As a frequent traveler, I noticed that many people outside of the United States can easily speak my mother tongue; English. I inquired a lot to my fellow travelers I met on how they learned to speak two or more languages so well. The answer I received more times than not was that they learned it as a compulsory course in primary and/or secondary school. In America, learning a foreign language is not compulsory until high school. Upon entering college, schools only require that you take the minimum one year of any foreign language course. While the requirements for taking a foreign language course are minimal in the United States, I have learned that most colleges provide students with the option to become proficient in another language by offering rigorous courses; except Brenau University.
Brenau University does not provide any upper-level language courses or the opportunity to receive a minor in any foreign language. All of their foreign language courses stop at a 200 level. Although Brenau does not provide any upper-level foreign language courses they do allow students to continue learning the language through an independent study with a professor. But, independent studying is very limited especially since there are only two faculty members that teach a foreign language.
Students like myself are yearning for upper-level foreign language courses, specifically in Spanish, so we can become more competitive in the job market field. According to Telelanguage infographics, as of 2018, there are more than 41 million Spanish speakers in America. Moreover, it is one of the fastest-growing numbers of speakers in the United States. Jobs are demanding many communication workers such as marketing analysts, teachers, and healthcare professionals to be bilingual. Most of these professions make up more than 50% of Brenau’s majors. Students at Brenau are at an obvious disadvantage by not having access to upper-level Spanish courses.
Sydney Hencil, an international student and a sophomore at Brenau University, speaks three different languages and fervently agrees that being monolingual is a limitation. She stated, “Knowing a second language is very important because at an liberal arts school courses like this should be offered. Also, being able to read and write another language makes someone more valuable in the job market.”
It isn’t like students at Brenau haven’t expressed a need for upper-level language courses. Cierra Franklin, a senior at Brenau, regrets that she isn’t completely fluent in Spanish but also feels her lack of fluency in Spanish is because of the limited courses offered at Brenau. Franklin said “I took Spanish 100 & 200 and really found a love for the language. I picked up on it easily and truly could have become fluent had there been higher-level courses offered or even a minor in Spanish. I would have advocated harder for Brenau to have a Spanish minor if I had known how or had the time”. Franklin isn’t the only student that feels this way on campus. Many students want more upper-level language courses offered but they just don’t know how or to whom to express their concerns too.
As the United States is slowly integrating compulsory foreign language courses in primary and secondary schools, it’s up to colleges like Brenau to take on the responsibility of providing their students with foreign language skills. As the Association of American Colleges and Universities stated, a liberal arts education should provide students with “learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change”. As America is changing its main idiom it is expected for the professionals of tomorrow to fluidly transition from one language to another.