Audrey Maney ’14 first developed a Francophile disposition as a child while visiting her friend’s house. Throughout her play dates, Maney watched as her friend and the girl’s mother casually spoke to each other in French. Inspired, Maney enrolled in French in middle school and continued through college.
Her childhood memories might be why Maney feels “at home” in the French Department. “The professors are all incredibly sweet and so excited about sharing their love of the French language with us,” Maney said. “I became a French major because I became increasingly curious about the French language and culture and motivated to study it further.”
After studying abroad for a year in Montpellier, France, Maney is disappointed to return and find the College debating if they should eliminate the foreign language requirement for incoming First-years, beginning during the 2014-2015 school year.
French Department chair Catherine LeGouis said the College wants to drop the requirement to attract more applicants, adding that the College has altered its requirements before when it decided to eliminate the SAT score requirement on the application.
“It seems as though we’ve adopted an approach of dealing with problems by dropping requirements. This approach ultimately can diminish our academic rigor, which has always been a selling point for Mount Holyoke.”
In recent years, more colleges and universities are reducing their requirements. In the Five College Consortium, neither UMass Amherst nor Amherst College require students to enroll in a foreign language course. Mount Holyoke’s sister school, Smith, only requires students to enroll in a foreign language course if they plan to graduate with Latin Honors. While a foreign language course can fulfill the Culture, Humanities, and Languages (CHL) distribution area, Hampshire College doesn’t require students to study another culture’s language.
LeGoius also believes the large population of international students is being used as an excuse, “to justify watering down the language requirement for the rest of our students who are in fact the majority; these students are the ones most in need of language study.”
LeGouis argues that the foreign language requirement is actually an attractive feature for prospective international students. “Language study, like math, does intimidate some students, but study of both of these fields is, I think, an essential part of being an educated, culturally literate woman.”
The Language Departments are also struggling since Mount Holyoke College decided to dissolve the Foreign Fellows program to save money for other projects last year. The French Department currently has only one Foreign Fellow left, Alice Wiart. Next year, there won’t be any Foreign Fellows at all.
Though Wiart doesn’t know much about the changes to the Language Departments, she knows her students love her Friday classes.
Maney believes, “it is so important to study other languages, especially because Americans tend to be painfully monolingual since we have horridly inflated egos and expect everyone to learn English. Lastly, because internationalism is such a huge part of our community, I think that exploring other cultures and languages in the classroom is and should always be a pivotal part of the Mount Holyoke experience.”
Without her French major, Maney knows her life would be lacking experience and understanding. As an English and French double major, she feels that studying another language “gives you endless insights into your own mother tongue, which is highly valuable and changes the way you think and communicate.”