South Africa has 11 official languages, and I cannot get credit to study any of them.
Why? UR’s language department will not approve credit for any of these languages. I am currently studying abroad at the University of Cape Town where I wished to take a course in Afrikaans (classes start Friday, Feb. 5).
I cannot get credit because the UR language department’s policy is to not approve credit for languages it does not offer. I could get credit for a Spanish or German course at the University of Cape Town, but why the hell would I want to do that? That would be like traveling all the way to Paris and never once stepping into the Louvre or eating a crpe.
It makes no sense. I’m in South Africa, and I want to study its languages. Of course, I could take Afrikaans, not get credit and thereby graduate a semester late. My intellectual curiosity does not go so far as to fund an extra $25,000 semester at UR. Nor should it be required to do so.
The whole point of studying abroad is to learn other cultures and to experience their way of life. Language is arguably the most important aspect of many cultures. South Africans who speak Afrikaans, particularly the Afrikaners, are very proud of their language, which is closely related to Dutch (the Dutch were the first European colonists of the region).
Afrikaans is the most commonly spoken language in Suid-Afrika besides English. It is, for example, spoken at home by approximately 60 percent of people in Western Cape, the province I am studying in.
Students from other American universities can study South African languages at the University of Cape Town, and most do. I have friends here who are taking Xhosa, Afrikaans and Zulu. Other students, like those from Middlebury College in Vermont, are even required to take a foreign language as part of cultural immersion.
What makes us different? A UR student studying in Romania, for example, should have the option to receive credit for a Romanian course, despite our department not offering courses in that language.
Thirty percent of our student body currently travels abroad, so this problem affects UR students studying all over the globe. There are literally hundreds of languages who is to say we can only study so few of them?
As a general recommendation, the Students’ Association should meet with and actively encourage the administration and language department to amend the rules on credit approval for language courses overseas. Moreover, the University itself should take the initiative to change this backward nonsensical policy.
An education is worth nothing if it does not broaden the mind. For a university that prides itself on academic freedom, it is a travesty that it is so difficult to study that which drives our intellectual curiosity and satisfies our willingness to learn.
Otis is a member of the class of 2011.