[lg policy] Yale reforms language credit policies

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Wed Apr 25 10:44:08 EDT 2018

 Yale reforms language credit policies

Britton O'Daly <https://yaledailynews.com/blog/author/brittonodaly/> & Adelaide
Feibel <https://yaledailynews.com/blog/author/adelaidefeibel/> Apr 24, 2018

Staff Reporters

Yale Center for Language Study <http://>

Students soon will no longer have to enroll in two terms of introductory
study in a modern foreign language in order to receive credit for the first
term, and will also have the opportunity to pursue a newly established
certificate of advanced language study, Yale College Dean Marvin Chun
announced in an email Tuesday morning.

Under the new policies, which will take effect next semester and which were
first proposed by the Center for Language Study’s Language Study Committee,
students will receive credit for completing a level one language course,
regardless of whether they go on to enroll in the next-level course.
Currently, students only receive credit for the level-one course if they
complete the second level as well. Though this change will not affect the
foreign language distributional requirements — undergraduates will still be
required to complete levels one through three of a foreign language to meet
the requirement — it will give students more flexibility to change course
in their language study without losing credit, Chun wrote in his email.

Meanwhile, the establishment of a new certificate of advanced language
study will enable language departments to offer formal recognition to
students who take a number of advanced courses in a specific language.
Though the necessary quantity and types of courses will vary by language
department, all departments will require that interested students complete
at least four advanced-level, or L5, courses. Some departments are expected
to begin offering certificates as early as next year, according to Chun’s

Outgoing President of the Yale College Council Matt Guido ’18 said that the
YCC started but never completed a report on language certificates last year
and came into this year wanting to continue pushing to make the
certificates available to students. He added that the YCC, along with
various University committees, has also spoken to Chun about changing how
credits are awarded to students for level-one and -two language courses.

“It really speaks to Chun’s style of leadership, to hear as many voices as
possible in his first year as dean and really work with it as effectively
as possible,” Guido said. “It is something that students have talked about
for multiple years now, and he was able to get it done in his first year as

The new policies, which were recently approved by Yale College faculty
members, are intended to promote more in-depth and flexible language study
beyond the minimum standard required of all undergraduates.

According to Theresa Schenker, senior lector II in German and director of
the German language program, her department plans on hashing out the
details of its own certificate during the next faculty meeting, though she
expects the certificate requirements will follow the minimum Chun mentioned
— four advanced language, culture or literature courses taught in German.

Schenker speculated that the new certificate will be a “very attractive
option” for undergraduates. The certificate, which will appear on students’
transcripts, will allow students who are interested in German but do not
have the time to complete the major to receive recognition for their
language study. It will also enhance job prospects, since multilingualism
is a marketable skill, Schenker said, adding that one student in her
“History of the German Language” class has already expressed interest in
pursuing a certificate in German.

Ninghui Liang, coordinator of the Chinese Language Program and senior
lector of Chinese, said she anticipates that 80 to 90 students will pursue
certificates in Chinese based on enrollment levels in the current academic

Director of the Modern Hebrew Language Program Shiri Goren said the
certificate program provides an alternative way to recognize students’
achievements, since Yale does not have minors. Though the Hebrew Program
offers a wide variety of L5 classes — 10 in total — Goren told the News
that the certificate program seems flexible enough to accommodate smaller
language programs that may not offer multiple courses at the highest level.

But she predicted that only a few students will likely be able to fulfill
the language requirements of the certificates.

Though Schenker emphasized the importance of taking more than one semester
of a language to develop communicative ability, she praised the decision to
lift the one-year credit restriction, which she said will benefit students
who have already completed their language requirement but want to try a new

Goren, who serves on the Language Study Committee, said the new policy on
level-one and -two courses is intended to “ease the burden” placed on a
small number of students who struggle with a language that is not a good
fit, allowing them to switch to a new language without losing the credit
from the first term.

“Anyone completing a semester of a language should get credit for it,”
Schenker said.

Alejandra Padin-Hujon ’18 said that, as an Arabic tutor and teaching
assistant, she has seen many students drop Arabic and other similarly
difficult languages after just one semester, but she does not want students
who drop classes to suffer for that. Still, she added, she hopes that Yale
ultimately strives to be a place where people value learning foreign
languages instead of just meeting academic requirements.

George Gemelas ’18 said that he wonders how great an effect the change will
have, since he does not know of many people who stop studying a language
after completing the first level.

Both Gemelas and Padin-Dujon said that the certificate is a good idea,
since it can be hard to clearly demonstrate skill in foreign languages.

“I’ve seen a lot people go L1 through L5 at Yale, and unless you’re a
[modern Middle Eastern studies] or [near Eastern languages and
civilizations] major there’s nothing to show for it,” added Padin-Dujon.
“Nobody assumes you speak Arabic and there’s very little ability to testify
to the fact that you do … This kind of certificate could be really useful
for that.”


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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