A snapshot of foreign language study on campus

On Jan. 5, President Bush announced a plan to enhance the foreign language skills of American students. To be called the National Security Language Initiative, the program’s aim is to increase the number of students studying other languages, particularly what Bush described as those critical to cultural understanding and national security: Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Persian, Hindi and Farsi.

Chinese and Russian are among the foreign languages taught at BGSU, which also offers Japanese, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Latin and, this academic year, Swahili.

Student interest is growing in Chinese and Russian as well as Japanese, noted Dr. Timothy Pogacar, chair of the German, Russian and East Asian languages (GREAL) department. “The Asian Studies Program has been a big supporter of our Japanese and Chinese programs. The beginning and intermediate Chinese classes have the highest enrollment in 20 years,” with about 20 students participating, he said. Plans are under way for a summer study-abroad program in partnership with the University of Cincinnati.

Enrollment in Russian classes is the highest in five or six years, Pogacar said, adding that BGSU has a summer program in Russia.

Meanwhile, enrollment in Japanese classes is the highest in a decade, and classes have been filled to capacity for the past three years. The department plans to hire a second faculty member for next fall. This year, three students are studying in Japan, said Akiko Jones, co-director of the Asian Studies Program, adding that she will accompany 12 BGSU students to Japan this summer.

In GREAL, undergraduate and graduate students logged almost 1,500 student credit hours last fall, not counting students in study-abroad programs, Pogacar said. About a third of those hours represent courses taught in English about the cultures, literatures, cinemas and other aspects of China, Germany, Japan and Russia, he said.

This semester, 21 graduate and 15 undergraduate students are participating in the German department’s study-abroad program in Salzburg, Austria.

In romance languages, which comprises Spanish, French, Italian and Latin, 891 students took courses last fall in Spanish studies; 248 in French, 79 in Italian and 241 in classical civilization studies, for a total of 1,459. These numbers reflect on-campus enrollment.

A number of students take part in study abroad as well. The total number of students who take courses offered by romance languages on campus and abroad during the academic year and summer sessions exceeds 3,200, Chalupa said.

This semester, 19 undergraduates and eight graduate students are studying in Spain, with another 20 undergraduates and five graduates at the program in Mexico.

The French department has exchange programs in Tours, France; Québec, Canada, and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in Africa. This semester, 21 undergraduate and 11 graduate students are in France, and 15 of those undergraduates will also study in Burkina Faso. In addition, one graduate student is in Canada.

The classical studies and Italian programs will offer their first study-abroad opportunity this summer, Chalupa said. Students will live in Rome and study the classics while honing their language skills.
January 23, 2006