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The Blue & Gray Press | August 17, 2019

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As Language Studies Grow, They Cannot be Squashed on

As Language Studies Grow, They Cannot be Squashed on


In the aftermath of the student protest in response to future potential budget cuts, we, the students, are now in more critical need than ever to save some of the academic programs here at the University of Mary Washington.

The Modern Foreign Languages Department has become central to all incoming students who are obligated to take foreign language courses in order to fulfill their general education requirements.

But what about those students who are in serious pursuit of majoring in a particular language? Various language departments, such as Italian and Latin, are understaffed, thus limiting the availability of class sections and the number of students that can take the course any given semester. With the growing number of students, the administration office must realize the urgent need to hire more professors.

Currently, the Arabic Language Department consists of only one professor who juggles five classes, a total of around 120 students. While Professor Maysoon Ahmad is managing this added responsibility tirelessly, no faculty member should bear the weight of an entire department alone. She hopes that interest in her native language will continue to grow, as it has over the past few years.

Enrolment in Arabic courses at colleges has increased by 46 percent since 2006, making it the eight most studied language across campuses, according to the most recent survey conducted by the Modern Language Association (MLA) in 2009.

Every semester, we are reassured that classes will be available once the initial frantic registration period is over, but, for most students, it hardly ever works out in their favor due to the limited number of classes. As such, students are forced to resort to begging to be force added.

I, for one, am delighted and dumbfounded upon hearing people converse in words that I can hardly understand. The start-up of the German Language Hall club and Arabic Conversation Hour this semester proves that students are very committed to fostering their acquired skills and knowledge of a foreign language.

For instance, Professor Ahmad believes that conversations with native speakers of Arabic can help familiarize students with phonetics, all while building new friendships. These events not only promote much-needed diversity at UMW, they also allow for greater understanding of the culture we live in, and the multitude of cultures that exist beyond home.

By considering the possibility of downsizing foreign language programs, UMW is at a risk of driving away students who have potential to take on leadership positions, such as foreign policy makers and international ambassadors. These are the very same students that diversify UMW by bringing an eclectic atmosphere to school.