Keep the GPT

This is in response to Sean Cahill’s Dec. 9 column “Language proficiency tests should be dropped,” regarding language proficiency testing here at the University. Cahill asserts that the required College of Liberal Arts Graduation Proficiency Test for languages should be eliminated.

His main argument is that the “daunting” GPT is generating enough fear within the CLA student body to prevent many from exploring languages other than the common European ones offered at most high schools. This claim is preposterous for a number of reasons.

First, the GPT is designed to assess one’s basic understanding of a foreign language. It tests three very fundamental concepts of a language: one’s ability to speak and write in the present and past tenses and to utilize essential vocabulary. If this instills fear in most students, then it is undeservedly so.

These skills are taught and can be mastered after only two semesters of language study at the University. If one has a high school background in the same language, then it is likely that even less time would be necessary. The University only recommends students take four semesters of one language.

The attitudes of the students, rather than the exam, dictate language enrollment. Nearly every fellow Spanish student I have encountered here is taking a language solely to fulfill the CLA requirement. Most students I have spoken with despise this requirement and are only looking to take the easy way out. This attitude likely arises from language courses in high schools that are often treated as trivial slacker classes that seldom test students’ knowledge.

Thus, it seems the root of Cahill’s problem is the language requirement itself. However, each college requires mastery of a number of academic areas, and certainly, a language must be just as important. It is then ridiculous to think the University should not test us to verify that we meet this very basic requirement.

The GPT was developed because many students were not satisfactorily emerging from their language classes, and it continues to fulfill this purpose. Those with a true passion for a different language should not let this unjustifiable fear get in their way.

Sean Corcoran, sophomore, genetics