To the editor:
With regard to Jessamyn Blau’s column “Language Education must be higher priority” (11/21) :
There are several ‘humanistic’ fantasies currently circulating about language education: that foreign language proficiency is essential to an authentic liberal education; that we are living in a time when foreign language instruction is essential to achieving the proper relationship between America and the world; that language can be taught in some meaningful way in three or four semesters at university.
Unlike Blau, I give Dean Brodhead and the Academic Review committee the benefit of the doubt and do not question their belief in the first two. I think an implicit recognition of the fallacy of the third underlies the Committee’s decision to lower the language proficiency threshold. The Committee recognized that there is really no difference between three-semester proficiency and four-semester proficiency — both are contradictions in terms. Blau complains that current language instruction tools are terrible; I agree, but go much further. If you really want to achieve ‘proficiency,’ take some Yale fellowship money, go to a foreign country, and stay away from Americans.
Aaron Goode ’04
November 26, 2003