“You Cannot Really Learn a Language in One Month”: Students on the AUC Language Requirement

By Marit Grootswagers

Collage by Camie Clarkson

— As AUC Next works to finalize details regarding the future role of languages within the AUC curriculum, these courses have become a topic of discussion among faculty and students alike. Several faculty members express concerns about the potential removal of language courses from the AUC graduation requirements, but how does the student body feel about this anticipated change? The Herring spoke with students to find out.

Isis Hoekstra, a first-year Social Science major, says that the language courses, most of which take place during the January and June intensives, are “a fun way to learn a new language and also give us a break from all the hard work we did during the sixteen week period.” When asked if she thinks she acquires valuable knowledge after four weeks, Hoekstra replies: “I don’t think so. It is a bit too short; you cannot really learn a language in one month.” However, she maintains that she thinks the language requirement should not be removed because it is a relaxed way of learning. 

First-year Science major Splinter Douze has a different opinion on the matter, saying that the language requirement should stay “only if either Global Identity Experience or the Big Questions course would be removed [from the graduation requirements].” Generally, he feels that track-related intensives would be more valuable for students than the language courses: “Many students have trouble entering their preferred Master’s because they cannot fit all their courses; why enforce a language, then?”

Fien Steenbergen, a third-year Humanities major, holds a similar view to Douze. While Steenbergen understands why AUC implements the language requirement to encourage students to become world citizens, she emphasizes that, for her, the requirement felt very unnecessary. “I am Dutch so I had to learn a lot of languages in high school already, so this course felt very much like a high school language course,” she says. She continues that, “I would have much rather spent these two language requirements on another AUC course since for me, learning another language did not make sense at all.” 

Meanwhile, Nora Costa, a first-year Science major, says: “I think it is really cool that you are forced to do it [take language courses] because it is very important to learn new languages.” Though she admits that “it is weird that you do it during the intensive because you do it for four weeks and then kind of forget about it,” Costa says that “in general, I really like it because it is such a cool opportunity for me to continue studying a language that I have learned a bit in the past.”

For first-year Social Science major Josie Piech, a big issue with the languages is the difficulty of the courses. “I did Spanish A2 which was quite tough and challenging and now just the thought of having to do Spanish B1.1 is killing me,” she explains, adding that “we have a break of a year where we are not doing anything related to the language and they just expect us to remember everything and be ready for the next level.”

Calypso Gunnell-Jocye, a second-year Social Science major, describes herself as having “a bit more of a controversial view on the language requirement.” She says that “the language requirement at AUC is a good thing since learning languages is important.” Moreover, Gunnell-Joyce suggests that “learning one level of Dutch should be mandatory for international students,” something that she feels would be beneficial both for jobs and for getting around in daily life. “Most people know some English but it is an unfair assumption to expect everyone here to speak English … [and] to assume that you as an international student are coming to this country and do not have to make an effort,” she says. Gunnell-Joyce elaborates that learning Dutch can help students immerse themselves in the city and live in a more integrated way. “I felt more appreciated by the Dutch people and it was really helpful in terms of employment,” she says, continuing that “I feel like I know Amsterdam more and could step out of the international bubble by learning two consecutive levels of Dutch.”

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