‘Major’ problem exists at Kent State

Bethany English

Critical languages prove useful but lack demand on campus

Though the minor issue has been fixed, Kent State is still facing a major problem involving critical languages.

Elementary and intermediate courses for Arabic and Chinese have been available at Kent State for a while, but these languages became available as minors to students in the fall 2009 semester.

Jennifer Larson, chair for the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, said she hopes the new minor programs will attract more students to study these critical languages.

Larson said the lack of demand for languages such as Chinese and Arabic is the primary block to creating a major.

Amy Fisher, sophomore international relations major with a Chinese minor, said she would have preferred to get her major in Chinese.

“I’ve actually considered going to another university because they don’t offer it as a major,” she said of Kent State. The only thing that stopped her was the financial inconveniences she would encounter if she changed universities.

Her interest in the language began when she considered joining the Army as a translator, which is something she still hopes to do after graduating.

The need for soldiers who speak critical languages is so great that Army ROTC offered students studying these languages a scholarship, Fisher said. The scholarship pays tuition for the full length of the scholarship, which ranges from two years to four and provides a $1,200 yearly book allowance.

Critical languages are also an appealing commodity for government jobs. According to the Department of State’s Web site, “super critical needs languages” consist of Arabic (Modern Standard, Egyptian or Iraqi), Chinese (Mandarin), Dari, Farsi, Hindi and Urdu.

The knowledge of one of these languages greatly increases the number of job opportunities available to students, Larson said in an e-mail interview.

But without interest and demand from students, the department can’t justify hiring full-time faculty to teach the necessary courses for a major, and fewer than 10 students are currently pursuing minors in these languages, she said.

In order to increase this interest, Elementary I and II for both Chinese and Arabic will be offered as courses for summer 2010, Larson said. By taking the first year of either language during the summer, students can start intermediate courses in the fall semester.

Fisher realizes the importance of knowing a critical language. She said it can make someone more appealing to possible employers, especially companies with international ties or partners in other countries.

Though she wished to have a more comprehensive study of the language and culture and graduate with Chinese as a major, Fisher said she “can’t say enough about how good the Chinese program here has been” for her.

Contact international affairs reporter Bethany English at

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