UC Berkeley Adding Foreign Language Courses

Berkeley is one of the few universities adding foreign language courses for its students.  Hopefully, more universities will follow its example!

Here’s the article from braintrack.com, February 16, 2011:

The University of California-Berkeley announced yesterday that it will be adding more than 30 foreign language courses to its offerings–bucking the trend of many institutions to severely cut such programs in recent months.

Beginning in 2011-12, over $500,000 will go towards supporting an additional eight Chinese courses, six Spanish courses, four Japanese courses, three Korean courses and one additional section each for 10 other languages such as Arabic, German and Tagalog. The funding is being provided primarily from increased fees and tuition, as well as increased non-resident student enrollment.

“We have seen in language after language, students being turned away because we simply didn’t have enough seats for them in these courses,” said Janet Broughton, Berkeley’s dean of arts and humanities, who was quoted by The Daily Californian. “The key is for us to be able to hire additional instructors and open new courses so that we can do a better job of meeting our students’ needs.”

Berkeley’s announcement is particularly remarkable in light of the fact that so many institutions have recently scaled back on their foreign language offerings due to budget considerations. In October, the University of Albany made a controversial decision to completely eliminate their Italian, French and Russian departments. In December, The New York Times reported that foreign language programs have been cut at Louisiana State University, the University of Nevada-Reno, and Winona State University in Minnesota.

“There’s no way on earth we should be cutting these languages,” said John M. Hamilton, executive vice chancellor and provost at Louisiana State University, who was interviewed by the Times. Faced with a $42 million cut in public funding, the institution this year eliminated majors in German and Latin, and basic instruction in Portuguese, Russian, Swahili and Japanese.

“We should be adding languages and urging more students to take them,” Hamilton added. “I’m being asked to prepare students for the global economy, but this is almost like asking them to use the abacus instead of computers.”

Ironically, foreign language cutbacks are taking place even as undergraduate enrollment in such programs is on the rise. A recent report from the Modern Language Association found that foreign language undergraduate enrollments increased 6.6 percent between 2006 and 2009, but officials worried that budget cuts may reverse that trend.

“Opportunities to study languages may be threatened by program cuts,” said Rosemary G. Feal, the MLA’s executive director, in a conference call quoted by The Chronicle of Higher Education. “This is a vulnerable time for language study.”

While Berkeley might appear to be an exception to that vulnerability, students are clearly paying the price for those opportunities: Last year, the university became the first public institution to be charging over $50,000 for tuition, fees, room and board for out-of-state students.




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