With new foreign language requirements for the Class of 2009, high Advanced Placement scores are no longer a ticket out of language classes for freshmen at Yale, and departments are revamping course offerings to accommodate the growing number of students enrolled in language courses.
The new requirements for freshmen are designed to increase flexibility for students who arrive at Yale without a foreign language, while ensuring that all students — including those who would have placed out in previous years because of high AP scores — take at least one language course during their time at Yale. While assessments of the new requirements will not be conducted until the end of the semester, preliminary course enrollments from before midterm indicate that more students are taking language courses than last year, said Nina Garrett, director of the Center for Language Study.
Growing interest in foreign languages may contribute to the high enrollment numbers, in addition to the effects of the new requirement, Garrett said. In previous years, freshmen were permitted to use AP credit to avoid language courses at Yale entirely — but 87 percent of students who placed out of the requirement continued language study anyway, she said.
“The increase in enrollments only represents a portion of the AP students that we’ve always had,” Garrett said.
Departments have adjusted course offerings to make it easier for students at every level of language proficiency to satisfy the new requirement. While most language courses used to run for a full year, this fall many departments divided their offerings into semester-long courses so students who come in with the equivalent of three semesters of foreign language study can complete the requirement by taking a fourth semester in the fall, instead of waiting until spring.
Before the semester started, the French Department overhauled its “gateway courses” for students who come in with an AP score of 5, French Director of Undergraduate Studies Jean-Jacques Poucel said. All students with AP credit, whether they received a 4 or 5 on the exam, must fulfill the same requirement to take an L5 — or fifth-semester level — course to graduate, despite their varying language skills, Poucel said.
For students who do not have AP credit in a language, the language requirement has become substantially more flexible. In addition to taking fewer required semesters of language than in previous years, freshmen will be able to complete internships or study-abroad programs to satisfy part of the requirement.
Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said the old requirement was burdensome for students in highly structured majors, particularly in the sciences, and the added flexibility is designed to encourage all students to develop language skills.
As a student without AP placement, Ashley Easley ’09 is enrolled in the first semester of “Elementary Spanish” this year as part of her language requirement. She said she would have studied Spanish even if the requirement did not exist, because the Spanish-speaking population of the United States is growing.
“It will be a big advantage going into the job market if I speak Spanish,” she said.
But Bryce Adams ’08, a student in “Intermediate Spanish,” said he is only taking the class to fulfill the language requirement.
“I don’t much like it at all,” Adams said. “It’s just kind of a pain.”
Christopher Hill, DUS of the East Asian Languages and Literatures Department, said his department may create advanced courses for non-majors that are not focused on literature, which is currently the norm for most high-level language courses.