Languages: No One Said Becoming a Global Citizen was Easy

Story by Heather Matley

Artwork by Caroline McNally

Disclaimer: Some students only agreed to be interviewed on the basis that their last name not be used.

From cultural fairs and events to the foreign leaders it brings in to speak, it’s clear that Chapman does its best to guide its students in a culturally diverse direction and for them to become “global citizens.”  However, many students are resisting an essential aspect of this ideal: the foreign language requirement.

The foreign language requirement is a part of a student’s required general education and makes students complete at least one course in the 200 level of a foreign language.  Students can place out of the lower levels through advanced placement tests as well as by passing an online evaluation of their current foreign language abilities, however some students claim that the tests are unreasonably difficult.  In some cases, this resulted in their decision of having someone else pass the tests for them.

Cole, a business administration major, paid a friend to pass him into the 200 level in Spanish.

“I figured getting a college degree (on time) is better than actually learning Spanish,” said Cole.

He said that he is now thinking of paying someone to take the 200 level class online for him.

“I think passing a language course requires substantially more effort than passing something I’m more interested in,” Cole said, “and I try to put my energy where it’s most effective.”

He added that he knows up to five other people who have also cheated their way out of the language requirement.

Maggie, a Spanish and communications double major was paid to take another student’s language exam for them.

“Spanish entry exams are very subjective and if you don’t know the answer to one question or five questions, that doesn’t mean you’re not eligible to take a class, it’s kind of dumb,” Maggie said.  

She reportedly has only helped out one student in this way at this time.

“It’s like if I have the resources to help people out I feel like I can,” Maggie said.

She did say that just because she has helped people cheat doesn’t mean she doesn’t support the idea of the language requirement.

“I think (the GE is) good in a way because it kind of gives you an upper hand even though it sucks while you’re doing it if you don’t like it – it helps you in the end to get jobs and stuff like that,” she said.

She felt that a possible answer might be to change the way that students are placed into language courses.

“It should be more than just that test to tell you if you’re eligible to take a class,” Maggie said.

Freshman technical theatre major Ian James agreed that the difficulty of the test was unfair.

“I’ve taken three years of high school Spanish and when I went to take the placement test I missed the requirement,” James said.  

Now enrolled in Spanish 101, James does not feel that the test accurately places students.

“I think Spanish 101 is so basic and the things that we’re leaning were not at all reflected by the content on the test,” he said.

James was later told in a meeting with the language department that the test has supposedly been changed for later years.

“I think it’s ridiculous that I have to take three semesters of Spanish after taking three years in high school,” James said.

Professor John Boitano, the chair of the department of world languages and culture, feels that without a language education, students do not meet one of the most important qualities of a Chapman education.

“As the university's mission is global education, study of a world language is at its very foundation,” Boitano said.

Boitano added that even without language being so important to the school’s ideals, the lack of language study itself is detrimental to students.

“Students without world language competency are at a disadvantage in the global market place as the rest of the world often starts foreign language study in grade school,” he said.

At this time Chapman only offers majors in Spanish and French and an individualized major in German; minors in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Chinese and Japanese; and courses in Latin, Arabic, and Greek.

Boitano added that at this time there are about 40 major students in French, 40 in Spanish, more than 100 minors in Spanish, about 56 minors in French, and “a considerable amount” of minors in German, Italian, and Japanese.

Freshman kinesiology major Lara Mukhar, who chose to enroll in Arabic courses to fulfill her requirement, believed in the benefits of the language program.

“My Dad is from Jordan and all of his side of the family including himself speaks Arabic but growing up in America I wasn’t exposed to it as much so I decided to take it so I can speak with relatives and grandparents,” Mukhar said.

She said she thought it was a good idea for Chapman to require language courses.

“If I wasn’t required to take a language, I wouldn’t have taken a language because I I wouldn’t have thought it was necessary – but being kind of forced to take the language courses is good because it’s more encouraging to travel and to feel more comfortable going to other countries and also to communicate with people in America who speak other languages,” she said.

Mukhar said that a good idea to prevent students from cheating out of the placement exams might be to make them on-campus instead of online.


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