One of the biggest advantages of going to a school as large as the University of Michigan is the extremely diverse range of courses available. Next semester I will take German 102. If all goes well, in the fall of 2022 I will take German 231. i will finally finish German 232, and the LSA language requirement, end of April 2023. However, there is nothing more disheartening than limping out of a difficult test knowing that it is not “just one difficult course. », But four. LSA language requirement – “competence in the fourth quarter” – certainly has its advantages, namely cultural immersion and the possibility of engaging with students from different fields of study, but with them a multitude of problems that can be solved.

The biggest drawback of the language requirement is the considerable credit requirement. A student who follows a full 16-credit language sequence could otherwise complete an entire minor. No other LSA requirement is so extensive. The breakdown by zone Requirements require seven credits in each of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Other skills required – race and ethnicity, writing and quantitative reasoning – can be met with one or two courses. More so, there are many courses that meet both a distribution requirement and a skill requirement, freeing up time for more core-related courses or enlightening electives. No language course can be used in the same way.

Many avoid the full 16-credit sequence through placement tests. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds who attended less affluent high schools may not have this option. Secondary schools in low-income communities, which often have a high proportion of minority students, offer less rigorous and less diversified foreign language programs that start at an older age. Due to their educational background, some students may be constrained to the four semester sequence. If placed in a higher level language course, those with less effective foreign language education might have difficulty. My own discomfort with jumping into second grade Spanish, knowing that I hadn’t taken Spanish in years and reluctant to risk failure, is the reason I started again with elementary German.

The lack of choice, at least in the courses, makes the language sequence in four quarters even more disturbing. The language requirement is fundamentally different from other LSA requirements, which can be fulfilled through a diverse set of courses. Yes, students can choose from dozens of languages, but the process of learning these languages ​​is mechanically similar. Students will still need to memorize vocabulary, understand grammar rules and practice pronunciation. Compare that to courses that fill the natural science credit. STEM-minded students can take rigorous chemistry or physics classes, while social science students like me have many accessible options. For example, I took a ecological problems course, which allowed me to learn the basics of environmental science partly through environmental policies.

Despite the length of the program and my own difficulties with language learning, I like to take German lessons. I love my classmates and my instructor. With the other requirements so broad, some courses, like the Ecological Issues course I took last year, are inundated with social science students looking to meet a natural science requirement with the least amount of stress. possible. In other words, because the actual work of learning a language is usually uniform, it is easier to meet people from more diverse disciplines. In German class I met and learned with major in theater, major in computer science, nursing student and law student, as opposed to aspiring political science majors in every other course I have. have followed so far.

My instructor is a graduate student from Germany. This is his first time in the United States. His knowledge of German culture, apart from textbook blurbs, allowed me to experience some of the most valuable and intriguing things I have learned. I chose to take German not because I intend to be fluent in the language, but because I find the culture and history interesting. We read a famous german children’s book, watched the acclaimed German film “Course Lola Course”And learned about politics, schools, food and German relations. The German course encouraged me to watch the excellent TV show in German “Dark. “Yes, I can order food from a German restaurant or ask for directions, but for me the real value is seeing Germany not through stereotypes but as a diverse and beautiful country.

Culture and classmates are things that even someone like me, who both dislikes and struggles with language acquisition, cannot avoid enjoying. LSA turns out to have a system in place which offers another option for those who struggle with learning traditional languages ​​while still retaining these benefits. Students can apply for a exemption from language requirements, allowing them to “substitute culture courses for language courses”. To do this, however, students must either have a “documented history of extreme difficulty” in language learning, or have already taken and struggled in multiple language courses.

Allowing anyone to take culture courses instead of language courses would maintain the benefits of the current requirement while providing students who prefer not to learn a language a different way to engage. It would also allow LSA to reasonably reduce the requirement from four semesters to two or three, as fluidity, which takes time, would no longer be the goal. Instead of culture being assigned as a short read at the end of each chapter, this aspect could be placed at the center of classroom learning objectives. More so, creating an alternative would certainly not limit those who enjoy studying the language.

Giving students only two ways to meet language requirements, culture lessons or language lessons, would still not match the great freedoms of the other LSA requirements. This means that there would still be no way for students of similar disciplines to congregate in relatively easier classes, as the other requirements of the LSA show. A second option would therefore make it possible to maintain student diversity, a considerable boon to the current system.

A cultural option would also enhance the ability of LSA students to learn about diverse cultures, allowing risk-averse students to experience cultures with a more difficult language. The Foreign Service Institute, which categorizes languages on the basis of the time it would take for an English speaker to acquire a basic fluency, mainly places European languages ​​in the easiest levels. Increasing access to cultural education taught mainly in English would allow students intimidated by the difficulty of the Arabic, Bengali or Tibetan languages ​​to discover these cultures.

The LSA language requirement is generally a good thing for liberal arts students, but its more stressful aspects can be alleviated by reforming the existing system while maintaining its crucial advantages.

Quin Zapoli is an opinion columnist and can be contacted at [email protected].