Are international language courses an endangered species?
Fewer students are taking higher-level language courses
Author: carlos prieto – contributor
As the University of Regina’s department of international languages decreases in students, it is also suffering from significant cuts to its budget. The department, which offers four different degrees along with courses in three other languages, has suffered major losses in funding allocations from the University. In recent years, international languages has reduced the number of courses offered due to cuts to the stipend budget for hiring sessional lecturers.
Bruce Plouffe, head of the department, said it is always a struggle to get any allocation of stipends for the department.
“Usually the allocation for us is zero, and through negotiation I have to make a case every time, and sometimes we are successful,” he said.
Students from the faculty of arts are required to take two language courses, and both must be in the same language. Plouffe considered this as to why upper level courses have lower demand than the basic levels.
The most popular program in the department, Chinese, used to have 35 students enrolled in the major two years ago, whereas it now only has 31 students. Japanese had over 20 students, but now is only taken by 15.
The enrollment is a criteria used in some cases by the University to allocate funds. Language courses, due to the pedagogy put in practice, are not designed to support a large number of students, which gives the department a disadvantage against others.
“You have to be faced with someone who says ‘You’re not teaching enough students. We are not getting enough bang for our buck,’” said Plouffe, who at the same time considers the current dean of the faculty of arts and the budget committee to be very understanding of the situation of the department.
Some science departments receive a larger share of the University budget because of their large classes. Plouffe, who understands the point that more students equal more money for the University, argues that languages are an essential part of the University’s essence. To him, a university needs a department of languages as much as it needs one of philosophy or anthropology.
The department is currently trying to survive. Even though the University understands how important its existence is, the management of the funds for the department, Plouffe believes, are slowly leading to its disappearance.
The department cannot replace retired professors, and so the numbers of courses offered are gradually decreasing. Starting next year, there will be fewer courses offered in German due to Plouffe’s retirement, as he teaches three courses per year, and will not be replaced