The goal of a foreign language requirement isn’t fluency

To the editor:

The purpose of foreign language education is not to become fluent in a language, which you note but seem to ignore in your final argumentation. Rather, basic language education is meant to teach students who will work in an increasingly global world other ways of being. When we teach basic language courses, we teach students how other governments approach societal challenges and how other cultures approach work, relationships, arts, sciences, religion and mortality. These are concepts one needs to understand in order to do business, conduct research or work with an international team. We have absolutely no expectation that our students will be fluent after three or four semesters. What students need is not fluency (since most other countries do us the courtesy of learning English since they know that only about 1 in 5 Americans can speak another language). What students need is awareness that the individuals on the international teams they work with have different values, expectations and behaviors that they should know in order to be effective at their jobs. By focusing on the unattainable goal of fluency, you ignore the vision and mission of university basic language programs across the nation, which is cross-cultural understanding. If we used your argument that no aspect of education that does not result in student proficiency should be removed from the university curriculum and costs, any number of programs and facilities would be on the block, including math classes for biology majors or access to sports facilities for non-athletes. In future, do not write about programs that you do not properly research or understand.
Dr. Laura Call
Raleigh, North Carolina