“Liberal Arts” has been thrown around a lot in the college world but not a lot of people understand its meaning. How did liberal arts become so popular? Why is it liberal and why is it art? And where the heck does foreign languages fit in the picture? The Liberal Arts are supposed to teach its pupils “those universal principles which are the condition of the possibility of the existence of anything and everything” (wikipedia). Liberal Arts is actually short for the seven liberal arts which is broken up into two groups: trivium and quadrivium. Grammar, rhetoric, and logic comprise the trivium portion and arithmetic, music, astronomy, and geometry comprise quadrivium. Trivium is the first step in the process and once you’ve completed quadrivium, you’ve learned the foundation of philosophy. In classical Greece, Liberal Arts were seen as “essential” to the Greeks for a person to be a well-rounded responsible citizen. A Liberal Arts education’s purpose is to teach you to think. A valuable skill that will take you farther and enhance your life more than what a job gives you.
The liberal in Liberal Arts education has nothing to do with politics; it has everything to do with the freedom of ideas, of thinking that our education affords us. You gain an independence of sorts, an independence to look at the world with whole new perspectives.
At this point, you’re probably wondering: where’s she going with this? I thought this was supposed to be about language is an important part of Liberal Arts education. She’s barely mentioned it!” My apologizes dear reader, I promise I’m getting to the point soon. I want to draw your attention to the trivium of Liberal Arts – rhetoric, logic, grammar. These subjects are the basis of language
Have you ever traveled anywhere? Seen a movie? Read a book? Talked with someone? Maybe even just walked around campus. If you’ve done any of the above, you in some way, shape or form have interacted with a foreign language. Language permeates human existence and you’d have to live in a whole in the ground all alone to escape it. The English language loves to take words from other languages and them to our vocabulary. You get to meet and learn from a variety of fascinating people and enjoy a vast range of cultures.
Sometimes we forget that an important part of Liberal arts is right in the name “arts”. Language is an art – think language arts in school, English and foreign language courses. These build up your rhetorical abilities, introduce you to various cultures and a communication system that can hardwire your brain differently than your first language. Language is essential to this idea of freedom of thought that is so inherent to our Liberal Arts education. It’s a guiding force. How would we share ideas with others if it wasn’t for language? A person in America can take scientific research from India and gather new discoveries just by making the effort to understand the language it was recorded in. Likewise, an English first language speaker can read a book in Spanish and gain an understanding of a Mexican immigrant’s life. Language is an expression of joy, sadness, grief, anger, confusion, hope, longing, nostalgia, and creativity. Foreign Language is a necessity for college students on a Liberal arts campus because how else would these ideas be transferable to the world and how would our minds be able to change like they’re supposed here during our college experience? To be a citizen of the world, a human being, we must communicate with each other. It is a fundamental aspect of humanity; language. Being able to understand – even a little bit – of foreign languages opens up doors to a world of possibilities. Don’t you want to discover something new, something that may just change your life? Learn a foreign language. Trust me, it’s worth it