‘Priority’ language minors to be offered

Lauren Spilar

Govt. encourages schools to teach them

Kent State now offers new minors in Japanese, Arabic and Chinese – three languages listed as “priority” or “critical need” by the U.S. government.

“The irony is that these are among the most widely spoken languages in the world, but they are among the least taught in the United States,” said Brian Baer, director of Kent State’s Foreign Language Academy and associate professor of Russian.

Students who have a knowledge of these languages “become very marketable,” said Arabic instructor Fetna Mikati.

“They have a lot of financial incentives because the government is encouraging those languages quite a bit and offering scholarships and study abroad programs,” she said.

Prior to this semester, the language department offered undergraduates only basic courses in Japanese, Arabic and Chinese.

The new minor tracks consist of elementary to advanced language courses and a selection of elective courses in culture and special topics. Because the program will take four years to complete, it is targeted mainly at freshmen.

There are many advantages to studying any of the three languages, Mikati said.

Arabic, she said, is the fifth most commonly spoken language in the world. It is spoken in over 20 countries, has over 300 million native speakers and is an official language of the United Nations.

She said she thinks one of the most important reasons to study Arabic is to try to help with some of the stereotypes that exist in Western society.

“When you study a language, you are really studying a lot about the culture – the values of these people,” she said. “We are at a time when we need to open the door for communication, understanding, compromise.”

Growing interest and need in these languages is what allowed Kent State to finally create the new minors.

“There’s been so much demand from students themselves,” said Judy Wakabayashi, director of the Japanese language program.

Japanese has always been popular at the elementary levels, she said, partly due to interest in today’s prevalent Japanese pop culture.

“I enjoy the culture and everything they produce,” said Calvin Tustan, a sophomore architecture major enrolled in Elementary Japanese. “It’s nice to learn another language and broaden your horizons.”

Learning Chinese has its own benefits, especially because of China’s growing economy.

“There are a lot of opportunities, even in the business sector,” Chinese instructor May Ling said.

Ling said all students, even those who have not learned the Chinese language, can still benefit from taking the Chinese Culture course.

“It’s really for anybody,” she said.

Students in a wide variety of studies, such as journalism, business, finance, intelligence and politics can benefit from having a minor in any of these languages, Mikati said.

More information about the languages can be found in the Modern and Classical Language Studies department, located in Satterfield Hall.

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Lauren Spilar at [email protected]