The practicality of modern languages

Katrina Meyer, Sports Editor

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Part of the reason that I decided to come to Luther College was because it was a liberal arts school with lots of choices for different majors and minors. I was undecided, and for most of my first year here, I did not have a clue what I wanted to study, much less what I wanted to do after college. That is why all the options seemed so perfect to me. Whatever I eventually decided that I wanted to do seemed available. The field that I eventually settled on was political science, though I also spend a lot of time in the modern language department. For the most part, I have been very pleased with my options, but I have also noticed some areas of study that I think would be incredibly valuable to the school. That is especially true for me in the modern languages program.

Languages have always been fascinating to me, and I think they are some of the most practical things that a person can study. I spend a lot of time with languages as I work to complete minors in Spanish, Nordic Studies, and possibly Russian Studies. I think that languages are valuable because knowing different languages helps make you a better student and learner. There have been  studies showing the positive effects on the brain when a person speaks more than one language. Languages also open your eyes to different cultures with different ways of thinking and expression. They also invite study abroad opportunities, which are a big part of the experience that Luther offers. Speaking another language helps make travel and cultural experiences even more unique and valuable.

A knowledge of languages can also offer a practical purpose in the world and in better understanding other majors here at Luther. Political science is a very popular major here at Luther (and I am admittedly a little biased towards how great it is). Knowing different languages and understanding different cultures is a huge part of political science. Being able to understand and think in different ways about cultures is a vital part of being an informed political scientist.

For those reasons and many, many more, I believe that languages are incredibly valuable areas of study for all students, whether they are political science majors or not. I am very glad that part of the liberal arts curriculum here requires some language experience. That being said, I really wish that the school would invest more in the modern languages program. Currently, the modern languages that are offered are Spanish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Chinese, and Russian. Italian does not even offer a major, minor, or any upper-level classes. On top of that, when it came time to cut programs, German, Chinese, and Russian were all considered for being cut. Fortunately, German and Chinese avoided removal.

All of this is very frustrating. The school only offers seven modern languages to begin with, and then almost half of them are considered for being cut. We need to do the exact opposite. We aren’t offering enough languages here. There are so many languages that are becoming increasingly relevant in today’s world. I would love the opportunity to study Arabic or Hindi or Farsi or one of a dozen other languages that are growing in international influence and importance in an increasingly globalized world.

Our world is becoming more and more interconnected. That reality leads to an amazing confluence of ideas and it leads to conflict. Understanding each other’s differences and cultural uniqueness is the key to moving forward in a peaceful, constructive manner. Having experience and knowledge of as many languages and cultures as possible is a very important step in that process.

Whether languages are being used to solve conflicts, gain cultural awareness, becoming a better student, or a better global citizen, modern languages are valuable for everybody no matter what they choose to do with their life. Learning new languages is a unique and valuable experience with innumerable benefits,  Luther should work on not reducing, but expanding the Modern Languages program here.

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