In a world growing more interconnected daily, the ability to communicate across language barriers becomes an added challenge. The Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures is working to offer language to more students as well as share why they believe it can advance students in their field.
“Languages are practical for their future jobs, and are an important skill they are going to need,” said department head Mary Vogl.
A quickly-growing program that is continuing to expand and offer students more opportunities is American Sign Language (ASL). When the program first launched in 2004, 22 students were enrolled. For the 2015-2016 school year, over 200 students are enrolled.
In spring of 2015, the department added a 200-level course and is looking to offer an interdisciplinary certificate for ASL in the future. A set date has not yet been determined.
While student enrollment in ASL is growing nationwide, enrollment in foreign language is not.
According to the Modern Language Association, there has been a 6.7 percent decline in language classes at universities in the United States.
“I wish students would be aware how it can make them stronger and more marketable,” said Frédérique Grim, an applied linguistics and French professor.
Vogl and the department are looking to make classes more accessible. This semester, the department, which offers classes in 10 languages, is piloting sections of their 105 language classes as a hybrid, splitting time between the classroom and the virtual classroom. The students meet face-to-face in class Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and complete online work Tuesdays and Thursdays. Compared to standard 105 language courses, which meet Monday through Friday, students are able to have more flexibility. It also allows in-class time to be centered around communicating and interacting.
“We’re excited because we think more students will be able to fit this class into their schedule, and I think that the online work that the students are doing (they) will enjoy it and (see) it as beneficial,” Vogl said.
If all goes well with the new hybrid courses, the department is considering offering additional classes in this format.
The department is also working to offer language classes specific to various majors. This semester, a new 200-level course, Spanish for Animal Health and Care, is being offered with the intent of providing a language element to agriculture and animal science majors.
“It’s very hands-on and practical,” Vogl said.
In the department, emphasis not only falls on the grammar and speaking, but also on culture. Beginning and intermediate Spanish students have the opportunity to take their studies abroad with a first-time-offered, four-week trip to Spain. This trip provides students with credits for two courses and allows them to trek along part of the historical and cultural Camino de Santiago.
Grim believes studying a different language and culture advances a person’s life.
“To me, learning about the American culture has taught me a lot about my own culture,” Grim said.
Freshman nutrition major and Spanish minor Alexis Darling said knowing a different language helps a person gain understanding for others.
“I just wish that more people would learn other languages other than English, because I think it is really important to understand other cultures and be able to travel with more of an understanding for other people,” Darling said.
Collegian Reporter Nicole Towne can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @nicole_towne21.