Pourquoi, UMKC?

Janet Schaaf

I am in the homestretch of finishing my degree here at UMKC. This semester I only have one class, and it’s not even in my major area—I am completing my foreign language requirement. It’s the one class that I feel is a completely unnecessary requirement.

The first two foreign language classes I had (110 and 120) were helpful, and I could see how they impacted my view of the world. They expanded my horizon, so to speak. I cannot say that for this one, however. For the most part, it has cast aside my love of the language.

There is something to be said for learning a new language, and I’m not against that. The Kansas City Star recently ran an article about Academie Lafayette, a French language immersion school in Kansas City (“Bonjour, KC! French immersion school Academie Lafayette a big success”, 11/18/2014). The school teaches students from kindergarten through eighth grade. On the school’s “About” section of its website, it references an article from “The Language Educator” that states, “the younger an individual is when exposed to a new language, the greater the probability for success in acquiring proficiency as well as native pronunciation.” As a non-traditional student, I know I’m not young, but even traditional college-aged students have to push aside many years of English language to introduce a new one at this point.

In other areas of degree completion there are choices available—why not this one? Why is this third class required? It seems that it is helpful if a student is planning to study abroad or to continue studying the language, but if it’s just another requirement to fulfill, why not offer a choice between the foreign language and something from the student’s major area? As an English major, I feel that being able to choose another English course would benefit my future (i.e. career) more than a third foreign language class. Students who began as freshmen in 2013 do not have the same foreign language requirement as students who, like me, began before that date. The current foreign language course options focus on cultures of different regions, instead of speaking the language. This seems like a better way to gain a different perspective on the world in which we live.  .

The level of foreign language I am currently taking (211) seems to be focused on encouraging students to continue studying the language. There is a lot of writing in the language, which I do not think will be helpful to my future. There are also quite a few references to how certain things we study will be helpful in 221 or above. Since I will be stopping at 211, this is not helpful to me either.

While I am not trying to make a liberal arts college into a vocational school, I am suggesting that the courses have some relevance to students’ lives and futures. The chance that my future holds travel to a foreign country is fairly slim. The chance that my future will require communication in English is a whole lot more likely.