Advising for Foreign Languages

A number of your advisees will want to include a foreign language in their first year or two of study at Brown. Students who want to study abroad in countries in which the host language is French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish must attain a certain proficiency level before participating in a study abroad program. Other students are drawn to foreign language study out of intellectual curiosity, passion for the subject, the desire to embrace new perspectives, or to prepare for an international career. Whatever their reasons for taking a language course, students should be encouraged to do so as early as possible in their undergraduate career. The Center for Language Studies website offers additional information about Brown's language offerings.

Myths about Language Study

A number of myths about language study prevent students from taking a foreign language course. A few of the more common myths are listed below. Dispelling these myths in advising sessions can help students develop the willingness to shop and perhaps enroll in a foreign language class.

Myth: Language courses always require greater time and more work than other courses.
Like any academic subject, studying a foreign language requires time and dedication. Though a language course requires daily engagement, it does not necessarily involve more time and work.

Myth: It’s too late to learn another language well; one can only learn a language as a child.
The ability to learn other languages at very high proficiency levels does continue into adulthood. In fact, adults often learn foreign languages faster and more efficiently than younger people because of what they know about how other languages work. What may be negatively affected is the ability to achieve native-like pronunciation.

Myth: Taking an additional language will adversely affect proficiency in other languages already studied.
While students learning an additional language may experience some initial confusion between languages in vocabulary or grammar, this usually does not last. Knowing a foreign language actually makes learning an additional language easier. A correlation exists between second language learning and increased linguistic awareness: the more students learn, the easier it becomes to transfer skills from one language to the other.