A Q&A with Interim Chancellor Gilles Bousquet about Foreign Language education
Martha Landry: What was the topic of the event?
Gilles Bousquet: The point I was making was that in a global world, which is more and more interconnected and
interdependent, at first people might think that English is the medium of communication and superficially English is. But in fact when you look at the makings and the interactions in the global world, it is actually a world that is multilingual and multicultural. Every evidence I have from corporations, from alumni from around the world, support the fact that if you go out there and the only language is English, you are going to be missing 80 percent of what is happening in (local areas) around the world and those (areas) are really where the action is.
ML: Why do you think more students need to have more foreign language experience?
GB: If one believes that because the world is more interconnected and because people travel all the time, and because technology allows us to connect to any point in the globe, any time: If people think these technology advances and movements of people around the world create a more homogeneous world, they are in for a big surprise. The world is not homogeneous. The world is more heterogeneous. The world is more diverse than it has been before because people circulate. People, ideas, product, information circulate all the time. To be prepared to be successful, to thrive, students have to consider it a basic principle in their education. It doesn’t matter what language you learn, doesn’t matter if it’s a more commonly taught language. But learn it, stay with it, study abroad, intern abroad. Get to a proficiency level where you can be as close to fluent as possible.
ML: Is this an idea or are there changes being made in the foreign language department at Eau Claire?
GB: The reason I did this talk is because the faculty in the foreign language department are very eager to reach out to the entire campus and connect with departments to support and facilitate language learning. They want to get word out and connect with business, health, the sciences and other areas to work with them to increase language learning and teaching in those areas. I had the feeling they want to give non-language majors a chance to learn languages in a way that fit their schedule, and that means collaborating with faculty in different areas.
ML: What should students who are interested in learning a foreign language but would be taking and paying for unnecessary credits do?
GB: I am not a fan of requirements but I would want to do anything possible within the curriculum to facilitate, encourage and reward language learning. The ideal would be finding a way, without increasing the number of credits you have to take, to give enough flexibility so any foreign language credit or any immersion experience, internship experience would give you credit so you can apply it towards, say, a certificate. And credit means there would be faculty and staff supervision. I think there are ways to give credit for experience that improve overall cultural and language proficiency.