Post Classifieds

Foreign language debate continues for most

By Jennifer Halman
On September 13, 2005

Foreign language requirements burden some University of Memphis students - however, such classes can have benefits.

"I think people should have the choice to take a foreign language, but for those students not interested in learning a second language, they should not be forced," said Chris Jones, U of M senior.

"My major is pre-pharmacy, and I think that concentrating on science classes is more important for my future," he said. "Concentrating on how to say, 'My name is Chris Jones,' in German is not."

Sara Nelms, a U of M senior, said she thinks taking foreign languages is overall a good thing for students.

"Our world is increasingly small, so knowing things about other cultures and how to interact is such a talent to have," she said. "I love to travel and having a language barrier can make a vacation to Spain somewhat stressful."

Clay Tanner, U of M language lab and placement coordinator, said the main problem the foreign language department faces is that students are not aware of what goes into learning a second language.

"Some students assume that learning a foreign language is like learning history or math, but the methods are different," Tanner said.

"Learning a foreign language is like riding a bike," Tanner said. Someone could tell you how to ride, but you wouldn't really learn until you got on the bike and fell off a couple of times, he said.

According to Tanner, students are not expected to be fluent in a foreign language after finishing a sequence.

"We are more realistic than that," he said.

The foreign language instructors educate students to the best of their ability, but "we don't have enough contact hours" with students, Tanner said.

Some other universities' language classes are held five days a week. The U of M's are held two or three days a week, he said.

Knowing that some students dread taking foreign languages, Tanner encourages students to take the classes as soon as they enter college.

If students took two semesters of a foreign language in high school, it is best for them to start at the college level immediately, he said.

When it comes to foreign language, "you use it or lose it," Tanner said.

While many students don't want to learn a second language, research conducted by The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (A.C.T.F.L.) shows that studying foreign languages has many benefits.

Knowing a foreign language can be an asset in the workplace, can enhance memory and improve reading skills, according to A.C.T.F.L.

Regardless of how helpful a foreign language could be, some people remain uninterested.

"I took my foreign languages at Southwest because they are so much easier," said Kelly Stewart, U of M alumna.

Elinor Grusin, journalism professor at The U of M, said she recommends students who have a "less than adequate background in foreign languages" to take it at Southwest Community College because they have a different method of teaching.

However, Grusin does not recommend Southwest to everyone. She encourages students who struggle at The U of M to use Southwest as a last resort.


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