Forwarding foreign language

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Foreign language requirement is positive and holds benefits for UMBC students

By Holly Vogtman

Staff Writer

hollyv1@umbc.edu

Foreign language requirements at UMBC are important not only for the purpose of language acquisition, but also to further broaden the minds of students and spark interest in worldly activities.

The description of the requirement on the UMBC website states, “The language and culture requirements recognize the global nature of society in the 21st Century, the importance of intercultural communication and the need for modern citizens to broaden their horizons. The study of language through the 201 level provides a foundation for fluency.”

UMBC requires students to take a single language through the 201 level or of “equivalent proficiency.” Foreign language requirements for students are a positive aspect of the UMBC curriculum as it forces students to step outside their normal boundaries and experience various cultures through language acquisition.

Learning another language in the United States has taken a back seat when it comes to other forms of education, which is dangerous when students will be competing for jobs in the global market after graduation.

Foreign language competency helps students prepare for future careers and activities as the world continues to evolve into a global community. Having knowledge of a culture, history and language of a foreign nation allows students to gain a deeper perspective and understanding to a different part of the world.

Besides the actual language acquisition and the positive benefits of finding jobs, foreign language education assists in reinforcing an individual’s native language skills as well. The cognitive skills and academic performance of students in all areas of education can improve while learning a foreign language because it refines skills necessary in other classes such as writing, reading, research and memorization.

Sometimes students are not exposed to the many opportunities and options of study abroad without being part of a foreign language class and receiving information from the foreign language department.

Students that may have never thought about taking a foreign language class without the requirement from the university may be drawn to a different culture and inspired to continue with the language and study abroad. Study abroad is a once in a lifetime experience that all students are encouraged to participate in.

John Sinnigen, UMBC Spanish professor, said, “I would say that a world that is as globally connected and complex as ours requires that everyone know at least one foreign language and study at least one foreign culture … I lived in a pretty small world before I started studying Spanish in college and went on to do study abroad … my eyes were opened to a world that was bigger, more complex, more exciting and more invigorating than what my monolingual and monocultural experience had been. Now, as a Spanish professor, I see my students have the same experience. No one should miss it.”

Students sometimes find foreign language requirements to be obtrusive and simply unnecessary because their field of study does not seem to have ties with any kind of foreign language acquisition.

However, as students are living in a world that is constantly growing smaller with more communication and international relations, foreign language acquisition is a necessity and beneficial for the future.