September 16, 2019

Foreign language classes canceled due to low enrollment

JOSHUA MAASSEN/ The Journal Jan Jost Fritz, German instructor, teaches his Intermediate German class. Currently Webster University offers a total of 56 foreign-language courses.

By Alex Brandt

Webster promotes “Global Citizenship,” but class rosters are showing that not all students share that same idea. On average, three foreign language classes are canceled per semester at Webster University said Paula Hanssen, chair and assistant professor of the department of international languages and cultures. Due to lack of enrollment, these cancellations mostly regard non-conventional languages like Arabic, Mandarin, or Thai.
However, according to the Los Angeles Times, there has been a 6.6 percent increase in foreign language enrollments during the past three years.
“It is very intimidating to begin a foreign language, and I think that is one of the reasons for the low enrollment,” Hanssen said.  “We don’t cancel a class joyously.”
Hanssen said campus requirements are flexible when it comes to class sizes, but generally classes under five people are canceled.
Despite the drop in enrollment which is normal each semester, Webster currently offers Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Spanish, Thai and ESL courses. The total number of language courses offered this spring semester is 56.
“Here at Webster, we have a huge advantage over other St. Louis area schools regarding our foreign language program. Other universities and colleges call us to see if we network with anyone that could possibly teach one of their classes,” Hanssen said.
As the need to become bilingual becomes more urgent in a competitive job market, Webster advisers are pushing students to not only consider learning a different language, but also to take advantage of the study abroad program.
Freshman John Berger is undecided as of now regarding his major, but he is currently taking Mandarin Chinese and plans to study abroad in China in the fall.
“Webster’s study abroad program was what made me choose the school over others I was looking at,” Berger said. “There are ten to twelve students in my elementary Mandarin course, and my professor seems to know what he’s doing, so I’m happy.”
Katie Alexander, a sophomore international human rights major, studied last semester at the London campus. She has been taking French since she began at Webster, but took a break while studying abroad, she said.
“It’s going to be difficult going back to it, but my professor is really understanding with me being gone for a semester and is walking me through it,” Alexander said.
Although some language classes will inevitably be canceled each semester, those with a group of interested students enrolled will not lose support from the university.
”If there are enough students with an interest in a language or class, we will look for ways to support them,” Hanssen said.

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