Students respond to language requirement change

Andrew Cummings | multimedia editor.

Kellen Stepler | features editor

Oct. 7, 2021

Students in the McAnulty College of Liberal Arts are split when it comes to the foreign language proficiency requirement. 

The foreign language proficiency requirement has brought mixed opinions from Duquesne students. In 2016, The Duke reported that some students were unhappy with the education they were receiving within the department.

However, Huth said that while some students complain about the requirement, they also “complain about a lot of things.”

“Are you going to cut every requirement that students decide to complain about?” she wrote.

Although the decision has not been publicly announced, the reaction of students within the liberal arts college has been mixed.

Molly Cate Olson, a freshman psychology and history major, hasn’t taken a foreign language at Duquesne yet. She would only do so if it were required.

“Most high schools require a few years of language, and most students at Duquesne don’t go here to major in language or have plans to go abroad after they graduate,” she said.

Freshman marketing major and French minor Grace Heaton is currently taking French and and German and hopes to take some Italian classes as well. She is taking some of her foreign language classes as an elective because she believes language study is an important skill to have, she said.

Heaton does not agree with the decision to eliminate the foreign language requirement.

“Duquesne preaches the promotion of an access to a global education, and languages are an integral part of that education,” Heaton said. “If we are supposed to be ambassadors of our school and of the USA, people studying abroad should have at least a basic understanding of a foreign language.”

While Heaton is only a freshman, she said she thinks her already existing knowledge of French and German has grown so much during her short time at Duquesne.

“When I was originally looking at colleges, one of my biggest considerations was the language programs,” she said. “I wanted to be at a school that promoted language study and made global education a priority. I loved how Duquesne [promoted] said global education and also seemingly had the language programs to accompany it.”

Zach Buckler, a junior Digital Media Arts major, is currently taking his third semester of German as a requirement. 

“I know it’s been a major complaint from Liberal Arts students even before I attended Duquesne, because I remember my advisor telling me that it was the top issue for students in the McAnulty College,” he said. “I also struggle greatly with my foreign language classes, as do all my friends, mostly because it feels so disconnected and unnecessary regarding our liberal arts majors, like Digital Media Arts.”

Buckler said that he would be “more than glad” to drop the foreign language proficiency requirement and that most of the students in his foreign language class are only taking it for the graduation requirement.

“This would mean that after the language requirement would drop, the number of students enrolled and classes available for foreign language would drop significantly,” he said. “Though this seems negative, it would allow students and professors alike to focus their commitment and studies toward classes they actually want to take and that will actually benefit them in the future, unlike the current system that just feels unnecessary and intentionally time-wasting.”

Junior digital media arts major Sam Ruffino is currently taking Spanish as a required course for his major. He said he agrees with the idea that college students should be required to take at least a foreign language class during their undergraduate career.

“I feel as though students in this country don’t get enough exposure to different cultures and languages, and learning this through foreign language courses helps broaden horizons, and enhance global literacy,” Ruffino said.

However, Ruffino acknowledged that four classes of a foreign language “is a bit excessive if its [relevance] does not apply to your field of study.” 

“Ultimately, I would agree with the decision to omit this requirement because I think, especially in later years of schooling, it is important to focus more on major-specific courses,” Ruffino said. “I do enjoy the cultural exposure these classes give me, and the professors have been for the most part very helpful, but it is very time consuming. The most amount of time I have spent doing homework each night over the past four semesters has typically been in Spanish.”

In the era of language-learning apps like Duolingo or Babble, sophomore environmental science major Rosie Spinola said it’s “more sensible” to do an independent study in a language that a student chooses.

“I think there are better classes that we can require to have a more rounded education – like civics or scientific literacy,” she said. “Being proficient in French, German or Spanish will help you gain better insight into the rules of the English language, but it isn’t necessary in order to be prepared for a career in liberal arts.” 

“Learning a language is like networking, the extent to which you use it in your career should be up to the discretion of the individual,” Spinola said.