The Unavoidable: Adelphi's Foreign Language Requirement for BA Students

By: Hussein Ali Rifath

We all have our motivations for going to college: American culture holds it as a rite of passage to adulthood and discourages students from doing without it. We see college as a natural next step after high school; one of the numerous boxes to check in a long to-do list that governs life. After all, many of us have professional goals that require us to have college degrees, and so completing a college education is a sort of prerequisite to achieving our hopes and dreams. Every college journey comes with a broad range of general education requirements to contemplate, and students pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree (BA) are asked to take four semesters worth of a foreign language before graduation. But they’re the only major asked to fulfill this obligation.

For much of our college careers, we’ll find ourselves sorting through course catalogs to see which classes will satisfy our various distribution requirements and learning goals. These general education courses will come to define much of our college experience, and the idea that only BA students have to fulfill a mandatory foreign language requirement frustrates some of them. That is because some students have no interest in studying a foreign language and feel that the status quo unfairly places the burden of doing so on their backs; they feel that it punishes them for their choice of major. The university website only gives them two lines of consolation. “The language requirement is part of Adelphi’s mission to prepare students to be informed and culturally sensitive citizens. Knowledge of more than one language and familiarity with more than one culture will become increasingly important in the world of the 21st century for professionals in every field.”

For BA students, this ironically comes as a slap to the face. The university emphasizes the importance of foreign language and culture competency for “professionals in every field,” yet it only asks them to fulfill a foreign language requirement. The reason for this is as inexplicable as it is left unexplained, and BA students are left thinking that other students must already be “informed and culturally sensitive citizens” and that they, due to some inherent deficiency determined by the university, are not.

Perhaps some relief can be found in how this policy is hardly unique to Adelphi. Most BA programs in the United States ask their students to fulfill some sort of foreign language requirement, and their schools don’t ask Bachelor of Science students to do the same.

To many students, the X that sits next to the language requirement field on their degree audit looks cold and unyielding, much like the steel bars of a jail cell; there will be no escaping it. Registering for foreign language courses will bring them a feeling of sheer resignation.

Much of this has to do with general student apathy toward the languages currently offered at Adelphi. I find myself in the same boat and intend to study a language that interests me at another school, with the intention of having the credits count towards my own foreign language requirement.

That, unfortunately, is not a viable solution for all students. There is room for the university to introduce new foreign language courses as part of the Momentum 2 plan. I think I speak for many students in emphasizing that this would bring me personal pleasure if it came to fruition.



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