Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Learn to engage with language

Clara Webb

Many friends have encouraged me to get my foreign language credit somewhere other than the University. While UT’s language classes are incredible, many students are afraid of their rigor and potential GPA-related effects. However, because I have wanted to learn French my whole life, I ignored my friends’ advice and enrolled in a beginner-level French course this semester.

Four months later, I’m now considering a minor in French. Even though it’s required for my degree plan, I have found intellectual fulfillment through this linguistic adventure. While all students could benefit from a language course at UT, reservations surrounding one’s GPA are understandable for those who don’t need the credit.  

As a solution, students should consider taking an unrequired language course as pass/fail for a more casual approach to personal enrichment. 

There are many benefits to learning a language. From expanding our worldview to improving our cognition, learning languages can make us more versatile individuals, benefit professional careers and allow us to better understand our place in the world. 

Taking a foreign language class as pass/fail could allow students to explore a language in a setting where the stakes aren’t as high. By removing the pressure of grades, students might enjoy the class more, indulge in the subject at their own pace and pursue the language purely for themselves.

Orlando Kelm, the director of UT’s Portuguese Flagship Program, explained the benefits of taking a language class with lower stakes. 

“(By taking a language class as pass/fail), you make it a lot easier to let people learn how to do certain things in their language without going crazy about their proficiency level,” Kelm said. 

While they may seem daunting, UT’s foreign language classes are taught by incredible professors who want students to make meaningful connections with the rest of the world. 

“When you have more breadth and understand more cultures, (you) can get more people being sensitive to people from other cultures and other languages,” Kelm said. “If you know how hard it is to speak a foreign language, maybe you’ll be a little more sympathetic to the guy that doesn’t speak Spanish or doesn’t speak English.”

By casually exploring a language, we open the door to understanding entirely different ways of life and reflecting on our own culture with newfound appreciation. 

David Barney, an assistant professor of French, explained how breaking down linguistic devices in other languages can help us learn more about our own language.

“(By taking French), you know what objects and subjects are now, and you might not have studied that before,” Barney said. “Some students didn’t know what adjectives, adverbs and nouns were, but those exist in English. So, from a linguistic point of view, by learning French, you understand more about English.”

 While pass/fail courses cannot technically count as prerequisites, taking a single language class still carries a huge benefit. Even if you do not wish to fully pursue a language, beginner language courses are designed to introduce students to a blend of vocabulary, grammar and cultural information. 

“Even taking one class with no expectation of doing anything further … really expand(s) your perspective on all things, … whether it’s listening to the language itself or just the cultural content in the language class,” Barney said.

College is the time to explore our curiosities and expand our worldview, and taking a language course is an incredible way to do so. Students should consider finding a language they are interested in and taking a beginner class. Regardless of whether they intend to pursue the language further, simply taking the first class as pass/fail can offer an abundance of personal enrichment. 

Lack is a dance and Plan II sophomore from San Angelo, Texas. 

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