Following the publishing of this article we have been informed that said language plan is under review and is not yet finalized. The following article is an opinion piece, thus it does not reflect the official views of The Stork, nor the personal views of The Stork’s Editorial Team.
Researchers have proven time and time again that learning a new language is beneficial. Whether it is by allowing you to communicate with people of different cultures, giving you access to new concepts and emotions, or changing the physical composition of your brain, learning languages allows individuals to grow. Learning languages develops our minds in a million and one ways, all while enabling friendship and connection. For a while, I thought IE University was aware of these benefits. I am not so sure anymore.
Last week, the university’s management team and BIR office revealed that all language classes next semester will take place only once a week for third-year students, for a grand total of 15 sessions per semester. Additionally, students who take two languages will take the second one completely online, also once a week. The management team, content with the idea of slicing our linguistic progress in half, argues that they are “freeing up time” for us to focus on other things. Not only is the premise of that statement flawed, but it fails to consider the repercussions of the change.
The main issue with having one language lesson per week is that it is about the same as going to the gym once a week. Doing so is only sufficient to familiarize yourself with the idea and to give yourself credit for trying. In terms of long-term results, however, it is as good as not going at all. Languages, like the gym, require consistency and repetition. Some IE professors have even expressed that two sessions per week were not enough and that we needed more frequent exposure to the language. Cutting our lessons in half, therefore, is unlikely to help us learn.
We will lose time
Furthermore, the idea that dropping one lesson per week will “free up time” is a flawed premise in and of itself. This is because the amount of progress we have to make– or should have to make– will not change. Many students want to finish their three years of language classes with the skills necessary to complete at least a B2. If we intend to keep this goal, our learning of the language cannot be reduced to 20 hours per semester. Instead, many will have to take up more individual studying and homework to keep up with the pace. Since most students learn languages better in a classroom than at home, this will likely require more than the hour and 20 minutes lost. Thus, reducing our classes will not “free up time.” For many of us, it will have exactly the opposite effect.
In numerous ways, this decision by BIR management comes from a good place. They heard the cries for help about the workload from third-year students and decided to take action. The issue, in this case, is that they seem to have different priorities than us. While many students believe that learning another language is an incredible opportunity, the university may not value this process the same way. When they pondered which subjects to drop, out of the myriad that we have, they decided on languages. I, personally, would have put languages toward the end of the “most disposable subjects” list, but IE does not seem to agree with that.
More than just language skills
To some extent, university is about learning how to learn. The reality is that many students are welcomed to their first job with “forget everything you learned at university.” Our job markets are changing at the fastest pace ever; many of the jobs we will have do not even exist yet. Yet one thing that will not change is the need for languages– the knowledge of different languages, the discipline to acquire them, the communication skills developed, and the open-mindedness they enable. These skills prove more about a person than just the ability to ask for directions in the streets of Munich or Paris, as IE may think. These make us more well-rounded human beings.
Removing half of our language lessons is not, therefore, in our best interests. We face the very real possibility of regressing in the progress we have made up until now. Every week we will try to learn quickly, forget half of our progress, and repeat. We, along with our professors, will struggle to adapt to the new reality, all the while knowing that our progress is not really the university’s main concern anyway.
Cover image by: iStock