The necessity of modern languages

Katrina Meyer, News Editor

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As Luther faces lower enrollment, a number of cuts must be made to majors, minors, and programs in an effort to save money. One of these programs is Russian studies. In a liberal arts school, cutting a language program, especially Russian, is a mistake. Languages give students incredible, unique opportunities abroad. Russian in particular, especially Russian culture, is becoming more relevant now than ever as tensions between the United States and Russia continue to heighten. Nevertheless, Russian 101 is not being offered next fall as the program is beginning to be phased out of Luther.

Languages are an integral part of a liberal arts education, especially at Luther which so heavily emphasizes the importance and value of being a global citizen. There is a lot to learn from other cultures. Studying languages is a valuable window into other cultures and gives students studying abroad the ability to experience other cultures in a new way.

In Spain this past J-term some fellow students and I lived with host families in Córdoba. My host family consisted of a mom, a dad, a 14-year-old girl, and a 15-year-old boy. It wasn’t easy living with a host family because they did not speak any English. We sat around after dinner every night, watched TV, and talked for at least an hour. We would ask each other questions about everything from school to sports to politics.

There were a number of difficult moments like trying to explain calls a referee was making during a basketball game or trying to explain what the Electoral College is and why we use it. Overall, though, the whole experience was incredible. I learned so much about Spanish culture and I got a window into what life there is like. None of that would have been possible without the Spanish classes I have taken in high school and college. As many students as possible should have this type of experience and Luther should offer as many languages as possible to help students learn and grow.

Russian in particular is an increasingly important language and culture to understand. The high tension between the United States and Russia will not resolve itself any time soon. One class that I am taking now as a part of my Russian studies minor is called U.S., Russia, and the World Today. We have focused on Russian history, Russian culture, and the background of Vladimir Putin. We have studied current events to gain insight to some of the moves that Putin is making.

Attempting to understand the reasons why leaders make the decisions that they do is very important for predicting further actions and for coming up with potential solutions to deescalate conflict. Having a strong basis of knowledge in Russian history and Putin’s life is valuable for any student in understanding what is happening on the world stage. A lot of the news today is scary and foreboding. Understanding motives and beliefs of leaders on both sides can take some of the mystery away from the conflict. That knowledge will only gain value moving forward in helping people understand and construct informed opinions on U.S. policy towards Russia in the coming years.

For the purposes of a liberal arts education and staying informed about current events, the possibilities the Russian studies program offers to students are just as valuable and relevant as ever. I believe that instead of beginning to phase the program out Luther should reconsider and continue to give students the opportunity to learn about the culture and language of an important, relevant country that will likely continue to be highly involved in U.S. foreign policy for many years to come.

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