vivent les études de langues

A recent New York Times article announced that many state colleges are delivering a coup d’état to their language programs in response to budget cuts. Reading this actually frustrated me.

Languages are extremely important. To assume English fluency is sufficient is “anglocentric,” as Dr. Rosemary Feal put it. It’s also, to be quite frank, arrogant. Yes, we speak English here in the U.S., but what about the rest of the world? By limiting the opportunities to study foreign languages, we are hindering our potential on the international stage. What about the ability to communicate with international business partners? And what about having competent translators? I understand that some universities are only cutting certain languages (like French and Italian) but some of our college students are burgeoning diplomats and will need the European languages as well.

Dr. Hamilton, executive vice chancellor from Louisiana State University, is quoted in the NYT article and sums it up well:

“We should be adding languages and urging more students to take them… I’m being asked to prepare students for the global economy, but this is almost like asking them to use the abacus instead of computers.”

Many graduate programs (even in engineering and the sciences) require competency in a second language. Making cuts to language programs impedes the already difficult task of fitting language courses into an engineering/science schedule. These program cuts – some of which even include graduate programs – are also costing tenured university professors their jobs.

Even as a scientist, I believe at least four semesters of a language should be a requirement for graduation. Actually, I think we should be teaching foreign languages in elementary schools, when students are the best age to learn a second (or third) language, but that’s a whole new blog post. I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this, but I honestly believe programs like philosophy and women’s studies should be cut first. Foreign languages are just too critical.


august rush

August brought:
hot, humid days
lots of studying (the GRE looms ahead)
the discovery of some wonderful new bands
long hours at work
a love for Nabokov
a trip to New York for the U.S. Open
tickets to my favorite Broadway musical

It’s always been one of my favorite months, but it’s so bittersweet. It’s over almost as soon as it starts and when it disappears, it takes the summer with it.

I start my senior year of college tomorrow.