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 the most salient mistakes and how to correct them. The fact that none of the two dozen universities I have written to in this way has replied is of no importance; a lack of common courtesy to me, nothing more.
What is startling is that none of them has bothered to improve the mistakes identified. Many of these institutions claim to want to attract foreign students and their website in English is their primary store-window to the world. Some have entire courses taught in English. Having a website written in broken English is likely to put off any prospective 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 students. It sounds like a ludicrous 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 find a single mistake in the English contents of the webpage of the Camino José Cela University; I know nothing else 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.
 to point out – indicate
 salient – conspicuous, prominent
 to reply – respond, answer
 a lack of – an absence of
 startling – shocking, surprising
 to bother – make the effort
 to improve – (in this case) correct
 claim to – (in this case) say that they
 store–window – shop window, showcase, place where one’s products are visible
 broken English – sub-standard English as used by some non–natives
 is likely to – will probably
 to put sb. off (put-put-put) – discourage, disincline
 prospective – potential, possible
 foreign – from abroad, from overseas
 ludicrous – ridiculous
 failed to – could not
 contents – texts
 else – more
 on linguistic grounds – for linguistic reasons