Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, John Pizer said students take foreign language classes for many reasons, including degree requirements. But he also said there is a handful of students who take classes in multiple languages to better their futures.
“Some of the engineering students are taking German now although languages aren’t required for their degree audits,” Pizer said. “They’re trying to learn more about the world and prepare for the possible opportunities they can have in other places.”
Even if a person decides to stay in the United States, Pizer said their English can improve from learning another language.
Physics and mathematics sophomore Manon Bart spent many summers in Europe visiting her grandparents who spoke only French, forcing her to quickly pick up the language.
During the school year and at home, the language of choice for the people around Bart was English.
“My teachers were concerned that I wouldn’t speak English as well as I spoke French which was not the case,” Bart said.
A few years ago, Bart visited Italy and was frustrated with her inability to fully grasp the language.
“I went online and I did Duolingo for Italian then took it as a class at LSU,” Bart said. “It was easy to do because it has strong ties to English and French.”
Bart said her experience with Duolingo, a language learning website and app offering 40 different languages, helped her understand how difficult it can be to learn a language one isn’t exposed to at a young age. The classes she took at LSU last year and her participation in the Italian Club increased her understanding of the language.
After grasping Italian, Bart said she wanted to learn a foreign language outside of those classified as romantics and picked up Arabic this semester.
Her desire to learn Arabic grew from her interest in Middle Eastern culture and history, she said. As a result, Bart is minoring in Arabic.
“When I walked in on the first day of class, the professor immediately said something in Arabic and the people behind me responded,” Bart said. “I could tell I was behind. I didn’t realize how different Arabic was from the other languages I knew. There is no Arabic equivalent of the letter M so I have to figure out sounds that equal that letter.”
By learning these languages, she said she developed an appreciation for different cultures and believes it improved her critical thinking skills.
Bart has gained friends in all parts of the world in her travels and had the opportunity to serve as a translator for the LSU in Paris summer abroad trip last year because of her diverse fluencies.
Although she’s unsure if she will ever visit or live in places where the languages she’s studied are native, Bart said learning new tongues is still beneficial to her future.
“When I graduate, there are a lot of business opportunities I can have with the Middle East,” Bart said. “With Arabic, I can communicate my ideas and understand the ideas of the people I’m working with.”
Speaking another language is common in other parts of the world. The country of Belgium has three official languages — Dutch, French and German — and English is often taught in schools. Bart said when she tells Americans how many languages she speaks, they are often shocked, but in other countries, her language skill set is considered the norm.
One of the most popular reasons to study a foreign language is for job opportunities, Pizer said. Students applying for jobs with multinational companies rise to the top of the job pile when they are multilingual.
During his time as chair of the department, Pizer said he has observed the integration of languages within other majors, such as business classes targeted toward communicating with Chinese businessmen and ROTC classes where learning languages like Arabic teaches students to communicate overseas.
“You’re forced to look at the structure of that language and get into the grammar of it,” Pizer said. “There’s an inevitable comparison between your first language and the language you’re now learning. Once you’re more aware of another language the way you speak and write your first language begins to change.”