Use Your Voice: Don’t Lift The Foreign Language Requirement

By
September 3, 2010

Dear Mills Community,

I write this letter, first of all, in homage to all the authors I have studied during my time here at Mills. Writing, or “l’écriture,” as they say in French, represents an outlet, a voice for those who are not being heard. I have learned this from my classes in French and Francophone Studies, which have allowed me to discover the world through a new perspective.

When I first came to Mills I had the intention of becoming an International Relations major. However, during my first language class in Caribbean Literature, I was exposed to the many facets of life and the world accessible to the student of language. I soon switched my major to French and have found the department, the teachers and the courses immensely rewarding. I am sorry to say that due to budget cuts our language department is in danger of being down-sized and the language requirement removed. Thus it is very important that our community demonstrate, through whatever methods available to us, the integral position of language studies and its significance in helping Mills women become world citizens.

Through my study of post-colonial theory I am now able to identify those structures in society which encourage ethnocentric and imperialistic thinking. Post-colonial theory shifts responsibility from the oppressed to the oppressors, while at the same time enabling individuals to recognize those structures and institutions that are most in need of change. This approach to analyzing society and power demands we appreciate the perspectives of cultures that are not our own, and to this end a person must have the knowledge of a foreign language.

Proficiency in a foreign language is invaluable in our rapidly globalizing world. To become proactive citizens in an international community, we must have the ability to engage in a dialogue with a diversity of peoples.

A dialogue is absolutely indispensable to conflict resolution. In order to open a dialogue, however, there has to be mutual respect on both sides. An understanding of both sides of a situation is essential to any potential conflict resolution. This, of course, requires an understanding of the other party’s language. Learning a language requires so much more than simply learning grammar; it requires an understanding of a culture. Studying a language is akin to studying life. An appreciation of languages signifies an appreciation of another culture, and therefore a recognition of that culture. It is an affirmation of the culture’s humanity and is also a sign of respect. This understanding, forged through communication, has the potential to create bonds between cultures that are based on equality and not superiority.

This letter is an appeal to all of you who have come to college to receive an education that is not exclusively concentrated in a particular field but concerned with the world and your place in that world. I beseech you, as a fellow student, to add your voice to those who desire to strengthen the bonds between countries and who wish to contribute to an ideal: the ideal of a global community where understanding exists between even the most dissimilar and disparate cultures. I appeal to your sensibility, as a student of the world, to not let the doors close upon our language department, but instead to help it flourish. Please help by showing your support by using your voice.

This is an appeal to those who are educated — to those who have the ability to see the worth of a strong language department. This letter is intended to hold the mirror up to the current situation. It is also a call to action because it is you, as strong Mills women, who have the power to make a difference. I’m proud to call myself a Mills woman and to call you my colleagues.

Sincerely,

Arianne Peterson, Senior

French and Francophone Studies Major


Use Your Voice: Don’t Lift The Foreign Language Requirement was published on September 3, 2010 in Letters to the Editor, Opinions

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