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Appreciation for foreign languages

ArtsyKidDadArtsyKidDad 31 replies4 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 35 Junior Member
As parents of a raising junior who is native fluent in one foreign language, fluent in two more, and reasonably good in another one, we are more and more surprised how little foreign languages seem to matter even in excellent colleges we visit (so far, mostly in California). When the issue of foreign languages comes up during the tours/info sessions, it is mostly in the context of avoiding them ("Is 4 on my AP French enough to fulfill your language requirements?")
Do you know of colleges where language proficiency is seen as a genuine asset? I realize "this is not how many you know but what you can express in them," and I personally know a few people who have nothing interesting to say in their 5 or 6 languages ;) but I guess I am asking about the general culture of appreciation for this rather rare gift.
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Replies to: Appreciation for foreign languages

  • Eeyore123Eeyore123 1228 replies16 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,244 Senior Member
    SFS at Georgetown. But I would guess that the marginal benefit of an additional language decreases very quickly. To be fluent almost always require immersion. Being immersed in more than two languages is very difficult for a 17/18 year old.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 76469 replies665 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 77,134 Senior Member
    Knowing several languages many be more of an asset in certain majors (e.g. international anything, linguistics) or subareas (e.g. automated language translation in computer science) rather than colleges.

    Knowing specific languages may be an asset in certain majors or subareas as well (e.g. knowing the common language(s) of a country may be helpful when studying the history/culture/politics/etc. of that country, and knowing French, German, and/or Russian may be helpful for a math major intending to go on to graduate study in math).
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 32628 replies349 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 32,977 Senior Member
    edited July 3
    OP, you seem to be noting the questions asked, but how did the colleges answer?

    Any top college will like it- you didn't mention which CA colleges you visited. But it's not "what you can express." It's more that you exposed yourself to the language study, which includes literature, cultural differences and current topics, as one proceeds through the track. It's not the same as fluency "somehow" acquired. Workability, the ability to read well enough, sure.

    As ucb notes, it is considered important in many fields of study.

    And an applicant who shorts a college's expectations for the years of study through high school may find himself at a distinct admissions disadvantage for a top college.
    edited July 3
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  • ArtsyKidDadArtsyKidDad 31 replies4 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 35 Junior Member
    lookingforward, it was not the question about testing out/AP meeting the requirement that surprised me. The answers were also more along the lines "yes, you can get out of it easily" than "we want you to be really fluent, and our course structure reflects that." I'm talking about places like USC, CMC, Occidental, even Stanford.
    Pomona was the only exception so far.
    Eeyore123, thanks, yes, SFS at Georgetown is an obvious consideration. And I know about a few translation programs where fluency is not just appreciated but expected.
    More suggestions will be welcome though!
    But while I agree in principal with your opinion on maintaining fluency, I know conference interpreters working in 5 languages, obviously not being able to immerse themselves in 5 different cultures. Also, kids today find surprising ways of keeping the languages fresh; DD has long and funny exchanges with her international Instagram followers in French, Spanish, Polish, and sometimes Italian. But that's veering off the main topic.
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  • Dancingmom518Dancingmom518 325 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 326 Member
    @ArtsyKidDad My D20 also loves learning languages and we have seen the same thing at many schools - lots of talk about getting out of foreign language requirements. But I think this widespread attitude will bode well for students like ours, making them stand out from the crowd.

    One school we visited that seemed to have an appreciation for languages was Tufts. They have pretty strict requirements for all students other than engineering. I think they need to take three years of a language. The admissions officer who spoke at the info session spoke about it at length.
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  • merc81merc81 9999 replies148 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,147 Senior Member
    edited July 5
    You might consider colleges that graduate comparatively high percentages of foreign language majors (a figure that can be viewed conveniently through IPEDS) such as Hamilton and Middlebury.

    https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?q=Hamilton&s=all&id=191515#programs

    https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?q=Middlebury&s=all&id=230959#programs
    edited July 5
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 76469 replies665 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 77,134 Senior Member
    One school we visited that seemed to have an appreciation for languages was Tufts. They have pretty strict requirements for all students other than engineering. I think they need to take three years of a language.

    http://students.tufts.edu/academic-advice-and-support/academic-advising/liberal-arts-babs-advising/guidance-academic-policies-liberal-arts-babs/requirements-graduation-liberal-arts-babs says third semester of college foreign language plus three more courses that could be more advanced courses in that language, third semester of a new college foreign language, or culture-related courses. Advanced placement may be given to those who already know foreign languages, reducing the number of courses required.
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  • Dancingmom518Dancingmom518 325 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 326 Member
    @ucbalumnus As I understand the OP, “reducing the number of courses required” is precisely what OP’s student is not looking to do. They enjoy language learning and want a school where that skill is valued and appreciated.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 76469 replies665 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 77,134 Senior Member
    The OP's student would probably appreciate reducing the number of lower level courses required, so that s/he can have more elective space to take additional upper level courses in the languages of interest.
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  • ArtsyKidDadArtsyKidDad 31 replies4 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 35 Junior Member
    edited July 6
    @ucbalumnus: I appreciate any advice, and thank you. It seems, however, that skipping lower-level classes through placement tests/interviews is never much of a problem. Who would make a nearly-fluent student sit through lower-level classes?
    @Dancingmom518: Thanks for your suggestion. In return, I would like to offer something I found myself just recently: https://www.brynmawr.edu/romance/
    Sounds like something custom-made for people interested in several languages, although I am not sure if these are the languages your daughter loves. Have you, by any chance, visited BMC? I'll be there next week, taking advantage of a few free hours on a business trip.
    BTW: It's a relief to have a confirmation that measurable skills don't lag behind the passion for languages. DD's results are in: AP French (5), AP Spanish (5), not bad for a non-native sophomore!
    edited July 6
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  • merc81merc81 9999 replies148 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,147 Senior Member
    edited July 6
    Bryn Mawr appears notable for its high concentration of French language and literature majors. Even in absolute terms they report more (as "first majors") than a much larger school such as Stanford, for example. Note, however, that these figures will fluctuate from year to year.

    https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?q=Bryn+mawr&s=all&id=211273#programs

    https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?q=Stanford&s=all&id=243744#programs
    edited July 6
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  • Dancingmom518Dancingmom518 325 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 326 Member
    @ArtsyKidDad Bryn Mawr is on my D20's tentative list, though she still has to visit. Thank you for the suggestion. She does love French (she will start her second year of French lit classes, but still needs to work on fluency), but is especially interested in Asian languages, particularly Chinese and Korean, and is starting an independent study class at school in Japanese.

    Those AP scores are fantastic! My D's school doesn't offer any AP classes, so we don't have to worry about AP testing. But I think a pair of 5s in AP language courses will be most impressive to colleges!
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  • mathmommathmom 32005 replies158 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 32,163 Senior Member
    edited July 8
    Agree that Tufts is likely to appreciate it. A snippet from their mission statement:
    We are committed to providing transformative experiences for students and faculty in an inclusive and collaborative environment where creative scholars generate bold ideas, innovate in the face of complex challenges and distinguish themselves as active citizens of the world.
    Their IR major requires taking four years of a language or fluency. And I would add they pay more than lip service to the idea of global citizenship. They have an active Engineers without Borders chapter for example, and the Tufts Institute for Global Leadership https://www.tuftsgloballeadership.org/about has all sorts of activities:

    I'm guessing that colleges that run summer language programs like Middlebury and Concordia College (MN) are likely suspects as well.

    Her love of languages might end up being part of one of her essays. It's more than just saying I know a lot of languages, and passed a lot of tests, it's about what they've enabled you to do that you wouldn't have done otherwise, or possibly you could come at it from a more linguistic point of view. Just posting on Instagram isn't enough to be very interesting, but it might be a good jumping off point for an essay.
    edited July 8
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6345 replies48 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 6,393 Senior Member
    edited July 8
    So even though I am a fan of multilingualism, and my own collegekids were in 3 languages for most of their schooling: I am going to be a little contrarian (it's Monday morning...). It's a little like Europeans who slam the low % of Americans who have passports. In much of Europe you can't swing a cat without crossing a border, so *of course* everybody has possports. An American has every conceivable climate and activity available within out crossing a border. Similarly, many Europeans (especially in smaller/multi-borderedl countries- looking at you, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, etc.) are multilingual from the get-go, b/c they are living in a stew of languages. Most Americans can still get through their whole lives* without coming across more than Taco Bell Spanish or Fancy Restaurant French. Having an impressive number of spoken languages is, even at most tippy top colleges, like any other admirable skill - having a big cello repertoire, being a chess master, etc: a feature of who you are.

    edited July 8
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  • ArtsyKidDadArtsyKidDad 31 replies4 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 35 Junior Member
    edited July 8
    @Dancingmom518 Oh, the warm glow of encouragement, so much needed on Monday morning. Thank you!
    @mathmom We love the Middlebury profile, and it's such a fine college anyway. But the location seems like a monastery to my big-city-alternative-rock-career-on-the-side-dreaming D. I hope her attitude will adjust once the reality of selecting a good fit that also offers a decent FA eventually hits home!
    @collegemom3717 Thank you for your realism, I think the same about how much language skills enhance the college application.
    However, I must note you are not quite correct about Europeans and passports. In Europe you can drive from Bialystok, Poland to Lisbon, Portugal WITHOUT a passport, and if you feel like taking a slightly circular route, crossing 8 or 9 non-existing national borders on the way. If more of them have passports, it is to travel outside Europe, using their fabulously long paid vacations.
    And more importantly, while for most Americans, it will be Taco Bell and/or a bistro, or dos cervezas on their "adventure in Cancun," the leaders in business, diplomacy, and cultural exchange may need slightly more, right? And that's why we want our kids to go to these schools in the first place, I think. ;)
    edited July 8
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