Archive for Saturday, August 17, 1991


August 17, 1991


Sprechen sie Deutsch? Parlez vous Francais? Habla Espanol?

Kansas University students who answer yes to one of the above questions may have gained their language skills in one of KU's many foreign language programs.

Pam Houston, director of undergraduate services, said students should have no problem choosing from KU's wide offering of languages.

"We've got everything from ancient Greek to Irish to all of the Scandinavian and African languages," she said. "Some students are excited to try something less common."

However, incoming freshmen tend to feel safer studying such languages as Spanish, French and German.

"Most of the students who come in new to the university and start taking a language generally start with a common language," Houston said. "Beginning Spanish and beginning French fill up because of the popularity. Chinese and Japanese sometimes fill up."

ONE REASON students stick with the mainstream is their background in a particular language. Many prefer to continue with the language they studied in high school. In fact, they can actually receive credit for previous language training.

"If a student comes in with four years of language and takes the fifth level at KU, you'd get 12 additional hours plus three for the class," Houston said.

Students also can take a proficiency test in most languages offered through KU's language center, or take an upper-level course to bypass all the introductory classes in a particular language.

Students working toward a bachelor of arts degree through the College of Liberal Arts are required to be proficient through the fourth level of a foreign language, Houston said. The college also offers a bachelor of general sciences degree, which doesn't include a foreign language requirement.

BEFORE THE fall semester of 1987, bachelor of arts degree candidates had a choice of studying one language for four semesters or two languages for two semesters each. However, university officials decided students would benefit most with a more in-depth understanding of one language and culture.

Houston urges all incoming freshmen to get started immediately in their foreign language studies.

"Many students come in with some preparation, and with language study, you don't want a break in it," she said, adding that students will have an easier time in foreign language classes if they recently finished a high school course in the same language.

Students who attend summer orientation at KU get help with placement at the correct level in a foreign language, Houston said, adding that those who have difficulties studying foreign languages can attend a workshop offered by the Student Assistance Center.

RASHID ZULU, a graduate teaching assistant in African studies, said his department offers two foreign languages Hausa and Swahili, and the classes generally fill up each semester. The reasons for studying the African languages differ.

"Some of them plan to travel to Africa," Zulu said. "Others are linguistics majors. Others take it because it's something totally different."

He stressed that any foreign language will give students much more than a vocabulary of new words.

"If you know a foreign language, you are bound to be exposed to the culture," he said. "You have a better understanding of the people and where they come from."

People take pride in their language and tend to accept foreigners more readily when they sense a genuine effort to learn the native tongue, Zulu said.

"IF YOU WANT to just be a tourist and see the buildings, that's one thing," he said. "But if you want to get to know the people and the culture, it's beneficial to know the language."

Stephen Parker, chairman of the Slavic languages department, said Russian is by far the most popular language offered through his department. "The interest in Russian has been high for the last few years and we expect it to continue," he said. "In general, there's an increasing interest in Eastern European languages because of the opening of Eastern Europe."

Parker encourages all students to study a foreign language, regardless of whether they need it to graduate.

"It's absolutely essential today," he said. "You can hardly think of an area where a student might work where knowledge of another culture and language wouldn't be helpful."

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