Penn boasts a high percentage of international students in the Ivy League, but that hasn't quenched domestic students' thirst for exposure to the rest of the world.
Interest in languages like Arabic and East Asian dialects has increased over the past several years, largely because of the way the international landscape is changing, said College Dean Dennis DeTurck.
In the East Asian Languages and Civilizations department, enrollment is holding steady in Japanese but is increasing in Korean and Chinese, according to department chairs.
The number of students studying Chinese has more than doubled in the past five years, from 40 students in 2003 to 140 students enrolled this past fall, DeTurck said.
One of the main reasons for this increase in enrollment is because of students' interest in the changing world markets.
East Asian countries are more welcoming of foreign citizens than ever before, said Linda Chance, associate chairwoman of the EALC. This gives students a tangible opportunity to apply what they learn.
"The Japanese population is getting older, so they're looking for students from abroad to work there," Chance said. "It opens up a lot of opportunities for students."
For instance, College sophomore Ried Niziak is learning Chinese because he wants to do international business after college and sees a lot of potential in China's growing markets.
"It adds something to my resume as well," he added. "It shows that not only can I do math or econ, but I can learn this really useful language too," Niziak said.
Students also enjoy learning the language in addition to just the practical benefits.
"I don't know what I want to do after graduation, but I know I'd like to use the language because I enjoy it," said College sophomore Sarah Basham, who is studying Chinese.
"I would still be learning it even if it had as little use as Finnish," she added.
Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations is another department that has seen increased enrollment in the past 10 years.
Students studying Arabic have increased four-fold since Sept. 11, according to Department chairman Roger Allen.
There are now five sections of Beginning Arabic, compared to just one section before 2003.
"We've reached a sort of ceiling where numbers have remained constant now, but we're still way ahead of where we were before 9/11," Allen said.
College sophomore Daniella Mak enjoys studying languages like Arabic for both practical and abstract reasons.
"Language gives you a lens with which you can view a culture and current events from different perspectives," Mak said.
"With the emphasis placed on that region right now, it's important to get a sense of their culture to understand things better," she added.
Higher enrollment can also be explained by the increased encouragement from the U.S. government for students to take these less commonly taught languages.
"There's definitely been an increase in government funding in teaching Arabic," Allen said.Comments powered by Disqus
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