Crisis in the Humanities Pt. V: A New Language

Teaching vacancies from the shortage have impacted student interest in bilingual studies across the country according to the Modern Language Association.

“Students can’t take courses if there aren’t teachers to offer them,” said Paula Krebs, director of the MLA, stated. “And what students are exposed to in high school affects their choices in college.”

Sheila Kiehle, a longtime French lecturer, works with a student nearby her office.
Tyler A. McNeil / ASP

A report from the Learning Policy Institute in 2016 found the number of unfilled foreign language education positions high among schools. The report also addressed empty seats non-humanities fields like mathematics and science.

National enrollment trends in Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Russian have slumped, according to a 2013 MLA report. On the other hand, numbers in Chinese, Korean, American Sign Language, and Portuguese have increased.

“It can be difficult to say why these shifts occur, but expanding business opportunities in certain markets and even cultural trends such as the popularity of K-Pop can play a role,” said Krebs.

Data from the College of Arts & Sciences above from a 1970 Middle States Association study.
Tyler A. McNeil / Minerva Daily

While enrollment for Korean has grown at UAlbany, some language programs have suffered.

For example: Italian. Within 30 years, the Italian program lost a master’s program and an undergraduate major. Now its a minor.

Maria Keyes, a French and Italian professor, saw it all. She’s worked at UAlbany since the 1980s.

She’s asked for the language, literatures, and cultures department for more courses throughout the last decade, but much of her asks fell flat.

“So I think the shrinking is the result of the university and the student and society in general,” said Keyes.

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