The viewpoint expressed by Edward McPhee (Foreign Language Frustration, 02/02/2009) was one of the most sophomoric and stereotypically “American” I have ever heard. While I understand that the foreign language requirement at the University is intense and time-consuming, its value in both academia and the world cannot be overemphasized. Learning a foreign language teaches the brain to think differently about the world and express thoughts through new avenues. Foreign language study not only expands one’s ability to communicate cross-culturally and understand global processes, it also increases one’s understanding of the structure and syntax of one’s native language.

The United States is one of the very few nations that does not automatically produce bilingual or multilingual citizens as a natural fact of culture and adulthood. This reflects poorly on us in international relations and global communications. The author naively suggests that “it seems as if everyone speaks English already.” However, expanding globalization suggests that more people need to speak more languages — not that McPhee can function on the world stage with only the English language, a passing grade in Italian 232 and American ways of thinking.

I have been to many places in which English is not only not a primary language — it is not understood at all. If the United States has laws against English-only workplaces, which it does, then it follows that the United States should have laws against producing English-only citizens. I take into account that some students have genuine learning differences that make learning a foreign language exceedingly difficult. I also understand that some fields of study simply do not necessitate fluency in a language other than English. But it is obvious that a school with the merit and reputation of the University of Michigan should try to instill in its students an interest in the world, in other cultures and in ways of thinking that are foreign and possibly even uncomfortable. It is frightening to think of a nation full of “well-educated” people who are frustrated and angered at the thought of committing themselves to a course of study in something as benign and beneficial as a foreign language.

Caitlin Clarke
LSA senior

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