Rationale for the LSA Language Requirement

Rationale for the LSA Language Requirement

Here is a succinct statement of the rationale for the LSA Language Requirement from the LSA Language Requirement Page:

LSA’s language requirement seeks to prepare students for a world that has been profoundly transformed by the forces of globalization. Language shapes both how we understand and how we negotiate our world; learning a second language provides both a deep awareness of linguistic and cultural differences and a means to bridge them. Informed respect for other cultures, tolerance, cosmopolitanism, self-awareness, and flexibility are the hallmarks of a liberal arts education, and the study of foreign languages fosters precisely these capacities.

The following excerpt from the Report on Second Language Instruction in the College of Literature, Science & Arts produced by the LS&A Joint Faculty-Student Policy Committee, Fall 1996 (page 4) provides an older, more detailed rationale:

Rationale for the Second Language Requirement and Issues of Student Motivation

The Committee identified three broad rationales as they read earlier college reports and spoke with language instructors and other faculty about the rationale for language study and the language requirement.

1) Intellectual and Analytical Development

“Language incarnates, organizes, stores and expresses the cultural reality of a society and the intellectual constructs of its people. Language learning forces us to abandon our own deeply ingrained structures -grammatical, semantic, psychological, cultural — and cross over into new ones. Expressing oneself in a foreign language and reading the unmediated expressions of natives in that language are unique expressions that are mainstays of liberal education …. In four terms of intensive language study, most students will come to grips with a new language on its own terms; most students will be meaningfully transformed and broadened in their range of thinking skills.” (“Report of the Coordinating Committee on the Undergraduate Experience: Language in the Undergraduate Experience”)

2) Cross-Cultural Understanding and Awareness

“Natural languages are not abstract or arbitrary constructs but the central and defining media of specific peoples and cultures. The process of learning them as a non-native adult begins with memorization, drill, and repetition, but the goal of learning them is genuine personal practice in lessons on openness, flexibility, diversity, and tolerance. As in the study of piano, the mechanical basics become the vehicles to the art. . . . The awareness of difference and acquisition of another culture through language are the only platforms from which we are able to gain a remote perspective on ourselves and our own culture and language. When we think of foreign travel, we think of foreign language. We should always be mindful that foreign language study, even at home, is travel in cultural and intellectual space.” (“Report of the Coordinating Committee on the Undergraduate Experience: Language in the Undergraduate Experience”)

3) Personal and Professional Opportunities

Language study enables students to travel, live and communicate more easily in non-English speaking countries. It allows students to communicate with their parents and grandparents in their first language or in the language of their ethnic background. Language study prepares students for graduate study and research in many fields. Language study prepares students for international business opportunities, and it increases employment opportunities for students in all professions in a global economy.