Taking Two Languages

<p>I was wondering if anyone here has had any experience taking two languages or more languages during their Harvard years.<br>
I have taken five years of Spanish. I have a moderate interest in it, but I want to study abroad (semester or summer) to cement my fluency. I am very interested in taking Russian formally (I have a little speaking experience), and would like to start as soon as possible.<br>
I realize that two languages in a semester isn't normally advisable, so I'm wondering what other people did. Thanks.</p>

<p>I have a friend who took both Spanish and Arabic her first semester. It's definitely possible, although if you have a strong enough background in Spanish, you might just want to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country and take formal classes in Russian only.</p>

<p>It would also be very difficult to reach advanced level classes in two languages unless your concentration involves one of them. The aforementioned friend took Spanish and Arabic, but she is a Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations concentrator, so her Arabic classes count for concentration credit.</p>

<p>Is it possible to get two different citations, taken that qualifying courses need to be just above first year courses?</p>

<p>DwightEisenhower - are you MY friend? Cause you just described me.</p>

<p>Anyhow, I took Spanish and Arabic fall semester and am probably going to take French and Arabic this coming fall. I found it entirely manageable. I think it helped that I was in an advanced Spanish class and a beginning Arabic class, so I wasn't trying to do TWO sets of nightly homework or memorize two lists of vocab - we covered different things. Most of the higher-level Spanish classes are literature classes, which is very different from what I assume you'd be doing in beginning Russian.</p>

<p>Hahaha. That's so weird.</p>

<p>totally possible! Spanish classes are generally pretty easy, so as long as you don't take an intensive course in the other language (especially Russian, which I hear is hard), you'll be fine. You probably shouldn't take a freshman seminar, though. I've taken two languages before, and I have friends that will next year.</p>

<ol>
<li><p>Taking a Spanish lit course and intro Russian shouldn't be a problem anywhere.</p></li>
<li><p>I want to raise something of a philosophical issue about language courses in college, especially a college like Harvard. Beginning to learn a language involves a lot of hard-slogging rote work. It just does. There's very little intellectual content to it. Teachers can be good or bad, but unless your professors have PhDs in language instruction there's nothing in their professional education that will help them be good introductory language teachers. Introductory language teachers at universities aren't usually actual faculty, anyway. High-quality introductory language instruction is available from myriad programs outside of or alongside universities, and often from private arrangements with native speakers who happen to be around.</p></li>
</ol>

<p>In other words, there's no need to go to Harvard to learn a new language, and no reason to think Harvard will do a better job of teaching you introductory Whatever than 50-100 other places that would be considerably cheaper. Taking introductory language courses at Harvard is like going to Paris and spending a lot of time in your hotel room watching reruns of U.S. TV on hulu. I recognize that college is a time when people are open to learning new things, and that learning languages is very popular. I think people SHOULD learn multiple languages (as I did, though not in college). But objectively it's a very questionable use of a very scarce resource -- your right to register for classes at Harvard.</p>

<p>"There's very little intellectual content to it."</p>

<p>I totally disagree where many non-Indo-European languages are concerned. You're twisting your brain to a whole new kind of logic when you're taking intro Japanese, Korean, Arabic, etc. You need to do extremely sophisticated reasoning to say anything at all. It's intellectually comparable to computer science or linear algebra...PLUS all the rote work.</p>

<p>"Taking introductory language courses at Harvard is like going to Paris and spending a lot of time in your hotel room watching reruns of U.S. TV on hulu."</p>

<p>Again, strongly disagree. If you are able to live abroad in the future and learn via immersion, great. I agree that's the gold standard, but not everyone will be able to do that. Short of immersion, by far the best learning method is daily face-to-face instruction from a native speaker. If you can manage a five-times-a-week class, plus lab hours, at any time in your life when you aren't a full time student, I take my hat off to you. I can't do that. I took an evening Mandarin class last year from a stellar teacher, but one long class each week is no way to learn this kind of thing.</p>

<p>"there's nothing in their professional education that will help them be good introductory language teachers"</p>

<p>I agree. But it happens that Harvard recruits terrific intro language teachers. Here I can only speak to the East Asian languages, not Arabic, but the EA department puts tremendous resources into the language competency programs, and all the instructors are outstanding. The tenured professors in the department are greatly invested in the programs because they can't teach the upper-level content they want unless students are getting the right preparation as freshmen.</p>