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More Kennesaw State students are saying it in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Arabic Build it and…

Georgia (Nov 18, 2014)

More Kennesaw State students are saying it in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Arabic

Build it and they will come.

That appears to be the guiding principle behind how Kennesaw State is responding to a growing interest for what are deemed “critical foreign languages,” a reference to the supply and demand of a language in the U.S. in relation to the perceived cultural, economic, geographic, political and strategic interests in the world.

On the federal government’s critical list: Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, and Urdu. Translated, that means the federal agencies are willing to invest in instructional programs to stimulate fluency in these languages.

A 2013 CNN Money report dubbed fluency in these critical languages, as well as Spanish and Portuguese, the “hottest job skill.” “The Army, State Department, Fortune 500 companies, hospitals, local courts, and schools just can’t get enough workers with fluency in these languages,” it reported.

Of those languages the government considers critical, Kennesaw Sate offers Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, Russian and Turkish through its Critical Languages Program, which uses a technology-enhanced, self-instructional model with international student tutors leading classes and serving as conversation guides. Course grades are based largely on the students’ performance during a final oral exam. Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Arabic are offered in faculty-led courses that are part of the regular foreign language curriculum.

The number of students studying critical languages at Kennesaw State has risen in direct correlation with the availability and development of classes, programs and resources available to teach the languages. In spring 2014, nearly 400 students were enrolled in critical language courses.

“Demand for these languages has always been present,” said Joe Terantino, director of the Critical Languages Program within Kennesaw State’s Department of Foreign Languages. “We have not always offered robust programs in each of them, but as we do so, demand increases.”

For example, the number of students enrolled in Chinese language classes has nearly doubled since a full-blown minor in Chinese Studies was added to the curriculum in 2012. Nearly 150 Kennesaw State students took Chinese language classes during spring 2014.

This fall, with help from an Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Korean and Japanese was offered for the first time in classes taught by full-time faculty. Like Chinese language instruction, Korean and Japanese have made the transition from lab-based, self-instruction courses to those taught by part-time faculty to becoming a part of the regular foreign language program with full-time faculty. Asian languages are offered in collaboration with the Asian Studies minor within the Interdisciplinary Studies Department and as part of the Chinese Studies minor in the Department of Foreign Languages.

“Our Japanese classes were bursting at the seams, and Korean is growing just as fast.” said Olaf Berwald, foreign language chair. “We had to hire full-time faculty to keep up with the demand.”

From fall 2013 to spring 2014, the number of students enrolled in Japanese jumped more than 20 percent and the number of those enrolled in Korean doubled.

Terantino believes Russian and Arabic will likely follow the same course. Both will be offered in a regular class taught by part-time faculty in fall 2014. Interest in Arabic also is expected to increase during the 2014-2015 academic year as the University undertakes the “Year of the Arabian Peninsula” annual country study.

Kennesaw State’s experience with critical language studies reflects a growing national trend. The most recent study available from the Modern Language Association – a 2010 survey of more than 2,500 colleges and universities – concluded that the growth in the number of students taking courses in Arabic, Chinese and Korean was propelling the overall growth in the number of students studying foreign language. In fact, the study concluded, the number of students in foreign language classes between 2006 and 2009 reached its highest mark since the 1960s.

Foreign language chair Berwald says there has been some retrenchment in that growth in recent years, primarily due to budget cuts across higher education.

“Fortunately, this has not been the case at Kennesaw State, where there continues to be commitment to global education and to collaborations that promote greater cultural awareness and competency,” he said. “This University stands out among peer institutions across the state and nationally in the diversity of languages it offers and in the faculty teaching languages.”

-- Sabbaye McGriff


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu