicrous – ridiculous

[16] failed to – could not

[17] contents – texts

[18] else – more

[19] on linguistic grounds – for linguistic reasons


2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Spanish Universities

  1. Yes, but that is no excuse for not having at least all the permanent information on a website in perfect English. The relative costs and the reach of a website mean that not doing so is madness. English may be “unfinished business” in Spain (just as well or I’d have to go back to Brexitland!), but nobody can claim that they don’t have access to companies or individuals who can guarantee that the English used will be perfect.


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