Language requirement inadequate

By By Jeffrey Jenkins

By Jeffrey Jenkins

In a global and increasingly outsourced economy, the ability to speak a foreign language fluently has proved to be an invaluable asset to many in the professional and nonprofit industries.

Federal agencies from the State Department to the CIA specifically recruit individuals fluent in a foreign language and experienced in another culture. However, in order for an individual to truly reap the benefits of a foreign language, the speaker needs to be fluent.

Students currently working toward a Bachelor of Arts degree will be required to fulfill the current language proficiency requirement. The U requires students to complete four semesters and prove proficiency at the 2020 level.

“The study of language significantly contributes to undergraduate education by exposing students to and involving them in another culture,” said the U Undergraduate Council in a statement released during the 2004 Fall Semester.

Acquiring knowledge of another culture is no doubt a benefit to anyone earning a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree; however, cultural immersion doesn’t happen in entry-level language courses.

I am currently studying a foreign language and will eventually visit a country to immerse myself in the culture. However, I have learned very little about culture from my studies, and I do not expect to be fluent after completing the 2020 level course. Requiring students to take a foreign language in order to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts serves no purpose other than creating another box to check on students’ degree audit reports. The course description for a 2020 level language course states it develops oral fluency at the paragraph-length level, but the 2020 level does not allow students to converse freely with a native speaker.

If the goal is to learn about another culture, more than just language skills are necessary. The U should expand the current language requirement by offering a hybrid course with not only the language component of a given culture, but also immersing students in other facets of a foreign lifestyle.

If not, the undergraduate office should eliminate the requirement altogether, ensuring students enrolled in a foreign language course are there to learn and apply a language upon graduation, not merely to grudgingly fulfill a course that does not meet the stated goals of the Office of Undergraduate Studies.

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Jeffrey Jenkins