World language requirement examined
Victoria Bresnahan—News Editor
For many decades, the university has required students to learn a foreign language and about its culture.
Since at least 2015, however, students have petitioned twice for the Liberal Education Program’s Multicultural Communication, or world language requirement, to be revised.
Last week, the Student Government Association distributed a statement to the University Curriculum Forum and Liberal Education Program Committee calling for the requirement to be changed to, “three years of the same language in high school with a grade of C or better; or level 101 at SCSU.”
“It’s true that we are different from the other CSCUs, but we have different values than the other CSCUs,” said Spanish Professor Resha Cardone. “We are also regionally situated within the most diverse region of Connecticut and also the types of students that we produce professionally interact with populations in such a way that they really need language education.”
Learning a second language is necessary for many of the university’s students, such as nursing or education students.
In Connecticut, Cardone said teachers need to have the ability to interact with their students who speak other languages.
This, she said, is a reality that is not going away.
According to Statistical Atlas, a website displaying demographic data in the U.S., 11.5%, or 391,576 residents of Connecticut speak Spanish in their household.
The university solidified several years ago that learning a foreign language is something they value, she said. It is their goal to prepare students to do more than other CSCUs.
Cardone said she appreciates that students came together to express their opinion about the requirement through the statement.
“I think that’s wonderful,” she said. “You know, that’s what we are supposed to educate students to do—is to formulate an opinion, and then sit down with a pen and paper, and to form coalitions. I’m proud that our students have taken the initiative to do something like this.”
While Cardone said she does not want to cut down the students’ statement, she believes some of the information in the statement needed more evidence.
In the statement, SGA President Alexis Zhitomi stated the association is concerned with how retention rates may be affected by the world language requirement.
This idea would need to be developed more with evidence, Cardone said.
According to data from the School of Arts and Sciences, in 2017-2018 Spanish 200—the level needed to complete the requirement—had a DFW rate, or the number of students receiving a D, F or withdrawing, was set at an average 15.7%.
The success rate, or the number of students receiving an A,B or C was 84%.
Italian 200 had a DFW rate of 6%, and a success rate of 93.3%.
Lastly, French 200 received a DFW rate of 11%, and a 88.9% success rate.
Additional data stated that 80% of students need to take only the 200 level course.
“So the data—the actual hard data—actually suggests this is a benefit to students,” she said.
The World Languages Department works with the First Year Experience program to ensure proper advising is given so students are placed in the correct course.
“[The advising] has actually totally changed our numbers more than anything,” said Cardone.
In 2015, when the language requirement was last discussed, anecdotal evidence was provided from local community college advisers that alleged some students were not transferring to Southern due to the requirement.
The data needs to be harder than anecdotal, said Cardone.
“Though perception is very important,” she said. “We want to listen to the anecdotes, but we shouldn’t call anecdote, data.”
Currently, the requirement necessitates that students take at least one semester of a language at a 200 level.
The STAMP exam, which discerns someone’s ability to be proficient in a language, can also be taken to place out of taking the language requirement.
French Professor Luke Eilderts said speaking more than one language opens more doors for students. While the second language may not be the one they use, learning the third language becomes easier, he said.
While he has not read the entire SGA statement, President of Italianissimi— the Italian club—Nicholas Talarico said, in a phone interview, he knows the association is calling for the requirement to be revised.
Although he said he is biased because he majors in Italian, he thinks students should be required to take many semesters of a foreign language.
He said when students learn a new language it pushes them out of the box and to experience a new culture.
“I just can’t understand why they would want to pass this,” he said, “because it doesn’t make sense to me.”