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How do College Students Feel About the Foreign Language Requirement?

For nearly every college student, it’s the course they dread. The course they see on their schedule and pray to pass. It’s foreign language. So why do universities continue to push this requirement onto their students?

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Currently I am pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in Professional Writing. When I arrived on campus freshman year the required courses were what I expected: revising and editing, rhetoric, writing fiction, etc.

What I did not expect was to have to take four semesters of foreign language.

This is now my last semester of taking French. Personally, this class has just gotten in the way throughout my academic career. The workload is just like that of any other class. I find that these assignments have me scrambling to complete them while valuable learning - the tools I plan to use in my career - is pushed to the side.

The work is simply there; it’s an obstacle. I do the work, of course, and have maintained a high grade in French throughout my time at college. Yet, I can only introduce myself in the language. That is all.

It looks like I’m not the only one that has been failed by the foreign language requirement. According to one study, less than 10% of college graduates can fluently speak a foreign language that they learned in the classroom (source: DOAJ).

I knew I couldn’t be the only one that dreads an hour of some professor yelling at you in a language you barely understand. So, I decided to ask some of my fellow college students how they feel about the foreign language requirement.

Caroline from the University of Indianapolis: “I feel as if foreign language should not be a requirement or general education course. But, there are certain majors that should require it like a Foreign Language major or maybe even Communications or Criminal Justice. Also, the Spanish class I took here was basically just high school/lower level, so I learned nothing new and found it to be a waste of time.”

Katie from St. John Fisher College: “I don’t find them useful unless your future career involves being bilingual. I found that when I took languages in college I relied a lot on google translate to pass which defeats the purpose of the class.”

Maggie from SUNY Cortland: “I hate foreign language classes. Those classes legitimately almost made me drop out of college, twice.”

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Brandon from Coastal Carolina University: “It shouldn’t be a requirement, especially for certain majors. I feel like the business field is one major where it makes sense due to travel, but for a major like nursing I don’t see it being as impactful.”

Louie from SUNY Brockport: “I don’t think the foreign language requirement should be necessary. Most students don’t retain information from the entry level foreign language classes that most colleges require.”

Nathan from Huntingdon College (Alabama): “When students are required to take a foreign language you don’t learn enough information to be able to use it in the real word. 1-2 required foreign language classes aren’t enough for it to be useful.”

There seems to be a consensus: college students don’t believe foreign language should be required. Of course certain students may be interested in learning another language or use these courses to assist in their career, but the majority of students just see these courses as classes they have to pass.

The harsh truth is that students will learn what they are interested in or focusing on, but other classes are just brainless work. To many undergraduates Spanish classes, French classes, etc. are just that: brainless work.


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