Geert Hofstede 1928-2020

Geert Hofstede, who died on 12 February 2020, was renowned worldwide for his work on cultural dimensions and for his pioneering work on national cultures and organizational cultures. The six dimensions have become widely known, power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity vs. femininity, indulgence vs. restraint, and long-term orientation. His seminal books, Culture’s consequences (1980, 2nd ed. 2001) and Cultures and organizations: Software of the Mind (1991, 3rd ed. 2010). His work has yielded important insights and uses in many disciplines, from organization to psychology, business studies to linguistics, cultural studies to management and marketing.

Geert Hofstede was also influential in our own transdisciplinary network. The ICLHE Association aims at integrating insights at the interface between disciplines and language, and it owes its existence to the phenomenon of content-driven courses and degree programmes in higher education through the medium of an additional language. Hofstede was the educational innovator who had the vision in 1985 to start a programme in international management through the medium of other languages. His original idea was that Dutch students would learn through English and either French or German. The programme that began at Maastricht University in 1987 involved students following courses first in Dutch, then in English in Maastricht and in French at the Université de Liège and German at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen (RWTH Aachen University). For various reasons this innovative quadrilingual programme became limited fairly quickly to just English. Hofstede’s progamme, which was one of the first to offer English-medium instruction at bachelor’s level, turned out to be a major success and served as a model for other programmes, not just at Maastricht but at other universities in the Netherlands, Europe and elsewhere. Geert Hofstede can be seen as a pioneer for the ICLHE Association and for English-medium instruction at universities.

Geert Hofstede’s major research work was conducted during his employment at IBM where he founded the Personnel Research Department. This enabled him to conduct his comparative research in the company among many sales departments where the jobs were identical, but the national cultures differed. For several years in the 1970s and 1980s he taught at IMEDE (now IMD) in Lausanne and also at INSEAD (Fontainebleau). One of his experiences from this time was when he taught an identical course in French and in English. He noticed that some English native speakers opted for the French course while some French native speakers took the opposite option. He related how organizational culture can interact with national culture, in that the English speakers on the French course behaved and responded more like French speakers while the opposite occurred with French speakers on the English programme.[1] He observed that the language of instruction does have an effect on participants’ behavior, which is relevant for any institution offering programmes in additional languages.

ICLHE was delighted that Geert Hofstede gave the opening plenary at the first ICLHE conference in 2003, entitled “Culture and language”. It is worth reminding ourselves of some of the key points he made – they are still valid. He urged interdisciplinary collaboration because “scientists of different corridors of the university rarely talk to each other.” He concluded with the need to start by understanding our own cultural values “because those are the ones we always carry with us, wherever we go in the world.” Then we may be able to recognize “the values of others without immediately talking in terms of good and evil.”

In 2013 Geert Hofstede visited ICLHE for the last time when he gave a warmly received after-dinner speech “Seven deadly sins of the multicultural world”.

ICLHE will remember Geert Hofstede warmly, appreciating the ground-breaking work of this innovative pioneer and his continuing influence on our burgeoning field. We are indebted to him and thank him deeply. Our condolences to his wife Maaike and his family.

Bob Wilkinson
16 February 2020

[1] I don’t think Hofstede wrote up an account of these experiences.

ICLHE East Asia Regional Group Symposium, January 2020

Join the ICLHE East Asia Regional Group on Saturday 18th January 2020 at Gakushuin University, Tokyo for an informal day discussing integrating content and language in higher education (ICLHE), EMI and CLIL. We will have presentations and panel discussions with expert researchers and practitioners. There will also be plenty of time for you to network and discuss your research and teaching contexts to help shape the future of ICLHE in Japan and East Asia. 
Sessions include: 

  • Presentations on student experiences in EMI, faculty members’ views of EMI, and learner interaction in the CLIL classroom
  • Panel discussions with practitioners about success in ICLHE in Japan, and with content teachers about their perspectives on EMI and COIL
  • Roundtable discussions on faculty training for EMI, and EAP to EMI curriculum planning


12th Nordic Conference on Bilingualism at Stockholm University, 10-12 June 2020

The organizers invite proposals for presentations at The 12th Nordic Conference on Bilingualism (NCB12), to be held in Stockholm, Sweden, June 10–12, 2020. The conference is organized by the Centre for Research on Bilingualism, and the venue will be Campus Frescati, Stockholm University.
Click here for website.

Colloquium: Integration, Innovation, Inclusion – Porto, March 20-21, 2020

The 2nd International Colloquium  ‘Integration, Innovation and Inclusion’ in CLIL will take place at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Porto, Portugal on March 20 & 21, 2020. The call for workshops and posters has been extended to 1 December 2019. Click on link to see the call.
Colloquium site:

EMI/CLIL Train the Trainer course, Utrecht (NL), July 2020

Rosie Tanner, ICLHE member, is running an EMI/CLIL Train-The-Trainer course, for participants to learn to facilitate CLIL development in others. It will be given at Utrecht University in the summer of 2020 (13-24 July). For detailed information and how to apply click this link. If you would like to read about the course in more detail, there is a link to Rosie’s brochure.

AELFE-TAPP 2020 Conference

AELFE-TAPP 2020 is a joint conference of AELFE (European Association of Languages for Specific Purposes) and TAPP (Trans-Atlantic and Pacific Project), a virtual exchange network.
Date: 8-10 July 2020
Venue: Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya at Vilanova i la Geltrú (Barcelona, Spain)

We’re currently accepting proposals on languages for specific purposes and/or virtual exchange.

The general conference theme is: “Multilingual academic and professional communication in a networked world”.
In particular, ICLHE members may be interested in submitting to the panel on EMI/CLIL. In particular, participants are encouraged to connect the topics in the thematic panels to broader issues, such as the interplay between EMI and ESP, EMI/ESP training or the role of ESP in the context of increasingly internationalized university settings.

Deadline for proposals: 31 October 2019.

Conference website: AELFE/TAPP 2020

LINCS 2019: Linking Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Cultural, Professional and Scientific Capacity Building

The University of Latvia are pleased to announce the 4th International Symposium on Language for International Communication to be held in Riga on April 11-12, 2019 in continuation of academic and scientific cooperation started by the three preceding symposiums in 2011, 2013 and 2016.

The symposium aims at bringing together scholars, practitioners and novice researchers representing different areas of linguistics, literature and culture for a discussion on the role of languages in international communication in the contemporary world.

The symposium, organized as a two-day interdisciplinary conference, endeavours to establish links between disciplines concerned with the instrumental use of language in international communication and with the study of its acquisition, the main focus being on linguistic capacity building for international cultural, professional and scientific communication. See Conference website.

Abstract submission

Abstracts of 200 to 250 words should be sent by January 15, 2019

Submit your abstract here (via Google forms)

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