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Colleges debate foreign language requirement

Will Puckett | Wednesday, October 29, 2003

The majority of students at Notre Dame spend at least one semester learning a foreign language. Simple enough – except that a third or more of Notre Dame students do not have to fulfill a language requirement at all.

That’s because the College of Business and the College of Engineering do not, in general, have a language requirement. Other undergraduate colleges require their students to take at least one language course at Notre Dame, and sometimes as many as three, without even being a language major.

Adding a requirement for the College of Business has been discussed, said Samuel Gaglio, assistant dean of the College of Business.

“It’s been discussed, but it was a conscious decision not to make [foreign language study] a requirement,” Gaglio said. “There’s a limit to the number of requirements we can put in place.”

Gaglio also expressed concern that a language requirement for business students would take away from other opportunities available at the University.

“We don’t want to take away choices, such as double majors, minors and the like.” Gaglio said. “We encourage language for those who seek it out, but we want that to be the student’s choice.”

Mihir Sen, professor and director of undergraduate studies for aerospace and mechanical engineering, expressed many of the same concerns as Gaglio.

“There’s too many requirements for engineering majors, and to add a language requirement would not fit in the curriculum,” Sen said.

Bill Nichols, associate dean and professor of accountancy in the College of Business, said that he believed conversational language should be less emphasized as opposed to learning about what makes a country work.

“Understanding cultures and the economics is more important, I think, than having a conversational command of the language.” Nichols said.

Business students did not seem to believe that a language requirement was a key issue, either. Senior T.C. Sabatino said that although it was not required, he took a language anyway.

“I don’t know if there should be a requirement, but I took French and Spanish in high school, so I took two years of language in college,” Sabatino said.

Other students didn’t feel that there should be a requirement, but acknowledged that there was value to be had in learning foreign languages.

Senior Andrew Heinlein expressed this belief, saying that he thought it would be a good opportunity but not one that should be required.

“I think a language would help, but I think it should be more of an option than a requirement.” Heinlein said.

Some College of Business students were opposed entirely to a language requirement.

“I think it’s good the way it is, and there’s no reason to change anything,” sophomore Sean Ryan said.