Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.


Mathematicians never throw tantrums about how much they detest the foreign language requirement. Physicists, engineers, historians, biologists, dancers, anthropologists, chemistry majors – they all study languages enthusiastically and have fun in the process. 

English literature majors, however, take the idea of learning another language as some sort of an egregious personal insult. They actually cry. With tears. 

I don’t get it. 


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2 thoughts on “Exceptional

  1. “English literature majors, however, take the idea of learning another language as some sort of an egregious personal insult”

    I think there’s an old folk theory of language in the US that language is a zero sum game, that is knowledge of a new language can only occur at the cost of knowledge of another. This probably dates from previous eras of high immigration where integrating people linguistically was a priority.

    One of the effects is the idea that knowledge of Spanish (por ejemplo) means diminishing their knowledge of English. Of course this is all nonsense but a lot of people in the US believe this (or act like they do).

    Also, IIRC your campus is heavily minority and they might associate early stages of language learning with prejudice they may have faced in school (if they came from non-GAE speaking homes).


    • There’s also another factor. Every school has its cohort of smartasses who think they are God’s gift to humanity and are of am excessively high opinion of themselves. Usually, it’s business students or pre-law. In the absence of those, the campus mean kids are English lit. I minored in English lit both in grad and undergrad. Loved the professors but the students who were majors in the program were absolutely insufferable. They all thought they were the next Nobel prize winner.


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