Photo Credit: The New York Times

Language barrier within QC language classes

4 mins read

“[Queens] is the capital of language density of the world,” stated Daniel Kaufman, an adjunct professor of linguistics at the Graduate Center of CUNY.  However, the language density is not represented within the CUNY schools in Queens nor in our public schools in New York City.

New York City is home to as many as 800 languages.

Most of the languages spoken reside in Queens: approximately 138 languages are residents of Queens, which is listed as the most diverse borough, according to a 2000 Census.

Queens College offers a lot of language classes, but not enough to reflect the actual borough itself. Those lacking representation in Queens College might find better courses at LaGuardia Community College. The languages not reflected in Queens College’s courses but widely known in the borough are American Sign Language, Bengali, Tibetan, Uzbek and Polish.

A language class is required to graduate from Queens College and many students usually take an introductory class to linguistics.

“I took linguistics because the language I really wanted to learn, Hindi, wasn’t offered at Queens College,” said Neil Purohit, a QC senior pursuing a psychology major. “QC is located in one of the most diverse areas in the entire world, and it’s surprising that more languages aren’t represented in the course offerings.”

Learning one language can potentially help learn other languages as well. If Purohit had the opportunity to learn Hindi, he could also learn Bengali and Urdu.

Purohit continued: “Additionally, considering the fantastic speech pathology department at Queens College, it’s unbelievable that we don’t offer any courses in American Sign Language!”

Although American Sign Language is not offered at Queens College, Elementary and Secondary Education are popular majors here.

About twenty thousand students in New York State are deaf or hearing impaired, according to Information and Reporting Services (IRS) in New York.

Queens is one of the best places in the world in terms of languages and diversity. It is not uncommon to be in a room where people are speaking multiple different languages simultaneously.

Siddharth Malviya, a sophomore with a biology major said, “unrepresented languages may not hit home for everyone – it’s important to represent people of all colors and cultures..”

Recently, Queens College offered Asian American Studies as a minor. This seems like a good step into reflecting Queens’ diversity since this major represents about twenty six percent of the student body. Moreover, Queens represents about twenty seven percent of all Asian American citizens living in the five boroughs.

Riya Kaushal, a junior majoring in anthropology said: “I think since Queens is the most diverse borough there should be more representations of the various languages in colleges. Students should be given the opportunity to learn a new language. Learning and knowing another language has so many cognitive benefits and it has positive social implications. It’s also a plus to put on your resume, because employers prefer bilingual candidates. I think if I had the time I would definitely take Hindi. Although some languages aren’t offered, I think many people do speak their native languages on campuses because they enjoy the sounds and it’s something they identify with.”

Queens College offers a lot with the burgeoning Asian American Studies minor as well as other offerings, but overall it could improve in its Language Department.

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