Increase available seats in sequential language classes

Danielle Buffa

Students from all disciplines register for foreign language courses in order to fulfill degree requirements, gain fluency or market a valuable skill to employers. 

Although specific requirements differ by school, major, degree plan and language department, the University requires most students to take two to three semesters of a single foreign language. However, a shortage of seats in these courses prevents many students from taking foreign language courses consecutively.

When students cannot register for the next class in their foreign language sequence, they are often forced to alter their planned schedules, lose an entire year of academic exposure between courses and even risk graduating late due to incomplete degree requirements. 

In order to ease this pressure on students, foreign language courses should always be offered with at least as many seats as students who took the prerequisite course the previous semester. For example, if 45 students took Japanese I in the fall, then there must be at least 45 seats available in Japanese II the following spring.

Students registering for a variety of language sequences face this issue. At the end of the official registration period for fall 2021, every section of at least one course beyond the introductory level in the language sequences for Chinese, Japanese, Korean and American Sign Language was waitlisted or only open to students with reserved seating.

“It’s very frustrating seeing that there are like six or seven sections for the first part of a language course but then there’s only two for the second part,” radio-television-film junior Alma Zamora said. “To meet your degree requirement you have to take at least two.”

Zamora is attempting to take the second course in the ASL sequence in the fall in order to fulfill their language requirement before their planned graduation next spring.

“I’m still on the waitlist,” Zamora said. “Chances are my place won’t change again until registration reopens in June.” 

Not only does an inability to secure a seat in the next sequence of a language course risk delaying students’ graduation dates, it also impairs students’ ability to maintain mastery of the language they are studying. 

“Not being able to take these two courses … one right after the other (means) I can very easily just kind of forget a huge portion of what I’ve learned in ASL I,” Zamora said. 

If they do not get off of the waitlist, Zamora will have to wait a full year to continue their language sequence and will not be able to continue onto ASL III as they had planned. 

The Department of Linguistics created a unique system for ASL language sequence registration involving staggering the opening of seats “to ensure that students with later registration times have an equal opportunity to register for the section they need.” 

However, this process merely forces students with earlier priority registration onto waitlists until they are admitted when additional seats are opened, still leaving students with lower priority on waitlists past the end of the registration period.

The Office of the Registrar, which is responsible for planning the course schedule each semester, was unable to comment on this matter before the publication of this column. 

Staggered openings or not, too few of seats are offered each semester, as is demonstrated by students like Zamora who are nearing graduation and are still unable to secure seats.

Language proficiency comes with consistency, and it is the administration’s responsibility to provide students access to courses that will give them the exposure they need to speak, write or sign another language. 

Buffa is a political communication sophomore from The Woodlands, Texas.