Foreign Language Depts. at Colleges & Universities

Cindy Tracy

I was shocked to discover that Drake University in Iowa did away with their foreign language department replacing it with the "Language Acquisition Program". Here is the description on their website:

The World Languages and Cultures Program offers a unique approach to language learning. Courses are interactive and thus limited to a maximum of four students. A native speaker functions as a model and a resource person. Students also work with their Language Coordinator, a professional linguist who mentors their progress. Language Learning Strategies courses provide students with additional structure and guidance.

I noticed that there are no foreign languages among the possible majors. Please tell me this is not the future for colleges and universities. While I think this approach would be fine as a possible course for upper level students and as a supplement to traditional courses, I don't know of any online courses that could substitute entirely for a class that meets 3-5 times a week with a professor trained and accredited in actually teaching the language. We offer many stand alone software programs at, but even I would not try to say any are better than an actual class.

I see so many cutbacks in this economy of reduced funding that language proficiency will become harder and harder to obtain. Yes, there are instructors that are not fluent in the language they are supposed to teach and instructors that do not teach well. But unless you a student at an online school, where ALL the courses are online, I don't think this can replace a "real" class with a trained instructor and not just a linguist.


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