Incoming Freshman seeking advice for Languages

<p>I'm looking to major in IR (conc. in international security) and am looking to learn Russian in college, since it's obviously somewhat of a less-widely taught language in high schools (my options were French, Spanish, and Chinese, Chinese not being conducive to me having 5 years of FL before graduating as required for my IB programme). I have 5 years of Spanish and a 4 on the AP exam, so it is quite feasible for me to use this towards my Foreign Language requirement at Tufts, which at 8 semesters, is pretty imposing. I would get out of a few years of Spanish and thus free up some room on my course schedule.</p>

<p>However, I'm probably looking to have Russia/Eastern Europe be my IR specialty. One of my good friends is a Russian immigrant who speaks the language at home. She tells me that the people who claim to have taken Russian in college who try to speak to her in Russian do so very poorly. She thinks that the 8 semester requirement is very wise because it takes a lot of work to become fluent in a language. </p>

<p>I by no means expect to be fluent in a language after 1 year in a language course (I'm still not really fluent in Spanish, but my accent doesn't make me sound like a total gringo jaja), but 8 semesters is pretty imposing. I plan on taking Russian regardless of whether I use it to fulfill my IR requirement. Thus, I could ostensibly take Spanish, knock out the FL requirement, and take Russian by my own choosing yet not having to do so with the knowledge that my degree depends on passing every semester. My parents advise that if I want to find work in the IR/Eastern Europe field, I should do my FL concentration in Russian. </p>

<p>Would it be wise to get my FL requirement done with Spanish and then move on to Russian, or would it be more sensible to take Russian for all 4 years? While I'm somewhat familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet, learning languages isn't exactly my strong suit (straight-B Spanish student, literally, for all 5 years). Moreover, much of my class load at Tufts is already fairly set in stone, and I would like to retain some flexibility.</p>

<p>Also, if I am to do Russian for all four years, can anybody recommend a book or programme which I could use to get a head start over the summer?</p>

<p>I'd say it really depends on how much you like the language. I took French for 7 years but I HATED it. I could have gotten out of a couple semesters to take more classes in things I'm interested in but I knew I wanted to start Arabic anyway and do a Middle Eastern Studies or IR major (both of which have the 8 sem. FL requirement). For me, it was incomprehensible to take more French classes so I immediately switched to Arabic and I haven't regretted it at all. That being said, I know in Arabic at least, a LOT of people drop in the first year, even though they had planned on taking it all 4 years. So just be prepared with how your interests may change even if you do start Russian.</p>

<p>do you feel that taking 8 semesters of arabic is restrictive on your schedule?</p>

<p>Take the Spanish proficiency exam and see how much credit you can get for your current knowledge of Spanish. That could make your decision real easy. If they only give you 2 or 3 semesters, then just start Russian right away. If you test out of the requirement entirely, then hey, you're free!</p>

<p>Yeah, but that's not helpful if you need 8 for IR, and you can't split that up. </p>

<p>Assuming you study abroad, and that you do so in a country where your language of study is spoken, you're not likely to need a full 8 semesters of language courses - immersion will cut down on the commitment. As for the question of restrictiveness: if you take a language you love to learn (and that's the goal, right?) then the language classes will be something you look forward to. I know that sounds hackneyed, but I hear that from our students with remarkable regularity. And frankly, even with 8 semesters of Russia, I suspect coursework won't be quite as restrictive as one might suspect. Within the 7 classes you'd need for International Security, you're choosing 7 from of a list of tremendous length. <a href="http://ase.tufts.edu/ir/coursesThematic.htm#4%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://ase.tufts.edu/ir/coursesThematic.htm#4&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>If you'd like, I can put you in touch with an alum friend who was a Russian major at Tufts - study abroad in Russia and a Russian course each semester. Studying Russian with the depth you describe is a substantially different experience than taking Spanish or Chinese at Tufts, since the classes (already small for Spanish/Chinese) are TINY for Russian language students. Reach the upper level courses and most often you'll be doing something that feels similar to the British tutor system.</p>

<p>Dan - just for clarification, I meant that if he needed only 2 or so semesters or so of Spanish, he could take them concurrent with Russian to finish the IR language requirement. I wasn't suggesting you could combine a 6 semester credit for Spanish with 2 semesters of Russian and finish the requirement, though I realize I didn't make that explicit.</p>

<p>But who in his/her right mind would take only seven thematic courses?!?!?! This is what college is for! :)</p>

<p>The alternative to taking 8 semesters of Russian which I had in mind is in line with Snarf's suggestion. My parents say that since I'm looking to go into the Russia/Eastern Europe field professionally, I should have Russian as my IR language, not only for the proficiency, but for the resume point of having my language concentration in Russian. Is this a valid concern?</p>

<p>Perhaps it would be a good idea to take the Spanish placement exam, though, to see where I'm at.</p>

<p>Yeah, no sense in trying to guess how much Spanish you'll need to finish when you'll know definitively in a few months.</p>