COMMENTARY: Foreign language requirements should be changed

Elizabeth Grant

Recently, I tried to register for French 101. But I was shocked to discover that even though Western now requires you to take two foreign language classes, you can still not register for a 101 class if you have taken that language in high school.

I went to the office of the Department of Foreign Languages and asked for a solution but was surprised to discover they refused to help. I was outraged that even though I took an AP English class, I have to take a test to prove I don’t need English 101, but yet, a few French classes must mean I know French.

Don’t get me wrong — I understand the former policy, as it would be unfair for someone to take a 101 class when they can speak the language. But now that Western requires two classes, why can’t we take 101 to refresh our memory enough to take 102? And what if you had a poor teacher? A friend of mine had a Spanish teacher who didn’t speak the language correctly. What would she do then? I was told they offer tutoring, but how does this help if you can’t remember or don’t know the basics?

I also understand that classes do get full, but if there is room in the class, why would you deny a student the ability to learn a language? In today’s world, the ability to speak another language is a skill that can put you ahead in the world very quickly.

Experts predict that in America alone, that by 2030, everyone will speak Spanish as well as English. And that’s just the U.S.A. What if your job market is in France? Or what if you volunteer in Africa, where French is a commonly spoken language? And that’s just French — Spanish, German are just as widely spread. In the electronic market, it would be hard to be successful without knowing some Japanese. So why would Western deny you the skills you might need to succeed in the world?

Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean to slander or speak ill of the Foreign Language Department or Western. I don’t think they are evil or mean to harm students’ future success. Their tutoring program, I am told, is an amazing system that helps students. I merely want to point out a flawed system that is seemingly being ignored. I merely hope that bringing attention to this problem might help spur a change that helps students reach their full potential.