Yale Center for Language Study

Students soon will no longer have to enroll in two terms of introductory study in a modern foreign language in order to receive credit for the first term, and will also have the opportunity to pursue a newly established certificate of advanced language study, Yale College Dean Marvin Chun announced in an email Tuesday morning.

Under the new policies, which will take effect next semester and which were first proposed by the Center for Language Study’s Language Study Committee, students will receive credit for completing a level one language course, regardless of whether they go on to enroll in the next-level course. Currently, students only receive credit for the level-one course if they complete the second level as well. Though this change will not affect the foreign language distributional requirements — undergraduates will still be required to complete levels one through three of a foreign language to meet the requirement — it will give students more flexibility to change course in their language study without losing credit, Chun wrote in his email.

Meanwhile, the establishment of a new certificate of advanced language study will enable language departments to offer formal recognition to students who take a number of advanced courses in a specific language. Though the necessary quantity and types of courses will vary by language department, all departments will require that interested students complete at least four advanced-level, or L5, courses. Some departments are expected to begin offering certificates as early as next year, according to Chun’s e-mail.

Outgoing President of the Yale College Council Matt Guido ’18 said that the YCC started but never completed a report on language certificates last year and came into this year wanting to continue pushing to make the certificates available to students. He added that the YCC, along with various University committees, has also spoken to Chun about changing how credits are awarded to students for level-one and -two language courses.

“It really speaks to Chun’s style of leadership, to hear as many voices as possible in his first year as dean and really work with it as effectively as possible,” Guido said. “It is something that students have talked about for multiple years now, and he was able to get it done in his first year as dean.”

The new policies, which were recently approved by Yale College faculty members, are intended to promote more in-depth and flexible language study beyond the minimum standard required of all undergraduates.

According to Theresa Schenker, senior lector II in German and director of the German language program, her department plans on hashing out the details of its own certificate during the next faculty meeting, though she expects the certificate requirements will follow the minimum Chun mentioned — four advanced language, culture or literature courses taught in German.

Schenker speculated that the new certificate will be a “very attractive option” for undergraduates. The certificate, which will appear on students’ transcripts, will allow students who are interested in German but do not have the time to complete the major to receive recognition for their language study. It will also enhance job prospects, since multilingualism is a marketable skill, Schenker said, adding that one student in her “History of the German Language” class has already expressed interest in pursuing a certificate in German.

Ninghui Liang, coordinator of the Chinese Language Program and senior lector of Chinese, said she anticipates that 80 to 90 students will pursue certificates in Chinese based on enrollment levels in the current academic year.

Director of the Modern Hebrew Language Program Shiri Goren said the certificate program provides an alternative way to recognize students’ achievements, since Yale does not have minors. Though the Hebrew Program offers a wide variety of L5 classes — 10 in total — Goren told the News that the certificate program seems flexible enough to accommodate smaller language programs that may not offer multiple courses at the highest level.

But she predicted that only a few students will likely be able to fulfill the language requirements of the certificates.

Though Schenker emphasized the importance of taking more than one semester of a language to develop communicative ability, she praised the decision to lift the one-year credit restriction, which she said will benefit students who have already completed their language requirement but want to try a new language.

Goren, who serves on the Language Study Committee, said the new policy on level-one and -two courses is intended to “ease the burden” placed on a small number of students who struggle with a language that is not a good fit, allowing them to switch to a new language without losing the credit from the first term.

“Anyone completing a semester of a language should get credit for it,” Schenker said.

Alejandra Padin-Hujon ’18 said that, as an Arabic tutor and teaching assistant, she has seen many students drop Arabic and other similarly difficult languages after just one semester, but she does not want students who drop classes to suffer for that. Still, she added, she hopes that Yale ultimately strives to be a place where people value learning foreign languages instead of just meeting academic requirements.

George Gemelas ’18 said that he wonders how great an effect the change will have, since he does not know of many people who stop studying a language after completing the first level.

Both Gemelas and Padin-Dujon said that the certificate is a good idea, since it can be hard to clearly demonstrate skill in foreign languages.

“I’ve seen a lot people go L1 through L5 at Yale, and unless you’re a [modern Middle Eastern studies] or [near Eastern languages and civilizations] major there’s nothing to show for it,” added Padin-Dujon. “Nobody assumes you speak Arabic and there’s very little ability to testify to the fact that you do … This kind of certificate could be really useful for that.”

Britton O’Daly | britton.odaly@yale.edu

Adelaide Feibel | adelaide.feibel@yale.edu