Should there be a 5th year of languages at Uni?

Lia Dankowicz, Writer

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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.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Should there be a 5th year of languages at Uni?”

  1. Karen Schmeckpeper on April 30th, 2017 3:32 pm

    I think five years is terrific but I wish to suggest something for the beginning of language study: a short language exploratory course to help students choose a language compatible with their other study interests or talents. I personally made a choice that wasted a lot of time and effort. With some guidance getting toes dipped into various languages (with why and which are needed for what or who demonstrated by the language department as a group effort) surely better choices might be made.
    I did not get to attend UNI my Jr and Sr years. I lucked out and had C.J. Cherryh (her pen name) as an instructor in Ancient History (since I was not on track for Latin, Greek, etc.) and was her intern the last year. (Yes. Her sci-fi novels revel in her genius for languages but that happened later.) UNI’s social studies/political sciences were great prep and I wish I had been in the right language as well for the studies I pursued. I do not think a single guidance counselor session works for a choice like this.
    Again thank you for the forum.


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Should there be a 5th year of languages at Uni?