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Monday, April 15, 2024 — Houston, TX

Language classes change

By Ben Hawriluk     3/7/12 6:00pm

Starting next year, students taking introductory language courses will attend class five days a week, and courses will be five credits.

As the language program currently exists, students spend three hours per week in class and two hours on the computer, and courses at the 101 or 102 level receive four credits.

The Center for the Study of Languages proposed these changes to the language program after an external review board found Rice to be lagging in foreign language education vis-a-vis peer institutions.

"The schedule that we are embracing mirrors that at all of our peer institutions," CSL Director Wendy Freeman said. "The goal is to increase face time so that the amount of hours in class in an introductory language course at Rice is the same as at our peer institutions."

Because Rice students spend fewer hours in class than their peers, they are, on average, one semester behind students from peer institutions, Freeman said.

For example, she said that completing the introductory textbook sequence in the Chinese program requires three semesters at Rice, but only two semesters at peer institutions.

According to Shumway, the increased student-teacher interaction under the new system will enable higher quality learning and increased personal connections.

When asked about concerns about the increased workload, Freeman said the most important concern is the outcome.

"The goal is that at the end of two years of instruction, our students will be able to do more than they are able to do under the current system," Freeman said.

Dean of Humanities Nicolas Shumway said the quality of the current language program does not match the quality of Rice students or of the university at large.

"I don't think that the language program as it currently exists is worthy of Rice," Shumway said.

Shumway and the CSL are already considering plans for language learning abroad. Shumway said he would like to create a summer study abroad option so that students could complete a year's worth of instruction in eight weeks.

"I hope that within a year or two we can make those experiences cost-neutral," Shumway said.

In order to make language learning abroad cost-neutral, Shumway said he hopes to increase scholarship availability.

Will Rice College freshman Lynn Gai said the proposed changes would make her less likely to enroll in an introductory language course.

"It would be extremely discouraging," Gai said.

Because introductory courses do not receive distribution credit and because of an already heavy course load, she said that five classes per week would discourage her from enrolling in a class she would normally want to take for fun.

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