Faculty to vote on language requirement

The University of Montana may soon require more students to take a foreign language.

The Faculty Senate will vote Thursday on a proposal to change the modern and classical language general education requirement.

If approved, students whose majors require fewer than 48 credits will need to fulfill two semesters of a foreign language. In the past, some students could take a symbolic systems course that correlates to their majors, instead of taking a foreign language. 

Linda Gillison, a modern and classical languages and literatures professor and faculty senator, said with this proposal, “everybody should fulfill a foreign language and only students who, because of their majors’ requirements, could not work foreign language into their program, would be allowed to complete the symbolic systems requirement.”

Students whose department requires 48 credits or more can take a symbolic systems course — like statistics, forest biometrics, music theory, computer science or anthropological data analysis — to complete their foreign language requirement.

In the past the general education committee reviewed the catalog, said Camie Foos, an administrative associate and faculty member. The GEC identified some of the majors affected, including Anthropology, Psychology, Communication Studies, Sociology, Geography and Business, that do not have a foreign language requirement. 

Sandi Nelson, advising coordinator of the School of Business, said the proposal would impact one subset of business students.

“Most of our students exceed the 48-credit requirement so it doesn’t pertain to them,” Nelson said. “But for the marketing-major students, the changes could require them to take a foreign language. The fear is getting to graduation and feeling like you’re in the home stretch, and realizing you have to take a whole year of a language.”

The change would not apply to all students. Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures Department Co-chair Elizabeth Ametsbichler said there are several exceptions to the new language requirements, which include:

  • The students’ major requires more than 48 credits. 

  • The student has completed a third-level language class.

  • The student has transferred the equivalent of two semesters of a foreign language with at least a C- or better from another college or university.

  • The student passes a proficiency exam.

  • The student speaks a native language that is not English.

If approved, the change will affect future UM students. Current students may graduate under the requirements in place at the time they enrolled, as long as those requirements are not older than six years.

The new requirement was proposed by UM’s Academic Standard and Curriculum Committee in 2009.

The new proposal “is not about taking 10 credits. It’s about the emphasis on UM making things global and including foreign languages,” said Jannine Montauban, MCLL department co-chair and faculty senator.

Gillison expressed a similar view.

“Since this is a university with a global mission, and we have programs like the Global Leadership Initiative, everybody who graduates should have studied some language,” Gillison said.



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