Enrollment in Spanish Classes Continues to Rise Dramatically

Students Claim Language Gives Them Greater Utility

The number of students enrolling in Spanish courses at Harvard has increased dramatically, continuing a pattern set over the last several years.

An all-time high of 589 students--a 25 percent increase over last year--have signed up for Spanish courses, according to preliminary figures provided by the registrar's office.

Last year, 472 students were enrolled in varying levels of Spanish language courses during the fall semester.

The largest individual course increase was seen in Spanish A, in which 289 students enrolled compared to last year's 236, said Robin T. Ochs, department administrator in Romance Languages and Literatures.

Because of the surge of Spanish A students, two additional section leaders were hired this year. Additionally, Ochs said that every Spanish course increased in size this year.

In contrast, the total number of students enrolling in French and German has remained relatively stable, with enrollees numbering about 400 and 300, respectively.

The large increase in students studying Spanish at Harvard is part of a national trend that has occurred over the last three decades.

Nearly half of the 1.2 million college students studying a foreign language in the United States are studying Spanish, according to a study released by the Modern Language Association in 1990.

Most Harvard students taking Spanish feel it is a language that is becoming increasingly useful.

"I'm taking Spanish because it is definitely a valuable language to know," said James C. Lee '98.

'Might Come In Handy'

"I come from the South, where the number of Spanish-speaking inhabitants is increasing rapidly." J. Dalton Courson '98, who is enrolled in Spanish A. "Knowing Spanish might come in handy in my future career," Courson said.

Senior Preceptor in Romance Languages and Literature Nina C. de W. Ingrao offered several possible reasons for the large increase.

Not only is the U.S. an increasingly Spanish-speaking country, Ingrao said, but it is also interacting more with Spanish-speaking nations in business and economic exchanges.

"I think a lot of students are realizing the usefulness of Spanish in the workplace. As a result, I have many students now from the Law School and Business School. When they go for an interview and the person interviewing learns that they can read and speak Spanish, it is a big plus," Ingrao said.

In 1960, there were 179,000 students studying Spanish across the nation as compared to 229,000 for French and 146,000 for German.

Spanish enrollment surpassed French enrollment for the first time in 1970, and by 1990, $34,000 students were studying Spanish--about twice the figure for French and four times that of German.