Multilingualism at the Vienna School of International Studies

The tradition of multilingualism at the Vienna School of International Studies dates back to its very origins in 1754 when its doors were opened to train young men in Oriental languages for their careers as diplomats serving the interests of the Habsburgs in the Ottoman empire.

Over the years the languages studied may have changed but the DA is proud of continuing this tradition: in addition to courses in its three obligatory working languages (English, French and German), students at the DA may also study any language offered by the Language Centre of the University of Vienna, the Confucius Institute at the University of Vienna as well as the Instituto Cervantes as options. Reflecting its predominant role in international organisations, English has in essence become the lingua franca of the Academy, with most classes taught in the language and much social interaction among the students taking place in it. French has retained its traditional importance and has, since the creation of a francophone chair for political science and European studies in 2007, augmented its position in the academic sphere. Last, but not least, comes German. Vienna might be an international city, but it is also a German-speaking one and this gives the teaching and daily use of German, with a commitment to its Austrian variant, a special status at the DA.

To foster multilingualism, the DA has developed its own special programmes. The aim is the acquisition of language from the fields of diplomacy, politics, economics, law and culture which is not only relevant to the immediate academic needs of the students but also for their subsequent international careers; here the emphasis is on practical and intercultural skills. Internships at ENA and the many international organisations based in Vienna, research projects within the framework of the German Summer Course, lectures, meetings and discussions with leading public figures held in all three languages, not to speak of extra-curricular activities, enable the students to put their newly won knowledge into practice on a daily basis.

The Academy is thus very much a polyglot institution: every year approximately 25 languages are represented on the campus and on average each student uses four languages actively. Multilingualism at the DA is not just something that exists on paper.