Students settling into the third week of classes and cracking open their required readings may notice a lack of diverse texts in their curriculums. As a senior English major, I’ve only now encountered my first translated text in a course.
Students across all majors would benefit from the inclusion of required translated texts assigned by their professors. Reading foreign literature provides an insight into issues and cultural norms that American students wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise.
Only 3% of all books published in America are translated works, as highlighted by an international literature study by the University of Rochester entitled “Three Percent.”
Other countries, such as Italy, contribute 50% of their publishing toward translated texts, according to Alta, a language and translation service. This gives other countries an intellectual advantage.
In a 2019 survey conducted by The Council on Foreign Relations, American adults were tested on their knowledge about geography, foreign policy and world demographics. Out of 2,000 participants, only 6% got at least 80% of the questions right.
Americans have gained nothing but ignorance by not listening to other countries’ perspectives, and translated texts are a step in the right direction.
Professors have the power to take this step by including translated texts in their curriculum. Some USF professors have already done this, like my current Poetry II professor.
Going into my senior year at USF as an English major, I received my first required translated text just this semester. In my Poetry II class, I’ve been reading the book “Romancero Gitano” by Federico García Lorca, a Spanish poet, which was originally written in Spanish.
He spoke of the violence generated by the Spanish Revolution of 1936 in a way that made it sound like a beautiful sight to be enchanted by; a testament to how the government can seduce its citizens into submission through propaganda.
To properly analyze the text for assignments, conducting our own research on the Spanish Revolution and Spanish fascism was crucial to understanding the context within which Lorca was writing his poems.
Many of my classmates, most of whom are upperclassmen, and I were in disbelief as to how little we knew about other cultures’ forms of poetry, and that we’d never been assigned a translated text before.
If America as a whole won’t do what’s right for the education of its citizens, then professors should at least do right by their students and begin requiring foreign texts to expand their cultural knowledge.