Make the “World” Your Major: Examining a Lack of Language at NYU Shanghai

Isabel Adler discusses how the lack of language classes at NYU Shanghai may be limiting the global experience its students seek.

NYU Shanghai boasts “make the world your major,” everywhere; websites, t-shirts, notebooks, even umbrellas. So if we all came here to become “global citizens,” why is it that Chinese and English are the only languages we can study?

The student body at NYU Shanghai is one of the most diverse of any university. Just the Class of 2020 alone has students from Zimbabwe, Albania, Columbia, Taiwan, China, the United States and anywhere in between. We all came here for a similar reason–to get a truly international college experience. Yet, we’re all funneled into one language.

I’m not arguing against taking Chinese, and vice versa English for the Chinese students. But what about Spanish? French? Arabic? All three are vital languages for certain fields, especially for those students on an international relations track. Yes, NYU offers us the Speaking Freely online program, a program in which students can take an hour long online lesson each week to learn or further develop language skills, but if the time slots don’t work in your schedule, you’re out of luck. I also don’t believe that an hour per week lesson would develop language skills nearly as well as an actual class.

The lack of languages offered proves to be problematic for some students during their study away, such as those who study in NYU Madrid. Hardly any students can get an internship there because fluent Spanish is almost always a prerequisite. Aside from the internships, senior July Xie also experienced difficulty communicating with her host family.

“It was pretty troublesome because we couldn’t communicate about food. She would call her son who speaks English to translate what I was saying,” Xie said.

The students that come to NYU Shanghai are bold, adventurous, and courageous, they come to learn new things. NYU Shanghai needs to stop putting students at a disadvantage and offer the “global experience” it advertises.  


This article was written by Isabel Adler. Please send an email to managing@oncenturyavenue.com to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Spectrum News

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