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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Loyola language core: love it or hate it


Loyola University Maryland prides itself on its mission statement of a liberal arts education and cura personalis, or the care and education of the whole person. However, Loyola students seem to be divided in their perceptions of the core curriculum, especially in foreign language.

Loyola’s liberal arts core consists of 17 core courses as well as a diversity requirement. Among these are courses in the humanities, social sciences, mathematical sciences, natural sciences and language.

In an online survey anonymously taken by Loyola students, one student said, “[the core] makes us more well-rounded individuals in an ever-changing world that is getting smaller and smaller. And as it gets smaller, it will be important to have a language background as we encounter individuals who may speak a different language than us.”

When it comes to foreign language, Loyola requires its student to reach the Intermediate II level (104) of a foreign language to fulfil the core requirement for graduation. The level students are placed into is determined by a placement test taken before beginning their first semester at Loyola. These results place a student anywhere from 101 to 104 and above, meaning that students may take anywhere from one to four semesters of a foreign language.

Students can only be exempt from the requirement if they received a five on an AP exam, if their high school courses were taught entirely in a foreign language, or if they are native speakers. Students who were raised to be bi-lingual or whose first language was not English are not excused from the core.

“The purpose of the language requirement is for students to learn about other cultures that speak different languages and the culture associated,” said Ana Gomez-Perez, the chair of the Modern Languages department and associate professor of Spanish at Loyola. “It is important for students to think globally, and what better way to start having empathy for the rest of the world than learning another language.”

The hope for the language core is that students would be able to go through a newspaper article in another language and understand it as well as hold basic, meaningful conversations with speakers of their foreign language. Gomez-Perez emphasized the importance of communicating with those of another culture at their level and how it shows respect and awareness of the world.

However, not all students agree reaching the 104 level in a foreign language is the best way to achieve this goal.

Senior Daley Keator took two years of French and three years of Latin in high school. When applying to Loyola, her biggest concern was the language requirement, as it was something she had always struggled with. She placed into 101.

“I found taking four semesters of French to not only be a challenge and have a negative impact on my GPA, but it was also a waste of my electives,” Keator said. “I understand that Loyola is a Jesuit university and that the goal is to educate well-rounded students; however, in my opinion, four semesters of a language is excessive.”

If students do not place into 104, they must take additional semesters to reach the requirement. However, the lower language courses take up students’ free electives, which could otherwise be used for minor courses, electives within the major, or classes of interest to the student.

“It takes up class time that students need to fulfil major courses. Because of it, I now have to take two courses every summer break, one every winter break, and six every semester to graduate on time,” one student from the survey said.

Eva Stevenson ‘21 is more understanding of the liberal arts requirements, and even though she has not experienced class conflicts yet, she still does not like the language core. “The language classes are really difficult and a much higher calibre language class than what I was expecting,” she said.

When asked about students losing electives to fulfil the core, Gomez-Perez said most students are not in that situation as most place into the 103 or 104 level. She believes most students should be able to place into 104 after having taken the language in high school, but if not, it is because high schools do not offer better language programs.

“It is a pity that high schools do not have excellent language programs, but most students here only have to take two courses normally,” she said. “You also have to remember some students come to college and start at the 101 level because they want to learn a new language.”

However, according to the online survey of 50 students, 60 percent said they had to start at the 101 or 102 level, meaning either two or three electives were taken by language. None of these students chose a different language for college, and they elaborated on what they had previously learned.

In the survey, one student said, “Most students are doing the bare minimum to be able to fulfil the requirement for graduation. Nobody will be able to be fluent or really remember much about the language after completing the core requirement.”

Another student expressed their frustration over being placed in 101 after having taken five years of Spanish previously. A similar response was from a student who said that they had taken Spanish since second grade and still could not speak the language.

Being unable to perform well in the language has a major effect on students’ academics. One student said, “Because I had to take Spanish for two years it has drastically affected my GPA when it could have been so much higher if it wasn’t for these courses. I also find that the teachers are much harder than they need to be.”

Multiple students expressed how the language requirement has damaged their GPAs as the courses are taken seriously and are rigorous for those who are not majoring or minoring in a foreign language and who are just taking the courses for the core.

“Taking up to 104 is unfair, as the language classes are often harder than major classes,” another student said. “I should not have to spend more time on Spanish than I do for my classes that pertain to my major.”

Another added, “It’s a waste of time and electives that only the fourth level counts. It brings down my GPA when it is not a class that I want to be taking. This looks bad on my resume, application and transcript. The language requirement is absurd.”

While many students feel strongly about the disadvantages of the language requirement, some students defended it. Globalization, the importance of language in business and the balance the language core has with the other core requirements were among most of the positive responses.

“I’m a strong supporter. I wish there was more interdisciplinary language courses or an option for students to finish more quickly, though. But the study of language is enormously important in a society with global reach,” said one student.

Loyola is currently undergoing a change in the core curriculum, but Loyola is not planning on changing the language requirement anytime soon, according to Gomez-Perez.

“The language core should be decreased, only require one or two classes and not require students to have to complete up to a 104 level,” suggested multiple students in the survey. Others said it should be removed entirely or only required for language, global studies or international business majors and minors. Some said they would not change a thing.

No matter how students feel, Gomez-Perez is happy with what Loyola has done with language at the collegiate level. She suggests that struggling students visit The Study for a tutoring session or speak to their instructors for help.

“I am very proud of the language requirement and the institution,” she said. “I think Loyola is really trying to be more global in its scope, and the language requirement is an aspect that shows the seriousness of the university’s intentions.”


*Photo via Flickr Creative Commons*

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Loyola language core: love it or hate it