A student-led proposal for one-credit foreign language classes faces resistance from the Faculty of Language and Linguistics despite strong demonstrated student interest.
In a push to establish one-credit foreign language courses, members of the School of Foreign Service Academic Council have begun to survey students from across all four schools via Google Forms to gauge their interest.
Ines Oulamine (SFS ’20), a representative from the SFSAC, created and distributed the survey with the intention of taking the results to the SFS Dean’s Office and language administrators this semester.
So far, 175 students have filled out the survey; 61.7 percent of students who indicated their interest have already achieved proficiency, with 50 percent of those students earning proficiency in Spanish. Students from all four undergraduate schools have expressed interest, Oulamine said, though 85 percent of interested students surveyed were in the SFS.
If approved, students across all four schools at Georgetown could register for the one-credit language courses, but these courses would be highly recommended only for those students who have achieved language proficiency or completed an Advanced II-level class.
Faculty of Languages and Linguistics convener Josiah Osgood said SFS Dean Daniel Byman presented the department with the idea of one-credit language courses in October. After much discussion, the faculty collectively decided against the proposal, Osgood said.
“It is our collective view that while one-credit classes may make sense in some contexts, in general they are not a good fit for languages. We don’t think enough can be accomplished in one hour a week or the equivalent to make them worthwhile,” Osgood wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Osgood said one-credit language classes do not adequately meet the demands of language learning.
“Indeed, we think they potentially send a misleading message about what it takes to achieve or sustain true fluency. We explained this in an email to the SFS deans in October,” Osgood wrote.
Many students who responded to Oulamine’s survey expressed frustration that they could not currently fit two or more languages in their schedules.
Christine McNeill (SFS ’20) began a second language after completing her French minor last summer. McNeill said she sees the potential one-credit language courses as an opportunity to fit French classes back into her schedule.
“I miss taking a French class and I can’t do it; I literally won’t be able to graduate on time. So I feel like for people who completed their minors or don’t have room to take a language anymore, this would be a great way to supplement your courses while still continuing to study a language you care about,” McNeill said.
Oulamine began the initiative because of her own struggle to balance both Arabic and French courses in her schedule after attaining proficiency in French during the fall of her freshman year.
“If I wanted to take a French class on top of Arabic, I’d be looking at 18 credits a semester for two or three years, and that’s just not feasible for me,” Oulamine said.
Osgood, instead, pointed to the already available “language tables” as a way for students to maintain proficiency without creating new one-credit courses. The language tables, organized by their respective departments, meet regularly and allow students of all levels to practice their speaking outside the classroom.
Oulamine felt language tables did not provide the desired environment for maintaining proficiency.
“One credits are a lot more structured than that, and they are centered around a theme. Like the French presidency or the crisis in Venezuela,” Oulamine said. “Because the content of these classes, I saw this as a really helpful way for students to be able to maintain their language skills and discuss some current social and political topic happening in the country of that language.”
Oulamine said she believes this structure would have a positive effect on the Georgetown education.
“This would be a really great way to ensure students graduate in full confidence that they can speak that language,” Oulamine said. “My role on the academic council is to just mobilize as much student support as possible and to really show the school that this is something that a lot of us care about.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the chairs of the Language Department were presented with the idea of one-credit courses after the survey results had been collected. The presentation was given by SFS Dean Daniel Byman in October.