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The Dartmouth
March 4, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Letter to the Editor: In Defense of the Language Requirement

Walker Wilson ’27 responds to a previous column on Dartmouth’s language requirement.

Re: Jindal: Fix the Language Requirement for Native Speakers

Ahaan Jindal’s recent article calling on the College to make reforms to the language requirement and placement process contained a variety of great arguments. I wholeheartedly agree with his opposition towards the College’s decision to send the Lone Pine placement email exclusively to non-U.S. passport holders. I also concur that the administrative side of language placement should be refined, and that more thought needs to be put into the design for assessing language fluency in languages that are not taught at Dartmouth. However, the characterization of the language requirement as having a “redundant opportunity cost with limited practical utility” for those not planning to major in a language or linguistics is at odds with the College’s liberal arts mission.

Just like the distributive requirements, the language requirement provides an invaluable opportunity, not a burden, to think in a different way and discover a new side to the world with the guidance of top-notch educators. Even for those with proficiency in several languages, the requirement guides further study into complex topics and allows students to see greater interdisciplinary connections between subjects. The option to take a linguistics course instead of a language course for those on the Lone Pine track allows speakers to draw on their fluencies and understand language as a tool. Learning about linguistics as a non-major is not a “redundant opportunity”, as Jindal writes, but it is a way to truly understand the operation of languages. Language is powerful — it wages wars, creates connections and permeates every aspect of the world. While students might feel the desire to try to only take classes related to their major, Dartmouth’s curriculum centers greater interdisciplinary study, and the benefits of the study of language is applicable to every major that this school provides. A maximum of three courses out of a total of 35 is enough to reap some of these benefits without being too overbearing.

Walker Wilson is a contributing columnist at The Dartmouth from the Class of 2027. Letters to the Editor represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.