Should there be a 5th year of languages at Uni?
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Soon-to-be subfreshmen filling out the forms to attend Uni have one difficult choice they must make: choosing a language. Every Uni student is required to spend a minimum of two years learning one of the five offered foreign or classical languages: French, German, Japanese, Latin, and Spanish. Students rank the languages from one to five and are then assigned to a class. After students finish their two mandatory years, they have the option to stop learning their chosen language or continue for another 1-2 years. However, once senior year arrives, there is no fifth year for a language.
The Uni Foreign Language Department’s stated purpose is to “increase the student’s knowledge and appreciation of diverse cultures,” but their courses also serve to fit requirements of many competitive colleges, which mandate anywhere from two to four years of language study in high school. Most of these colleges will also offer, and some even require, for incoming students to test out of a language class by taking an exam in order to prove their proficiency in a language. Due to the language “gap year,” Uni students are at a disadvantage, having lost some of their language knowledge.
The simple solution? Add a fifth-year language program.
Out of a small sample of informally surveyed Uni students, over half said they would take a fifth year of a language if it were offered. For those students, the current lack of a 5th year means they have to find a different program in which to continue learning. Doing so may require them to duplicate previous learning, as University or online courses are unlikely to start up where Uni courses end.
Another option, within Uni, is to do an Independent Study with a language teacher. However, teachers are not paid extra for Independent Studies, so most teachers are unlikely to be interested in teaching more than, at most, two or three students at a time. Not only would a legitimate Uni class allow for more students to join, it would also set a precedent for future years. A level 5 class would open up opportunities for students to explore a language more in-depth, similarly to how there are more advanced classes in the math and science departments. A class would offer motivated students the chance to continue their study, and also solve the problem of a gap-year. Two birds with one stone.