In 2010, more than 14 million people all over the world were learning to speak German, according to statistics published by Netzwerk Deutsch.
I took my first German language course in Spring 2010. The room was bustling with bad German rap, umlauts in all the wrong places and kids trying to fill their language requirements for going abroad.
I returned to SF State from my year abroad at the University of Tuebingen, Germany in Fall 2011 to a diminished roster of professors and courses. With three courses left to complete my minor, it was vital for me to get them done quickly. But it didn’t work that way. I failed a mandatory course, which wasn’t offered in Spring 2012. The class was not offered again this semester, which begs the question: Why are required courses not being offered every semester? These should be the priority to help students in these dwindling departments.
With only two teachers in the entire German department, I understand the challenges, but why is nothing being done? Where is the push to add more language teachers instead of bringing candy-slinging DJs to blare their tunes outside the Humanities Building?
In a meeting with new President Leslie E. Wong, he expressed an interest in being kept up to date with the dissolution of language programs at SF State. At this moment, I’m confident he really does want to hear about the issues. Perhaps programs should be planning appropriate strategies to manage their future. Every semester the student community is changing. While German may find itself losing enrollment steam, there are ways to rework the department into a major or minor about global culture. There should be plans in place for every department on how to deal with managing the direction of their fields. Perhaps restructuring could be done to make the foreign language courses more appealing to students.
The University of Southern California announced in April 2008 that they would no longer offer German major or minor programs. It was a decision that drew heavy criticism from both students and faculty concerned it would reflect poorly on their commitment to culture.
For a campus recognized for its international diversity, shouldn’t SF State be more concerned about our declining language programs? As I enter each semester with fewer options than the previous, I wonder if anyone really cares about the students still left behind in the department. Students entering the German department will be left waiting years to see their required courses become available. What about those in their last semester who need the courses now? What about students in majors like my own who are required to have a minor to graduate? God help them should they be forced to wait an extra year to get all of their courses. I knew that going abroad would save me a lot of the headache, but who knew getting my last three required courses would be so hard? Merely having a student enroll in an unrelated course as well as submit a extra project in order to supplement what was once a required course is not appropriate action.
I am not oblivious to the international presence at SF State. International Chinese students rose from 119 in Spring 2007 to more than 500 in Spring 2012. More than 1,500 international students study at SF State’s campus every day, according to the Office of International Programs website.
While my message speaks specifically for German language students, in order to continue representing itself as an international community, SF State needs to make all foreign languages a priority. Instead of settling for what we have, we need to move toward a more prominent foreign language department.
In a perfect world, this school would put enough value on foreign language to protect its existence on campus. In German I might say, “ich drücke dir die Daumen.” In other words, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.