What’s the point of a foreign language requirement?

Most students end up taking a foreign language in college to fill a degree requirement or minor or to satisfy a personal desire. Though some students do not enjoy studying other languages, the knowledge may, indeed, be helpful in the long run. I studied Spanish from elementary school through my junior year in high school. After that final year, I had completed the highest possible level of Spanish available at my school, and I knew I couldn’t study it my senior year. I wasn’t worried; when I came to WCU, I knew as a Communications major that I was not required to study a foreign language in order to complete my course requirements. However, when I decided to double major and work toward a bachelor’s of art in Philosophy and Religion, as well, I was told as a junior that I needed to fulfill the foreign language requirement. Well, it had been a few years, and my desire and knowledge of the Spanish language had dulled. I was bitter about the language requirement for a time, until I actually paid attention to the purpose of studying a foreign language. Did you know that the United States doesn’t have a national language? One was never instituted in support of the ideas of cultural interaction and freedom to practice one’s own lifestyle. And with the ever-increasing immigrant population, we hear a growing number of different languages as we walk the streets every day. So what do we make of this? Some people become angry and say that if they can’t speak “our language,” meaning English, then the foreigners should just leave. Others make an attempt to reach out and learn. I feel that in our dynamic and intercultural country today, we must be familiar with different languages and customs so as to not alienate ourselves or others. The likelihood of each of us interacting with someone who speaks a different language is almost a certainty. As the years pass, the steady influx of immigrants demonstrates that fact that we can hide no longer. We must learn. I have come to terms with the need to study a foreign language in college, but what I don’t understand are the degree programs that do not require the study of a foreign language. I would assume that the bachelor’s of science degrees would almost demand training in a foreign language, though some do not, unless a student chooses to concentrate or minor in a modern foreign language. Doctors, construction workers, EMT personnel, teachers and counselors would benefit from knowledge in another language. Yet they aren’t being forced to learn a second language, while religion, dance, theater, history and art majors are required to take up to sophomore-level courses in a modern foreign language. Wouldn’t we all benefit equally? And if not, why is there such an unusual disparity between degree requirements? The point of studying a foreign language is to gain an understanding of that language and culture in order to better yourself and help you adapt to our changing culture. But what’s the point of some students having the requirement while others do not?

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