“It’s important to hear the voice of the students”: why some are asking for changes to Duke’s foreign language requirements
Thinking of adding that second major? Make sure you still have enough time to meet your foreign language requirements.
Students at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences have mixed feelings about their foreign language policy, which requires them to take three courses or reach a 300-level class in a given language, whichever comes first. International and Indigenous students are not exempt from this requirement.
While some of Duke’s counterpart institutions, such as the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Emory University, and Harvard University, require students to take a language course, some allow students to test the language. requirement or use high school credits to complete it.
Duke’s language policy serves a variety of purposes, according to the Trinity website. These include “holistic understanding”, “career success” and “personal growth”.
Liliana Paredes, Professor of Romance Studies Practice, hopes students will understand that “learning a language will expand the way they see the world.” However, Paredes notes that there are a few flaws in the implementation of the policy itself, including some students waiting until the last minute to meet language requirements.
“It is our responsibility as a teacher to encourage them to start as early as possible and to make them understand that the language requirement is not a chore,” said Paredes. “It is put there to give the student the opportunity to think beyond English.”
Senior Sam Freder, who is pursuing a minor in French, thinks the language requirement is a good idea.
“I think entering any sort of professional life without some sort of foreign language knowledge is detrimental, and I think that opens up a lot of doors for you,” Freder said. “The emphasis here on pursuing French in specific areas of life has helped me improve my ability to talk about more academic subjects than I had ever really had before coming here.”
For other students who are not looking to be fluent in another language in their daily lives, the language requirement may seem like a waste of time. Senior Madeleine Scully believes language learning is a good idea for student development, but noted that she doesn’t end up prioritizing it over her other more difficult classes.
“It’s really great to have people learn other languages,” said Scully. “However, I also had other more difficult lessons so I didn’t take the time for that. So now I forgot all the Spanish I learned because I don’t keep working on it.
Grade 1 Grace Kurtz-Nelson said her positive outlook on the requirement of a foreign language came from her experience learning French from an early age. She has also had a pen pal since the age of 13 and has participated in some exchange programs.
“It was super enriching for me, and it taught me so much about the world,” she said. “So I think having a foreign language requirement can encourage that sort of thing. “
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Kutz-Nelson also acknowledged how much of a burden the foreign language requirement at Duke could be on those who may not have had the opportunity to learn a language in high school.
“I also think the language requirement might be biased in favor of higher income people who went to high schools who might have more resources and who could have taught more languages,” Kurtz-Nelson said.
Chioma Ibeku, first year, likes the depth of study demanded by politics and plans to study a language. However, Ibeku noted that the types of languages offered to Duke represent a Eurocentric bias, citing that the only African language offered is Swahili.
Going forward, Ibeku plans to work in Africa and believes it is important to learn the native language of the community in which she plans to live.
“You don’t need to know the lingua franca of a European colonizing country like English, French or Spanish,” Ibeku said. “These three languages were all brought in by colonization.”
Paredes believes that the only way to resolve these issues is “to have an open conversation about the expectations and experiences of students within the foreign language department”.
“How the foreign language requirements will evolve is up to all of us,” said Paredes. “The essence of the language requirement is to be more inclusive, and it is important to hear the voice of the students.