Students express interest in learning new languages not taught at the university

The university currently offers eight language courses that students can learn.

Image courtesy of Marcella Munson

Image courtesy of Marcella Munson

Natalia Ribeiro, Staff Writer

Some FAU students have expressed curiosity in learning a new language for their own knowledge or find it necessary due to family ties.  

The aspect that is stopping them from studying their language of interest is that the courses are currently not being offered at the university. 

Knox Johnson, a sophomore business management major, wants to learn Portuguese because his dad is from Brazil and has family in the country. 

“I will be in Brazil all next summer and need to communicate,” said Johnson. “I am also in a soccer league made up of mostly Brazilians, which makes sense being [in] Boca Raton where there is such a large Brazilian population.” 

According to Statistical Atlas, the Boca Raton area has about 1.7% of people who identify as Brazilian. 

Currently, Portuguese is not one of the language options at the university for students interested in learning it.   

While American Sign Language (ASL) is not offered in a course at the university, Walker Booth, a freshman theater major, took interest in learning the language because of a deaf character in a recently released film. 

“ASL has always interested me,” Booth said. “I think it’s a fascinating language, especially with all the new attention it’s received thanks to Eternals.”

“Eternals,” the latest movie from Marvel, features the first deaf superhero played by Lauren Ridloff.  

The university did have an ASL club but it has been inactive since the 2019-2020 school year, according to the Boca Raton campus Council of Student Organizations (COSO).   

The university currently teaches eight languages available to students: Arabic, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Latin. 

Arabic was the most recent foreign language that the Department of Languages, Linguistics, and Comparative Literature (LLCL) added in 2012 and by 2013, a minor in the Arabic language became available to students. Before 2012, Arabic was available beginning in 2007 but only as an honors class. 

Chadi Chahine, a senior majoring in political science, has taken Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 and wishes the university offered more options for other languages and professors. 

“Languages such as Arabic, however, [are] not offered every semester,” Chahine said.  

Chair of the Department of LLCL, Marcella Munson, explained that the goal of the department is to offer integrated programs and not just courses of a language.

“It does not achieve the full results that we want if we’re only able to offer just one or two semesters because that does not serve the entire student body population,” said Munson. “If we’re not able to offer the beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels, it’s not really offering a full program.”

The LLCL department keeps track of the language requests and suggestions by students over time. Feedback is received from students who are enrolled in a language course to inquire about course offerings to even programs and initiatives hosted through the Office for Education Abroad in the trends of study abroad. 

“We get a lot of invaluable information by paying attention to which countries outside the U.S. students want to study in and what world languages this involves,” Munson said.

Munson stated that the most frequently requested language was Mandarin Chinese due to not only the economic and political powerhouse of China but because the language is offered in the local schools.

According to the Palm Beach County School District site, Chinese is one of the seven languages that are offered instruction in the school district.

Myah Monix, a freshman social science education major, wants to learn Mandarin because it’s a challenging language.

“It’s a good chance to have ways to connect to people of different backgrounds,” said Monix.

To start a new language program, there are necessary resources needed than just bringing in a professor for a semester or two. Munson said a good example was a Title VI grant that the department got from the U.S. Department of Education in the past, which was used to create the Arabic language program. 

“The grant was just under $30,000 and that’s what it took to get a program up and running,” said Munson. “It’s a considerable amount of money.”

Johnson believes that an increase in language courses would be beneficial in contributing to the importance of diversity at the university. 

“It would help us understand each other better and each other’s culture,” said Johnson. “Just make us more well-rounded students overall.”

Natalia Ribeiro is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories email [email protected] or tweet her @nataliar_99.