Some foreign language departments were forced to expand class size restrictions this fall after enrollment peaked in certain classes.
“Fall 2008 was the first semester in which we had to increase the enrollment numbers for each class because so many students were on the waiting lists,” Kellie Harris, an administrative assistant in the Arabic and Islamic Studies Department, said.
According to John Q. Pierce, the University Registrar, the shift in language popularity has developed over a few years due to the rising prominence of certain countries on the international scene, especially China and Arabic-speaking countries.
But the increasing interest in languages has not been limited to Arabic and Chinese. Professor Marcia Morris, the Chair of the Slavic Department, noticed a large increase in the number of students enrolled for basic Russian this past fall. She said that the fact that Russian politics have become increasingly more prominent in world news could be a possible explanation for this sudden peak of interest.
As Eastern European nations have opened up over the past five years, she added, Polish classes have also been increasing in their enrollment numbers.
Romance languages, especially Spanish, remain consistently popular among Georgetown students.
Pierce said that enrollment in entry level French and Italian classes has decreased over the past five fall semester as enrollment Arabic and Chinese basic entry classes have increased.
However, according to Professor Serafina Hager, Chair of the Italian Department, more students have shown interest in minors and double majors.
“Twelve new students have already declared an Italian major; there are close to 30 majors in the entire department and just as many or more minors,” Hager said.
Overall, Pierce said he was not surprised by the influx of students interested in particular languages.
“After the collapse of the Soviet Union there was an interest in Eastern European languages,” he said. “Now with all that is going on in the Arabic world, there will be a sudden rise of interest in Arabic.”