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Foreign language classes see rise in enrollment

Nov. 4, 1999



With the recent increase in trade, integration of markets, multinational companies and technological advancements, the need for international communication is becoming more prevalent.

According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, a recent report by the Modern Language Association (MLA) shows there has been a 4.8 percent increase since 1995 in the enrollment in foreign-language courses in the United States.

The most common foreign language studied is Spanish with 55 percent, while French and German come in second and third, according to the MLA report.

'We [Baylor] are very much a part of this trend,' said Dr. Manuel J. Ortuño, chair and professor of modern foreign languages.

Fall 1999 enrollment records show Spanish classes have three times as many students as French classes have at Baylor, which is in accordance with the MLA national report.

Ortuño said the increase in foreign languages is due to the stronger focus on the 'global vision' and appreciation for what is happening internationally.

'There is a real emphasis across the country on acquiring a very broad view of what's going on in the world,' Ortuño said. 'We are exposed to different languages and cultures all over the country.'

Also, the study of foreign languages makes sense because of the ethnically diverse nature of the United States, Ortuño said.

Students have different reasons for taking foreign-language courses, varying from the three to 16 hours required for a bachelor of arts or science, to the idea that foreign language will help them communicate in future jobs.

'Foreign languages are important to learn because of the increasing global community. We need to increase our communication skills,' said Stefanie Davison, an Austin junior.

Jessica Schmieg, a Humble junior, and Britta Spann, a Fort Worth junior, both agreed that the study of foreign languages gives students a better understanding of how languages develop and the meaning of different ideas.

The MLA report also showed the greatest enrollment increase in American Sign Language with a 165 percent increase since 1995.

At Baylor, the number of students enrolled in sign language classes has remained stable because in most cases Baylor does not permit American Sign Language to count as foreign-language credits. Certain majors, such as social work or education, might petition for the credit because of a strong need for sign knowledge in their future career, according to Dr. Kathy Whipple, chair of communication sciences and disorders.

'Those who plan to work with the deaf community in the future need to be able to communicate,' Whipple said.