While wandering the lower floors of the ICC, it is common to hear a multiplicity of languages — from those poring over upper-level Arabic texts to a gaggle of introductory French students reviewing new vocabulary.

Georgetown prides itself on the array of language programs available to students.

With over 20 languages offered, including the largest undergraduate Arabic enrollment of any American university, the university has maintained a commitment to language acquisition in line with its international focus.

The university, however, is not immune to current trends, having seen a 4.8 percent drop in foreign language enrollment across the board between 2009 and 2013.
It is significantly less than the 6.7 percent drop in foreign-language course enrollments at universities around the country, according to a recent report by the Modern Language Association. Given that Georgetown is an institution that produces culturally savvy, internationally minded students and future professionals in any field, this trend is disturbing.

Unfortunately, many students treat foreign languages as requirements, rather than powerful means of communication and tools for diplomacy. There is an inordinate amount of talk on campus of filling general education requirements without much thought to the quality of those classes.

Georgetown’s approach to language is unfortunately being ignored. Language proficiency is treated as an end goal instead of merely one step in a lifetime of language learning.

With its proficiency exams, the university does its best to foster the continued work required in learning a foreign language. However, it is ultimately up to students to put in the work to continue their education.

Students should take language courses beyond those required for graduation and, in turn, academic deans and program heads should encourage students to pursue them, given the enrollment drop.

In an increasingly globalized world, language skills are one of the strongest assets that anyone entering in the workforce can possess. Georgetown’s foreign language programs are an invaluable resource of which students here should never hesitate to take advantage.

One Comment

  1. Language Student says:

    Bravo, Hoya, for finally mentioning the quality of language classes.

    I agree with the author’s sentiment that foreign language shouldn’t be taken just to knock out a requirement. As a foreign language enthusiast myself, I have seen how my abilities in several foreign languages have helped bridge cultural and communication gaps before as well as help people communicate who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

    The Arabic department I hear is great, and Georgetown should be justifiably proud.

    Unfortunately, I have had experience with the Spanish and Korean departments here as well. Both of which are not that great, and the latter of which is particularly terrible.

    For those students in classes like Arabic where the quality is good, perhaps that is why they choose to stay on longer than for proficiency requirements. For languages that are badly taught here, especially Korean, perhaps that is why people discontinue taking them. Personally, the poor quality of Korean here was why I stopped taking the class, even though I absolutely love Korean language and culture.

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