As an Arts and Sciences student, it is mandatory to take three semesters of a foreign language, but how much knowledge is actually acquired in these classes?
According to a New York Times article published in January 2012, Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard University and former secretary of the Treasury, suggests that universities reduce the investment in foreign language programs. He believes English is “perfectly sufficient for utopian purposes” and other languages are unnecessary.
While Summers has a valid point, this argument needs to go a bit farther.
English is not sufficient for universal business or trade, but mastering any language seems to be necessary to all societies.
There are proven benefits to taking a foreign language, but why should colleges require students to take three semesters of a foreign language before the student can write sufficiently in their own language?
A survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education reported 61 percent of high school teachers said their students have never written a paper more than five pages and the writing suffers from poor grammar and weak arguments.
This statistic fails to change in college and many graduates are faced with a tough time finding jobs due to their inability to tell the difference between “two” and “to.”
Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, says the world’s largest online repair company, he refuses to hire an applicant with bad grammar.
“Good grammar makes good business sense — and not just when it comes to hiring writers,” he said. “Writing isn’t in the official job description of most people in our office. Still, we give our grammar test to everybody, including our salespeople, our operations staff, and our programmers.”
I’m unable to find exact statistics of the number of college seniors without command of their first language, but from personal experience, I imagine this number is quite high.
Foreign language skills may expand horizons, but rarely will this be used in the real world unless the student plans on going into something dealing with the international world. If the student is even able to have elementary comprehension of the language by the end of the third semester, it’s unlikely this knowledge will come in handy and will be quickly forgotten.
First off, three semesters of a foreign language is not enough to converse with a native speaker and most students (with no interest in the subject to begin with) won’t take the time and effort to keep up with the language.
Instead of wasting students’ time, money and effort on a horrid foreign language requirement, why doesn’t the school put more effort into expanding the students’ first language knowledge?
At UMKC, we have this so-called WEPT test that everyone knows is pointless. We also have three semesters of English requirements, but I know more than a few who manage to barely pass these classes and still acquire no knowledge of their own subject.
From my experience with these classes, they don’t teach students to learn how to write. They teach students how to take tests and BS their way through essays. Why is there not a single college class dedicated to grammar?
If colleges were as dedicated to students learning their own language as they are to learning a foreign language, then this would be a less twitter-dependent society.
Hopefully the day will never come when job applications ask the person to write 140 characters or less about why they qualify for the job.