Mandatory language classes are very stressful

In Georgia State Perimeter’s humanities department, the pathways require students to take a mandatory language class. Photo by Harry Wyman | The Signal

In college, there comes a time when you finally decide what you are going to do for a career. There are specific pathways to take before you can get an official degree. Specific majors have different requirements for students to fulfill. One of the types of conditions is that you have to take a foreign language class. Some of the pathways that have this requirement are ‘Philosophy, Politics, and Economics’ as well as ‘Political Science’.

Because of these mandatory classes, students find completing their pathway more stressful. People do not focus on understanding the material when there is just pressure to pass.

In my experience, I focused on passing more than learning something new. Once students got a passing test grade, everything they studied and committed to memory would just disappear. Because for many students, the grade was all that mattered. 

The priority of passing the class is all that matters. You can study the subject for hours, but the pressure remains if you pass or not. Then, all the material leaves your brain after passing that particular section because the task was fulfilled. 

If you have a learning disability such as dyslexia, it is more challenging to understand the language class you are currently taking. For example, some people who have dyslexia write backward. This is to show how they think or see words inside their heads.  

But let’s put this into perspective. As someone who already struggles with their first language, how can you truly understand a class focused on a second language?  

Someone with dyslexia finds it harder to understand the textbook format, which makes studying challenging. Mandating a language class for unrelated majors makes things unnecessarily complicated. It makes learning the elementary level of that language ten times harder than it usually has to be. 

Finally, this constant reminder that learning a second language could land you better job opportunities makes things more memorable. Professors and advisors regularly told me this. You would probably think that taking these classes allows you to learn the language, but this simply is not the case. The constant reminder of the number of opportunities that open up if you study a language makes things more stressful for many students, making it harder to pass.   

Because of the way specific pathways are, some students leave with certain expectations of the working world. Even though the job opportunities are not taught to us in that class, it becomes a haunting reminder of how things are in society. You have to be talented in certain things. Sure, you can graduate from an Ivy League school.

Still, if someone else graduated from a typical college but is fluent in Spanish, for example, the other person would most likely get the job. This is because being fluent in a language used almost everywhere is a skill to have if you want to branch out in different places. 

But that doesn’t negate the added stress that comes with making it a mandatory class.

Pathways are not like having a major — it is training to get to that place. So when your pathway says there is a mandatory language class, things get more challenging.

You are constantly reminded you need to pass these classes to move on with their pathway plan. If you do not get at least a C in the grade book, you fail. Even with a C, people will not think you have tried hard enough to pass the class. 

Mandatory language classes are stressful and unnecessary. The constant pressure to pass and the opportunity to be fluent in a particular language is beyond stressful.