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The Rosetta Stone | Wikimedia Commons
The Rosetta Stone | Wiki­media Commons

The College’s revamped mission statement speaks of “our Western philo­sophical and the­o­logical inher­i­tance tracing to Athens and Jerusalem.” We teach the lan­guage of Athens, but where is the lan­guage of Jerusalem?

With enrollment climbing to nearly 1500 stu­dents, Hillsdale has neglected the oppor­tunity to expand its foreign lan­guage offerings. Foreign lan­guages are both a fun­da­mental aspect of a liberal arts edu­cation and a mar­ketable skill. Unfor­tu­nately, the college offers only German, French, and Spanish, as well as Ancient Greek and Latin. The college has a chance to grow our edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­nities, and Arabic, Hebrew, and Russian are perfect can­di­dates.

Hillsdale has always strived for diversity of thought, and stu­dents of all majors would benefit from having access to and under­standing texts in other lan­guages. These par­ticular lan­guages operate on the edge of our Western tra­dition. They are heavily inter­twined with Islam, Judaism, and Eastern Orthodoxy, which are often ignored at the college. Yet these sects and cul­tures are essential ele­ments of under­standing our reli­gious and cul­tural inher­i­tance.

The lan­guages of Islam and Judaism, Arabic and Hebrew, hold special sig­nif­i­cance within phi­losophy and religion. The Tanakh and the Quran are their fun­da­mental texts. A full command of these works requires a command of their original lan­guages. In fact, Islam holds that one can only read the real Quran in Arabic. Judaism and Islam rep­resent thou­sands of years of jurispru­dence, the­ology, and culture. Stu­dents cannot be ignorant of their sig­nif­i­cance.

Russian is espe­cially important for its lit­erary value. Some of the greatest works of Western lit­er­ature, including texts widely taught by the English department, were orig­i­nally written in Russian. Great lit­er­ature can only be fully appre­ciated without the inter­ference of a trans­lator. Isn’t this the reason for our advanced lit­er­ature courses within the current foreign lan­guage depart­ments? In Latin classes, stu­dents spend months working towards reading The Aeneid. With a Russian offering, an upper level class could be devoted entirely to reading Anna Karenina in Tolstoy’s own words. At Hillsdale, Dos­to­evsky and Solzhen­itsyn are as common as Cer­vantes and Goethe, and our courses should reflect that fact.

All three of these lan­guages, among many others, are of strategic value. For any student wishing to go into intel­li­gence, foreign service, or the mil­itary upon grad­u­ation, alter­native foreign lan­guages are crucial. Fluency can set a job can­didate high above the rest. Arabic is of critical impor­tance in the 21st century, and the United States gov­ernment has a dire need of fluent speakers. Russian and Hebrew remain important, given rising ten­sions for Russia and Israel. Many prospective stu­dents want to major or double major in a strategic foreign lan­guage for these reasons. Surely some turn away from Hillsdale to pursue their goal, stu­dents who could thrive at the College.

Current stu­dents here have repeatedly expressed interest in alter­native foreign lan­guages. Some studied these lan­guages in high school or abroad. The Inter­na­tional Club is evi­dence of this interest. In 2014, its members taught Bul­garian, Japanese, Korean, Man­darin Chinese, Russian, and Swahili. Offering some of these lan­guages as courses would help stu­dents earn credit for their efforts and learn at a higher level.

The addition of more lan­guages to our offerings would be no simple task, but no impos­sible one either. The German department only has three faculty members and still offers a major. If the College added a lan­guage minor, only two full time faculty should be enough. One would suffice for a 101 – 201 offering. Given that a B.A. at Hillsdale requires an inter­me­diate lan­guage pro­fi­ciency to graduate, there would surely be demand for new lan­guage courses. Con­sid­ering the fact that the College has 124 full time faculty members and 39 majors, the addition of two faculty and a minor should not be out of the question.

At Hillsdale College, we pride our­selves on a com­plete edu­cation. Adding more foreign lan­guages would open stu­dents up to authors ancient and modern and promote a deeper liberal edu­cation.

 

Weinrich is a junior studying pol­itics.