Language Code of Conduct

Language Code of conduct for the (Technical) Computer Science programmes

September 2019

The Technical Computer Science Bachelor and the Computer Science Master are English-language study programmes. As a student, of course you know this; but there are consequences that you may not be directly aware of, and that merit some clarification. In this document we list some of those consequences and provide such clarification. A short summary (but do read on for the full version):

This code of conduct is a best effort to write up some rules. This means that (in addition to a possibly imperfect implementation of the code) there may be unclear or contentious elements in the code. Please do react to the programme management if anything in this document strikes you as such. Any constructive comment will always be taken seriously.

English as spoken language

During the educational sessions of the programme, English is the spoken language. This refers to all modes of communication: not only between lecturers and students and between teaching assistants and students, but also between students in the module; and not only if the parties do not share another, native, language (be it Dutch or otherwise) but also if they do.

The last principle may appear odd at first sight: why would you speak English in a group that consists of only (say) native Dutch speakers? Besides the obvious argument that this improves your grasp of the English language, another point, at least as important, is known as the option of listening in: other students that may be interested in a conversation and might be inclined to contribute to it, can only do so if they are given the chance, which in turn means that they should be able to understand what is being said. Conversing in your native language robs them of the chance of doing so, and in essence excludes them. This is counter to the spirit of the language code of conduct.

The above is especially true in a laboratory session where a TA is helping students, discussing issues that neighbouring groups may also be facing. It becomes less obvious if you are in a smaller or more informal setting, maybe with a project group consisting only of students of the same nationality, meeting in a project room with no-one else present at that moment; or while queuing in front of the coffee machine during a break. The policy is that, even then, English should be the language of choice; but let me also confirm that there is a point where this principle becomes extreme and unmaintainable, and that there is no intention to start a language police that checks your adherence to it.

Nevertheless, we do expect students to follow the code in situations where it is sensible, according to the reasons outlined above. Moreover, quite importantly: please do not wait until another student asks you to switch to English, because having to ask this can be a barrier which in the end can have almost the same exclusive effect. (And if they do ask, please realise that it is you, not they, who are at fault at that moment, however slightly.)

English as written language

When it comes to the written word, the code of conduct is more strict and more easy to uphold: learning material and other relevant texts should be in English, and not in Dutch. (However, also see the next section.) Where you find that this principle is not upheld, you may in almost 100% of cases assume that this is an oversight, which will be put right as soon as it is pointed out to the lecturer in question, or to the programme management. We want to kindly ask you to indeed point out such things, because it is not unlikely that it otherwise goes unnoticed.

To make this explicit for two cases where the consequences may be less obvious:

Dutch cultural elements

The question of using only English has an interesting dimension when it is seen in the light of the fact that, of course, this all still takes place in the Netherlands, and all around us are elements of Dutch culture. We do assume that international students coming to study here are interested in that aspect of their adopted university as well. It can enrich a lecture or course to use the cultural context from time to time, for purposes of illustration or perspective. In that kind of situation, you may be faced with Dutch source material after all, which then forms an exception to the point about written language invariably being in English. Although you still may expect a translation or explanation in English, and you may also expect that such excerpts are not part of your core teaching material, it would go too far to expect never to be faced with the original.


The above reflects the position of the programme management. As scientists, however, we should acknowledge that there is hardly ever an absolute, universal truth and we should be ready to change our opinion and position if the arguments warrant doing so. For that reason, we are quite happy to receive any constructive criticism on the code of conduct outlined above, as well as questions, additions and further clarifications. Moreover, if at any point you feel that we fail to uphold our own code, do let us know that as well. We know that not everything is perfect, but we can always strive to improve.