D.S. Croft once said, “If you can speak three languages you’re trilingual. If you can speak two languages you’re bilingual. If you can speak only one language you’re an American.”
However, in today’s America, globalization has forced a change in American thinking. In spite of this, UTD still sequesters itself away from the far-reaching effects of an extensive foreign language program.
Universities all over the U.S. have enriched their language departments, with the University of Wisconsin topping the list with 63 languages.
We, at UTD, do not even offer the opportunity to minor in a foreign language, let alone major in one. Next semester, UTD will offer 14 courses in five languages, with a special emphasis on Spanish through the new Hispanic studies program.
Administrators proudly proclaim UTD to be the next “MIT of the South,” but they seem blind to the fact that MIT offers more than 45 courses in French, Chinese, Japanese, Italian and German.
The reason for this is that arts and humanities students at MIT may fulfill one of their three-course distribution requirements with an upper-level foreign language course.
There is a history to this void in UTD’s languages curriculum.
According to Rainer Schulte, Director of Center for Translation Studies at UTD, before UTD began accepting freshmen, an agreement existed between the University of Texas at Arlington and UTD. UT Arlington taught the foreign languages, while UTD taught the humanities subjects. This agreement has since been abandoned.
It has been 14 years since the first freshman class enrolled in UTD and students still do not have a semblance of a foreign language program. Must we bind ourselves to the decisions of our past? Is there no hope for posterity to be reading Dante and Dumas in their original texts?
UT Austin has a foreign language requirement for the Bachelor of Arts degree of up to four semesters of instruction. Texas A&M and Texas Tech also have a foreign language requirements for their B.A. degree. So why has UTD been left out of the quest to produce a multilingual student body?
It must be said that the School of Arts and Humanities has, in the past, offered subjects such as Classical Greek and Latin. The classes did not meet the required enrollment at the time and subsequently were cancelled. So is this a problem festered by uninterested students? I think not.
The students at UTD seem more than interested in scholarly pursuits of the classical and modern languages.
However, according to Dennis Kratz, The School of Arts and Humanities dean, the limited number of electives allowed by the individual schools causes many students to stop taking free electives by their junior year.
A recurring mantra at UTD is, “We are a young school, give us time.” This is becoming a trite excuse – a worn-out crutch.
In my eyes, the solution is simple – add a foreign language requirement to the B.A. degree, thus creating a greater demand for these classes. Not only would this enrich UTD’s B.A. degree, but would also open doors for students from other disciplines interested in foreign languages.
Language is not only a common thread that links us to each other, but offers us a glimpse into another culture.
By denying students the chance to learn a foreign language, UTD denies students a peek into a life other than our own. We are lagging behind in this race for cultural amalgamation and globalization as we refuse to speak the languages of the world.