To uphold its reputation as a leader in international education and incorporate the demands of students into its curriculum, Georgetown University should run a pilot program across all four undergraduate schools to test the viability of one-credit language classes.

Last October, School of Foreign Service Senior Associate Dean Daniel Byman presented the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics with a plan for to establish language classes worth one academic credit; current language classes are typically worth three credits for standard language-learning courses or six credits for intensive courses.

Despite demonstrated student interest and the strong backing of the SFS Academic Council, the FLL refused — and has continued to refuse — to adopt the program on the grounds that the program would not sufficiently teach language to students.

“We don’t think enough can be accomplished in one hour a week or the equivalent to make them worthwhile,” FLL convener Joseph Osgood wrote in a February email to The Hoya.

The proposed classes would not replace three- or six-credit courses, which this editorial board believes are necessary in pursuit of language learning and proficiency. Rather, these classes would provide an opportunity for already-conversational students to learn about the social and political issues of the language.

For example, SFSAC representative Ines Oulamine (SFS ’20) suggested the program, which would be available to students in all four undergraduate schools, could include classes in “the French presidency or the crisis in Venezuela” in a February interview with The Hoya.

In addition to the backing of the dean’s office, the proposal has strong support among students.

“One-credit language courses are consistently the one issue that SFS students want us to push for,” Roopa Mulpuri (SFS ’18), the president of the SFSAC, said in an interview with The Hoya.

According to Mulpuri, students are looking for an opportunity to maintain the fruits of the work they put into learning a language without losing too much time in their already-full schedules.

One-credit language programs serve the SFS’s particular emphasis on understanding international cultures and politics, in addition to fostering international communication.

Despite support from the SFS Dean’s Office, the FLL has employed misguided reasoning in its continued rejection of a pilot program.

In a February interview with The Hoya, Osgood argued already available “language tables,” which are gatherings for students of all levels to practice speaking their foreign language, provide an opportunity for students to maintain proficiency. However, these programs lack the structure and educational capability of one-credit courses.

Osgood has argued one-credit courses are ill-suited for learning languages, ignoring that the proposed courses would be designed primarily — although not exclusively — for the benefit of students at the advanced levels. The FLL is not meaningfully engaging with the core argument proposed by the many students pushing for this academic reform.

In a survey conducted by Oulamine and completed by 175 students, 61.7 percent of students who indicated interest in the program had already achieved proficiency. The survey’s results prove the proposed program would serve the cultural education of many students without detracting from enrollment in existing language classes.

The Georgetown student body, the SFS Dean’s Office and the SFSAC have effectively argued the merits of one-credit language courses, whereas the FLL has mainly posited arguments that crumble under examination.

The SFS Dean’s Office is prepared to oversee the courses’ implementation. Students are interested in enrolling in one-credit courses. The FLL must introduce a pilot program for the fall 2018 semester.

The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the Opinion Editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.

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2 Comments

  1. Most language classes are already taught by adjuncts or graduate students. Though a 1-credit course may be useful for a student, I suspect the administration and labor required to teach the classes is likely enougj to discourage full professors from teaching them at the scale that students would like to enroll. They’d probably have to turn to adjuncts, but given that adjuncts are paid by the credit, it’s unlikely any of them would want to waste their time. If students are going to demand a course out of convenience, out of an unwillingness to seek ways to maintain their language studies on their own time, then they should think a little more about why these departments don’t have any interest in holding these classes

    • Hi Katie,

      I’m not sure you’re aware of this, but a University’s foremost concern is meeting the academic interests of its students and preparing them for the world. The foremost concern of a university is not what is most “convenient” for a department.

      If there is not enough interest to teach these 1-credit classes from professors, then maybe administrators should rethink how they pay adjuncts instead of students rethinking what we know would be helpful for us.

      As a senior, 1-credit classes would have been a delightful way to keep up with my Spanish and have a structured forum to practice it each week. I really hope Georgetown sees this through, despite Osgood’s illogical protests.

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