University should change language requirements

LJason Sportel Like every student in the College of Liberal Arts, I have been forced to deal with the fact that I need to pass the Graduation Proficiency Test in order to graduate. Well, congratulations are in order: I found out in January I indeed passed my GPT in German. A huge weight has been lifted off my weary shoulders. In the area of graduation requirements, the space next to the word GPT has been changed from a small “N” to a huge “Y.” This means I have but one class to go in order to achieve my degree. But as I see the GPT in the rear view, I have found time to reflect on the long journey. Was it worth it? Did I learn anything? The only answer I can come up with is resoundingly negative.

I came to the University as a transfer student with my general requirements completed. So at the University I was scheduled to finish my degree in two years. I knew about the second language requirement but questioned its difficulty. So that meant every semester I needed to take a German class. At roughly $200 a credit, four semesters of foreign language equals about $4,000. So for four semesters I spent money sitting in a German class every morning.

To be fair, many of my struggles with German come from my own poor attitude and study habits. The everyday grind and feeling of despair really wore on me. I just felt every day was not helping me learn. I felt every class exercise and assignment was pointless and I couldn’t wait for them to be over. And this was only making me hate it more. The only time I really felt I was learning was when I was with my tutor. I also believe some people are born with the ability to learn languages better than others, the same way some people have the ability to do math better than others.

Instead of requiring four semesters of foreign language classes, the University should give people the option to quit after the second semester. If some students want to continue with 1003 and 1004 and take the GPT, more power to them. For the rest there should be a way to fulfill the language requirement by taking other classes. Perhaps cultural, political or historical classes could be offered. I would rather have studied German history and culture than to grind it out in a language class I didn’t like.

I think learning a second language is useful for some students. If students plan on majoring in their chosen languages, studying abroad or spending a significant amount of time in their respective countries, it could be very useful. But let’s face the facts: Most students in a language program will probably never spend a significant amount of time in their respective countries.

The University needs to figure out the language requirement is not doing what it is supposed to do. It drains students financially and emotionally and wastes their time. Hopefully the University will realize this and change its plan in the future.

Jason Sportel is a University political science and history major. He welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]