1,000 Language Certificates

The Center for Language Studies awarded its 1,000th Language Certificate, a milestone in BYU’s commitment to connecting its students with language speakers worldwide.

Taylor Drennan is the 1000th recipient of the BYU language certificate.

(Taylor Drennan is the 1000th recipient of the BYU language certificate.)

PROVO, Utah (March 4, 2015)—With so many returned missionaries and international students attending Brigham Young University, the campus is a hotbed for language studies and boasts one of the most multilingual student bodies in the United States. For five years, the College of Humanities’ Center for Language Studies has been offering official validation of students’ language competency to these students through the Language Certificate Program.

Taylor Drennan, a senior majoring in biochemistry, became the 1,000th recipient of the language certificate. Drennan received his certificate in Spanish, which he first learned during his mission in Argentina. To celebrate this milestone, the Center for Language Studies hosted a celebration in the Wilkinson Center Garden Court.

Ray Clifford, associate dean of the College Humanities, presented Drennan with his certificate. Clifford works with the Language Certificate Program and spoke briefly about the program’s history. “When we first launched the program just a few years ago, we anticipated that this event would happen, but not so quickly,” he said. But now this rate of growth comes as no surprise; a recent survey conducted on campus found that 70 percent of students spoke a second language – 85 percent among seniors. He further explained that the program stands out from similar programs offered at other universities. “The language certificate program at BYU is the only competency-based certificate program offered at universities in the United States. Others may give certificates, but they’re based on class attendance.”

Because the certificate reflects an achievement in language competence, it serves as an enormous advantage for students when seeking employment. Clifford related a former student’s experience interviewing for an accounting job; only a quarter of the interview time concerned actual accounting work – the rest was devoted to discussing the student’s language skills.

Drennan has already seen how his preparation for the certificate has served him in the workplace. He currently works as a pharmacy technician and uses Spanish almost daily. However, he can still remember a time in the past when Spanish was still foreign to him, and its speakers even more so. “The most important thing about speaking another language well enough to earn the Language Certificate is that it breaks down the barriers between people and allows us to understand each other a little more,” he said, explaining how language study has broken the feelings of alienation he once experienced when working with Spanish speakers.


Dean John Rosenberg, speaking about the college's commitment to language education.

(Dean John Rosenberg, speaking about the college’s commitment to language education.)

John Rosenberg, Dean of the College of Humanities, offered closing remarks and expounded on the certificate’s place in the college. “The Language Certificate Program reflects a deep commitment to help our students have the most profound learning experience they can during their time at BYU,” he said. “We feel in the College of Humanities that we have a responsibility, not just in our own college, but in the entire university.” Students like Drennan come from colleges all over campus to receive their certificate, knowing that it can benefit them in whatever career they enter.

Rosenberg concluded by pointing out that there are many reasons besides professional for learning another language, but that underlying it all is a deeper motivation, one that is felt strongly at BYU. He said, “We also learn from a deeply ethical commitment to be hospitable. To be able to welcome people on their terms. To be able to say, in their words, that they are important enough to us that we’ve gone to the extreme effort to learn the way they speak and to learn values that are important to them. To learn the ways that they see the world. All of those things are wrapped up profoundly in one and why we believe so deeply in language study at BYU.”

—Samuel Wright (B.A. American Studies ’16)

Images by BYU Photo