An etymological doubt has hit me. To my surprise, the "writing enhancement software," Grammarly flagged the phrase "foreign students" and suggested "International students" in its place. The reasoning:
The Term foreign students may be considered outdated, disrespectful, or offensive. Consider changing the word or phrase.
Honestly, I am swaying a bit. My concern is about word choice, usage, and of course, etymology. The fact that Grammarly is suggesting such a switch should not be taken lightly. This type of software is gradually assuming the role of a practical dictionary/thesaurus and may help turn the language in a particular direction (or not). Look at the questions about what grammar and spelling corrections in Word Perfect inflicted on a generation of writers. But what about the developers' ability to distinguish mutations in the language? They may show themselves correct in identifying a real change. Are they sniffing a shift I am not?
A quick look at Google shows that people are still using it interchangeably, but a Ngram graph shows a drastic drop for FS and a modest spike for IS since 1967, which might lend Grammarly some credibility.
1- Is the term "foreign students" genuinely becoming outdated and perhaps offensive or are these two terms ("International students") just moving closer? I am not interested in discussing conservative or liberal ideologies behind the software's suggestion. Instead, I would appreciate your sense of the direction where the English language is moving (words’ development). It is not difficult to see how in a time of worldwide anti-immigration waves the word "foreign" might be taken as a word of choice to insult newcomers. But would it affect the way we refer to non-citizen students? To recap, do you feel the term "foreign students" is becoming old-fashioned or might allude to contempt, even if slightly?
2- Should (or could) the term "International students" supersede or replace "foreign students"? Despite that most writers still use the terms interchangeably, there seem to be subtle differences. The site WERN surmises that the organization OECD has defined the terms in this way:
a. IS refers to people who have crossed borders specifically to study outside of their home country.
b. FS indicates an individual who happens to reside in a foreign country and has decided to enroll in an institution there.
My take on the OECD's attempts to define the terms is that they have proposed not one, but various ideas, and not all of them consistent (see here and here). I find notable, nevertheless, that none show the term "foreign students" passing into oblivion or becoming offensive.
The context of the piece that I am currently writing feels to me as if requiring "foreign students" rather than "international students." I intend to highlight the foreignness of a group of students visiting the Dominican Republic, where I could hardly imagine this term conveying the same potentially offensive meaning as if the US, for example. But I would consider other views.
The concerns here are not if someone is foreign or international. They are instead about if (1) one of the terms is becoming outdated and/or offensive, and if (2) the attempts at defining them are accurate enough or unproblematic.
A previous thread (“International” vs “Foreign” [closed]) offered some insights but did not answer the questions.
I don't mean to advertise a product here.