Campus to Increase Number of Foreign Language Courses, Sections

Photo: Professor Ying Yang teachers her Chinese 1B class. The campus decided to increase the number of foreign language class sections.
Christopher McDermut/Staff
Professor Ying Yang teachers her Chinese 1B class. The campus decided to increase the number of foreign language class sections.

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In order to increase the availability of high-demand foreign language classes, UC Berkeley will allocate over $500,000 in the fall to add about 30 courses and sections as well as to accommodate about 500 more students, campus administrators announced Monday.

The funding - derived from increased revenues from fee increases as well as from increased non-resident student enrollment - will go towards supporting an addition of eight Chinese courses, six Spanish courses, four Japanese courses and three Korean courses. It will also fund one additional section each for 10 other languages, including Arabic, German and Tagalog.

In 2012-13, the campus will increase the $500,000 allocation amount to $600,000 per year in anticipation of increased demand in the future.

"We have seen in language after language, students being turned away because we simply didn't have enough seats for them in these courses," said Dean of Arts and Humanities Janet Broughton. "The key is for us to be able to hire additional instructors and open new courses so that we can do a better job of meeting our students' needs."

In addition to funding new courses, $25,000 will be allocated to the Berkeley Language Center, and funding to the Center for African Studies will support African languages.

The campus division of the Academic Senate and an administrative task force submitted final recommendations for foreign language funding to Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Chancellor Robert Birgeneau in January and will continue keeping tabs on enrollment demands, according to Catherine Koshland, vice provost for teaching, learning, academic planning and facilities.

The funding drawn from the 32 percent undergraduate fee increase approved in fall 2009 and the increase in non-resident student enrollment has already provided $2.5 million for increased reading and comprehension courses as well as lower division math and science courses this year.

Koshland said though the campus also hopes to increase its biology course offerings in the future, the campus first has to find the resources to construct additional biology teaching labs.

The number of lecturers necessary to teach the new language classes will be decided within a month or so, Broughton said.

According to Alan Tansman, chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, the department will hire one lecturer for Chinese courses - which turned away upwards of 100 students from courses this past fall because of high demand - and increase the work percentages of present lecturers.

"It's been hard to provide quality education in these very hard languages when they have too many students in the sections," he said. "This influx of money - which seems in the present climate nothing short of miraculous - helps us try to have a program that is really excellent and doing what it should be doing."

Only 5 percent of undergraduate and graduate students taking language courses are declared majors in the languages, though some majors - including peace and conflict studies and political economy - require foreign language proficiency.

Turning students away is "heartbreaking," said Spanish Graduate Student Instructor Lori Mesrobian in an e-mail.

"Though small class size is necessary in creating a conducive learning environment, it obviously limits the number of students able to go through the language sequences each year," she said in the e-mail.

Margaux Fitoussi, a senior history major, said in an e-mail that after trying unsuccessfully for two years to get into a Spanish class, she enrolled in the advanced beginner course this semester, but dropped it after struggling to keep up with other students.

"Because I dropped the course so late, I've had to scramble at the last minute in order to add another class," she said. "Everyone I have spoken to is shocked that there is no elementary Spanish course and I do believe that increased funding to the language department would be incredibly beneficial for students."


Alisha Azevedo covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected]

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