The Parent Programs office received a very good question from an incoming parent yesterday, and we thought it might be worth posting here because there are likely other new families who have the same question.
“My student has taken a foreign language for four years in high school. He is thinking about switching to a new language in college. What are your thoughts?”
As an academic adviser, here’s how I would answer that question:
The student needs to take the foreign language placement exam online in the language that he studied in high school, because he needs to have that as an option in case he decides not to change to a new language at Wake Forest. By taking the foreign language placement in the language he already studied, he will at least be assigned a course level in the language he knows.
Before he decides to study a brand new language, he should ask himself how much he loves to learn new languages. Starting a new language typically means 4 semesters (2 solid years) of the new language – verb conjugation, vocab flash cards, extensive classes, etc. If he really loves learning languages and doesn’t mind starting over, terrific! Or if he knows he wants to learn a new language because he wants to study abroad in a country speaking that language and he’s motivated, it can also be a good reason to switch.
If, on the other hand, he does not love grammar and vocabulary and intensive language classes, he might prefer to finish the language he studied in high school. Depending on how he places on his language exam, he could have anywhere between 1-4 semesters to finish his language requirement at WFU. For a student who places such that he is only 1 or 2 semesters away from finishing, it can be a powerful incentive to stay the course.
So my advice in this situation is for the student to take the placement test and see where he places, then examine his motivations and strengths before making a decision.
There is more information the Academics section of the New Students web site regarding foreign language placement and course progression.