The University of Tulsa offers three majors, eight minors and three interdisciplinary degrees in a variety of languages. Courtesy University of Tulsa

Native languages deserve more attention on TU’s campus

Unfortunately, TU has too many financial uncertainties to add a new, albeit helpful, language program.

At Yale University, students must complete a language requirement by either taking the required classes or placing out of the courses by proving their fluency. Many students have pointed out, however, that indigenous languages aren’t among the dozens of options. Alanna Pyke, president of the Association for Native Americans at Yale, said, “During my first semester at Yale, I realized that I could not take my native language, Mohawk, for any type of credit … Students have worked throughout the years to gain credit for our indigenous languages to no avail.”
In 2015, Yale started providing Yale’s Native American Language Project, or NALP, an extracurricular program. Through NALP, students may study languages like Creek, Cherokee and Navajo. Twice a week, students learn through video chat with Native American language teachers from around the continent. However, the program doesn’t provide any academic credit. Students who are interested in an indigenous language must learn it parallel to a credited language. Yale students have voiced their criticisms and emphasized the importance of learning indigenous languages. “Yale is sending a clear message to its indigenous students, which is that our knowledges, stories and cultures are not valid sources of academic thought or study,” Pyke said. “Yale’s disregard for indigenous people creates an academic environment that is susceptible to further acts of prejudice.” Some faculty have voiced their hopes that these languages become available for credit within the next four years.
The question comes to whether more universities, such as our own University of Tulsa, should consider making indigenous languages available for credit. Such additions would have their challenges. This would mean approving and teaching new courses, finding the proper teachers and so on. For a school that has been dealing with monetary problems on and off, it’d certainly be too much of a risk.
The importance of native languages shouldn’t go unnoticed, however. Though one could make the fair argument that these languages wouldn’t likely come into much use in day-to-day life, one could also argue many students are already learning foreign languages they personally won’t end up using. Plus, students don’t learn a language merely for its utility. A language provides insight into the framework in which people think. Given the historical and cultural significance of indigenous languages, learning a language for the sake of study should be good enough.
Right now, the University of Tulsa probably can’t risk taking on the workload that comes with adding these new classes. However, students could work to start extracurricular studies, resembling the NALP at Yale, and test student interest. If enough students show enthusiasm, perhaps one day TU could see indigenous languages in the classroom.

Post Author: Nathan Gibbons