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Funny... I don't feel dead! If you've forgotten JMC - You weren't there!

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How would you describe the JMC expectation about language proficiency?


I waived it; I only took one quarter of French, having taken two years in high school.

I am only very marginal in French, and have only been to France twice.

But I still do try to travel internationally as much as I can - I went to Japan for the first time just two weeks ago.

- David Brigode (Student: 1969 - 1973)


This was a requirement that never should have been relaxed, for increasingly in today’s global economy proficiency in more than one language is both a competitive asset and an aid to understanding other cultures.

- Paul M. Buehrle (Student: 1969 - 1973)


I think that Justin Morrill College was way ahead of its time in instilling in students the ability to think in another language. This allows us today to understand that there are other cultures, there are other ways to look at the world, and that America is not the only country on the planet. It also bonded students and faculty together in a true learning experience that I have never experienced since in my later educational pursuits. I firmly believe that college students should be required to take a foreign language early on in their college learning experience.

- Dennis Hall (Student: 1965 - 1969)


One of my best JMC lessons came early: in my first semester I enrolled in the 10-hour-a-week French program. I didn't need it: I'd taken four years of German in high school and passed that proficiency exam. I worked *very* hard in that class, with not so much success. (I really struggled to integrate French pronunciation and syntax, often substituting German.) At the end of the semester, Keith Williams told me that there were probably other, more valuable things I might do with ten hours a week than continue to butcher the French language (my thirty-years-later paraphrase). I had done well in high school so struggling to even pass was a very valuable experience. I would wish it for all teachers.

- Mark Harris (Student: 1973 - 1977)


I never got very proficient, although I'm glad for my French now. I actually use it in my job. Although we had to take the language classes, I think the proficiency element had by the mid-70's begun to be de-emphasized.

- Steve (Taggart) Johgart (Student: 1973 - 1975)


I think it was excellent, even though it proved to be my immediate undoing.

- Leonard Kaufmann (Student: 1967 - 1969)


I personally loved the intensive language program. I studied in Switzerland through JMC, I ended up majoring in French, and taught in a French-speaking school in Africa for three years. I think a language requirement is necessary in today’s world, but the intensive program should probably be an option rather than a requirement.

- Carl Koivuniemi (Student: 1965 - 1969)


Very important. It also made us more aware that we lived in a much larger world than the state of Michigan.

- Suzanne Levy (Student: 1965 - 1969)


Quaint, and (except for the time spent overseas in an intensive daily use) too damned academic. Reading about the "Generation of '98" (that's 1898), the works of Lorca, and writing a sonata in Spanish were of but little use when it came to immersion in Spanish-speaking cultures. I had had the best instructors, experienced the highest level of training that JMC could provide, and, on my own initiative, independently studied for weeks in a language lab before going to Colombia. Nonetheless, I fumbled badly in initial spontaneous interchanges once there. After about six weeks, when I began to dream in Spanish, then I was comfortable. Much later, and presently, I am complimented on my Spanish and my accent by native speakers I've encountered, but that came about solely as a product of the overseas experience - a perhaps unintended benefit of my JMC requirements.

- William McGarvey (Student: 1966 - 1971)



I found it very frustrating. I understand the intent, but haven't made any use of it. Due to my difficulty in learning another language, it was very frustrating freshman year. I would wonder if it would be better to focus on learning about other cultures and countries rather than focusing on the language for those of us who are language-challenged.

- Joe Milkes (Student: 1967 - 1971)


Did not exist when I was there.

- Pamela Oestreicher (JMC faculty: 1976 - 1978)


The language requirement was dropped the year I entered. I know I thought it was cool when I applied for the program. I thought I was going to be a Russian interpreter! I do think languages are much more important than Americans want to believe and this would be a good thing to require.

- Cleo Parker (Student: 1974 - 1978)


Ultimately, the expectation was achieved only in a very few students like myself. I think JMC and the University did not do a good job of selling the focus on foreign language study as the essential key to understanding foreign cultures and recruiting students willing and able to take up the challenge of mastering a foreign language.

Mastery of foreign languages is a national defense priority. It is particularly essential that Americans master foreign languages other than those spoken in the homes in which they were raised. While I was taught largely by émigrés and their sons and daughters, America cannot depend on them alone for language expertise. There are not enough émigrés, and some have challenges analyzing conditions in their homeland objectively.

I would like to see the new residence college offer intensive training in foreign languages, including non-European languages and at least one dialect of Arabic. The residence college setting supports language study and practice.

- Charles K. Roberts (Student: 1966 - 1970)


Fine - we all need foreign language comptency! Of course, if our country were smarter, we would all learn foreign language in preschool, with a fraction of the cost/effort. Can MSU be a leader in promoting preschool foreign language?

- Nancy R. Shaffer (Student: 1972 - 1975)


Zealous. I am a "Russian Program Survivor" and still dream in Russian all these years later.

- Deborah Sirotkin Butler (JMC Student: 1966 - 1970)


The international/language aptitude theme in JMC did not play an important role for me.

My French courses seemed better than those I heard about in the regular university, and they gave me a basic proficiency, but I did not follow up on them and I do not think they played the major role in my education that some of the program designers hoped.

- John Stick (Student: 1971 - 1975)


I was happy with it and did not have difficulty meeting the requirements. I took 21 credits of French in my first two years of JMC. Unfortunately, once I got to the university French department I did feel that the faculty cared at all whether the students were learning or not, and so I discontinued the study.

- Darlene Swartz-Hubsky (Student: 1969 - 1973)


Given that JMC started with a focus in international affairs it was important. I still think it had other roles. The language requirement was hard work. It weeded out the dilettantes. My Spanish class left me with a life long appreciation of Spanish and Latin American literature.

- Robert Walter (Student: 1969 - 1974)


This was the JMC requirement which gave me pause when considering coming to MSU. I'd had two years of high school Spanish, and I frankly didn't foresee any certain need for foreign language skills once I got past college. Nonetheless, I understood (and still appreciate) the intent of the requirement, and I fulfilled it.

By the time of my arrival in 1969, we were allowed to satisfy the 2-year proficiency requirement through University coursework (i.e., 2 years in the University rather than 1 year in JMC). I was one of the minority who elected this option, because I wanted to free up more time (per quarter) for other courses. I took 2 years of University Russian, which I only used a handful of times after leaving MSU. However, I found the appreciation of foreign language inculcated by my MSU Russian studies would serve me well later in terms of (a) appreciating international issues; (b) appreciating and accommodating communicational issues in dealing with non-English speakers; and (c) preparing me for the cultural and linguistic challenges of living and working in a foreign country (Sweden: 1988 - 1993)

The foreign language requirement was probably the single JMC feature which motivated the most people (that I knew) to transfer out of JMC into the general University. I had multiple peers (1969 - 1973) whose MSU experience was predominantly within JMC, but who ended up with University degrees on the basis of problems with JMC's foreign language requirement.

JMC's intensive 1-year language program was a 'flagship product line' which attracted a lot of students not otherwise interested in the JMC concept or liberal education in general. I knew multiple peers (1969 - 1973) who attended JMC for the express purpose of taking the highly-regarded JMC language courses before transferring on out to the general University. The loss of the intensive language programs circa 1975 has often been cited as a crippling blow which marked JMC for eventual death.

Having said all that, I still consider foreign language study a critical thing to which today's undergrads should be 'exposed'. I'm not sure I would mandate the strict 2-year requirement JMC had, but I wouldn't oppose it. I guess what I'm trying to say is that some foreign language requirement should be intrinsic to a new 'liberal arts and sciences' curriculum, but it could well be more liberally defined than was the case in JMC.

Personally, I've come to see the foreign language requirement more in terms of its representing a 'personal expression / communication skill' rather than an exercise in international outlook. From this (admittedly idiosyncratic) perspective, I could see a requirement liberalized to allow for (a) a 2-year-level demonstrated extant proficiency or 1-year (perhaps intensive) new proficiency plus (b) a 1-year proficiency in another 'method or system for communication' (e.g., mathematics, a computer programming language). This generalizes the previous foreign language requirement to something more like 'a demonstrable 2-year proficiency equivalence in natural or synthetic languages / communication systems.'

This doesn't mean I don't appreciate or wouldn't approve of a language requirement more consistent with the 'international outlook' theme. I could easily see a '2-year total' proficiency option consisting of demonstrated 1-year proficiency in each of 2 foreign languages. Another option I'd find reasonable would be a minimum of 1-year proficiency in a foreign language coupled with cultural, historical, or other area studies clearly related to that language's speaking population (totaling 2 years language + area studies overall).

- Randy Whitaker (Student: 1969 - 1973)


I don't really know how to describe it. Thinking back, there may have been too much concentration. I know many who felt like they were overwhelmed by it, had to learn too quickly and didn't really like it. I remember the first couple of terms that I had never heard so much French spoken in my life. I really don't know if the language thing worked at JMC.

- Larry Wickett (Student: 1965 - 1969; ongoing JMC experience til 1976)

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