PHOTO COURTESY OF ASU SYSTEM
Students of A-State Queretaro. Haley Stotts (left), Samantha Morales (right)
Anna Cox is a first-year English major from Paragould.
Arkansas State University currently only offers Spanish, French and Arabic beginning in the fall semester. With such a diverse campus and international program, students would assume that A-State would want to have as many languages as possible to give students the tools to expand their language abilities as well as study abroad.
However, students at A-State just simply don’t seem interested in learning other languages despite its benefits. According to Middlebury Language Schools, such benefits include improvement of memory, brain functions and better hiring opportunities to name a few.
The first benefit, improvement of memory, seems like the most obvious benefit of the three. Of course learning a second language would improve your memory since you are learning a whole new alphabet, grammar and culture. Your brain has to work overtime to retain all of that information. The brain’s memory is improved each time you use that second language.
Brain function is much the same. It is going to be improved as you continue to learn and practice using a different language. The switching of dialect is extremely difficult and causes you to focus when you speak rather than relying on the comfort of a mother language.
In terms of career, there are many ways to market the ability to speak a second language. Being able to translate in real time and on paper is an increasingly popular skill. Employers want people who are able to communicate in more ways than one to reach more people in more communities.
Another reason to learn a foreign language is the connection to culture that it can give you. Not only can you communicate with a new group of people, but you can also see the inner workings of their culture and understand it better.
Vicnet Moreno, Ph.D., department chair of English, philosophy and world languages as well as associate professor of Spanish, believes that language and culture go hand in hand. Moreno speaks both Spanish and English.
“You do get a sense of other cultures, other ideas. It helps with critical thinking, it allows you to see things from different perspectives,” Moreno said.
Take Spanish for example. If you were to go to Mexico and speak to locals in English, they might not fully understand what you mean. Instead, if you are able to communicate with little to no language barrier, you can be inquisitive about topics and get answers that you might not be able to access using a language that’s foreign to the local population.
“We don’t just ask you to memorize the verbs; they all have a big cultural component. And I think that is very important not to learn the language in isolation, but to connect it to the social and cultural context.” Moreno said.
A-State is a diverse campus full of many people from many backgrounds. To have more students connect across these backgrounds, it makes sense for students to learn more languages.
Even America’s background can not claim it was built off of English only. Many of the first settlers spoke Spanish and French. However, since then America has become a melting pot of different cultures. It is idiotic to act as if English is the only language out there. America even has no official language declared by the government because of how diverse its people are.
The way America was designed, the way in which it flourished and grew, was all based on who settled there. Places like Louisiana have heavy influence from the French, with many words and accents showing that development. Creole culture, for example, is a mixture of French, Spanish, African American and Native American.
“You structure the world using language even if you don’t realize it. Everything that we name, everything that we see it’s kind of mediated by the language that we use,” Moreno said.
The problem with A-State’s language department is that not a lot of people really know it’s there. They might assume that A-State offers Spanish and nothing more. They most likely won’t try to investigate it.
Students truly just do not know how much the language department has to offer. More could be offered if more interest was shown in the programs. It is all about the students’ willingness to learn, to open their perspectives – that’s what college is all about. A-State needs to offer more languages, yes; however, students also play a part since they could try and petition for languages to be added.
All in all, I personally believe that everyone should try and learn another language, even if you think you’ll suck. I am terrible at the speech aspect of Spanish. However, I am passionate about literature and want to be able to understand different perspectives through another language.
If students were able to apply something they are passionate about, they could connect it to another language and unlock a whole new world of their passions. For instance, if you love movies then you could take a Hispanic cinema course.
It is all about finding what you are passionate about and applying it to a language. To do so means that you discover a whole new perspective and world around topics that might not be brought up in your circle of knowledge.
Step out of your comfort zone and explore a new language because all of the positives and possibilities outweigh the possibility of failing. There are professors who are dedicated to helping you learn. It only takes a bit of effort on your part.
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