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Language Departments at UChicago

jmayerloverjmayerlover Registered User Posts: 56 Junior Member
edited May 2013 in University of Chicago
Hi! I'm an incoming freshman in the Class of 2017, and I know it's a bit early to be thinking about this because class selection isn't until September, but I'm trying to decide which language I want to take next year at the University.

I took four years of German in high school and the AP, but I don't really "love" the language like I should. I'm deciding between continuing German next year or switching to French or Arabic.

Just a little bit about me - I'm thinking about majoring in Political Science, Economics, or International Studies. Careerwise, I'm a bit conflicted, but as of yet, I would really like to go into international politics or international economics. I'm a native English speaker and know Urdu/Hindi through my family.

Is there a specific language department at UChicago that students are the most satisfied with? A "best" language department? Or a language that is best for the fields I am interested in?

I also know that whichever language I choose will factor into which study abroad program I eventually choose. How is the Paris civ program compared to the Vienna one? Or the programs in the middle east?

Personally, I'm tempted to choose French even though I know virtually nothing of the language. However, I don't want to give up four years of German without a good reason, and I think Arabic would be fascinating to learn.

Any advice is appreciated. :)
Post edited by jmayerlover on

Replies to: Language Departments at UChicago

  • -CS-CS Registered User Posts: 233 Junior Member
    You will always find avenues to use your language skills if you learn new ones, so learning a new one always has that going for it. Personally, I wouldn't get bogged down in deciding what language to take based on vague career interests (that, for most, change multiple times in the first year of College) or which study abroad you may have an interest in doing (especially considering that they are always adding new programs). Explore the languages a bit and take the one you have a real interest in exploring. Unless you take 2-3 years of a language, you (likely) won't get enough out of it where it will come in of real use later on. However, here is a bit of information...

    In terms of careers, learning Arabic will open different doors than French. Arabic will probably be seen as more 'unique' in comparison to French and German which might give you a good shot if you want to work in/on projects related to the middle-east specifically. Arabic is probably one of the more intensive language programs at the University.

    The study abroad programs tend to all be very strong, but I don't know how one would adequately compare them in terms of quality. The programs are quite varied (most last a quarter though there are opportunities to study for an entire year abroad), some are meant to fulfill the civilization core requirement in a quarter, i.e. the one in Cairo, while others offer classes that count as your requirements for a major, i.e. the one in Paris for math, and some programs require that you have a strong hold of the native language but most do not.

    I would encourage you to look through the program offered: https://study-abroad.uchicago.edu/programs
    Of particular interest to you, the ones in Arabic native areas do not require you to know Arabic (though there will obviously be opportunities for you to develop the language better if you seek them out) though there are many in Paris given the University's center there.
  • UChicago3UChicago3 Registered User Posts: 84 Junior Member
    Take Arabic, but don't expect to gain a valuable skill unless you're willing to dedicate many, many years to studying Arabic. A few years a of French and you'll be near-fluent; a few years of Arabic and you'll still struggle to read a news article. It's one of the most challenging topics I can imagine undertaking. The grammar is absurdly complex and the phonetics are near-unpronounceable. To make it worse, the Arabic you'll learn in class (Modern Standard) won't be understood by most native speakers (or, if they do understand, they won't be able to respond in a form that you'll understand. The dialects are not only completely different from formal Arabic, but also completely different from each other. A Jordanian can't even understand a Moroccan.

    I probably just talked you out of it; however, I hope not. It's a beautiful language with a logic completely foreign to English speakers. Also, UChicago has an very strong Arabic department with some fantastic teachers. It's expanded a lot since I've been here, but it still maintains an intimate feel.

    Take it and don't look back.
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