The Importance of a Second Language


By Ana Luiza Ramos, Editor-in-Chief


When choosing any bachelor’s degree, a student is faced with a choice: Bachelor of Arts, or Bachelor of Science? According to the Office of Undergraduate Studies, “Students pursuing a BA must take the required number of language courses and achieve certain competencies. Students pursuing a BS are not required to take language courses, but are required to take two QI courses” — QI meaning quantitative intensive requirement. The Department of World Languages and Cultures explains in their website that, at the University of Utah, “students must demonstrate proficiency that is equivalent to two years of foreign language study in order to meet the Foreign Language Requirement for the Bachelor of Arts degree.”

Some students may be frightened to learn a new language. The classes can be taxing and rigorous. At the U, there are 21 languages offered, and students may major (or minor) in Chinese, Classics, Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Religion Studies and Spanish. The U also offers minors in Italian, Korean and Portuguese.

Sam Smith, who declared his Portuguese and Brazilian studies minor three years ago, shared why he believes learning languages is essential: “I think that not just Portuguese, but any language is super important to learn in our current global society.  I feel that there are things that you can only learn when you are proficient in another language, especially with regards to culture and history.  Also, I think that learning a second, third or fourth language is a great way to develop multiple viewpoints and methods of analyzing the information and opinions that are constantly flowing around us.”

Learning a language can only enrich a student’s college experience. Employers also look more highly upon candidates who know a second language, which can make them stand out from other people with the same qualifications.

Smith also described his experience with the department so far. “I have sincerely enjoyed all of the classes I have taken so far, both because of the efforts of the professors in the department as well as the student interaction that they cultivate in class. It has also been interesting to explore different aspects of the Luso-Brazilian Culture and heritage.”

The small class sizes also mean more attention from the professors and more camaraderie between students, allowing great discussions to take place, explained Professor Christopher Lewis. He said that “if you are in an upper-level class, you get between 10 and 12 [students]” in the Portuguese and Brazilian studies program.

The professor made sure to emphasize that the program is quite sizable when compared to other Portuguese programs nationally. He also mentioned that returned missionaries are not the only ones taking that wide array of classes. In fact, he said, “Every semester I have heritage speakers, every semester I have Brazilians, every semester I have people who have just learned the language some other way and in some kind of study abroad so it’s really a variety.”

Professor Lewis also had this to say about the upper-level Portuguese classes. “They’re not about the Portuguese language, they are in the Portuguese language,” just like English courses are not always about learning English. “To truly communicate with them, you have to know their stories,” and that is what they hope to achieve once the student has learned the basic grammar for their language of choice.

Smith also described how the Portuguese classes are structured. “The classes are broken down into two categories broadly. The first category is grammar, where up to 3060, you are learning the different grammar rules and how to speak the language. The second category is that of more in depth classes focusing on certain aspects of the Portuguese Language or the Luso-Brazilian culture. These classes are usually focused around different readings we do outside of class with a strong emphasis on in-class participation and group discussions.”

The minor requires a minimum of 15 upper-division credit hours listed in Portuguese and approved areas. Smith wanted to express to students why they should take Portuguese classes. “As far as Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, I can honestly say that the classes I have taken so far have been among the best classes I have had at the university. The quality of work put in by the professors as well as the amazing discussions in class, it has been a great learning opportunity and stress relief in an otherwise stressful school schedule.”

The FLAS Scholarship is another great benefit granted by taking Portuguese classes. Not only do they fill the B.A. requirements, but with this scholarship, there is a chance for any student from any major and department (except the School of Medicine) to get paid to take the classes. “Their goal is to promote what they call less commonly taught languages,” said Professor Lewis. The scholarship is offered both for academic years and summer programs. Both requirements for the scholarship are met by taking Portuguese classes. Find out more by accessing the FLAS website.

The Department of World Languages and Cultures gives students an opportunity to learn beyond grammar, allowing a student to fully be able to communicate and understand others. Smith ended by saying, “I recommend Portuguese to people frequently, mainly because I believe in the importance of learning multiple languages or at least making a genuine effort to do so.  This I think is one of the most important things that you can do to really understand the world around you at a greater scale.”


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