Departmental Philosophy

Since the Department is officially called the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures the definition of these domains and their relationships define the scope and content of our discipline.

We live in a world in which nations are increasingly interdependent, and in a country that is becoming increasingly diverse linguistically and culturally. The Department is committed to helping its students to prepare for this interconnected world by fostering the development of intercultural competence through the study of languages, literatures and cultures of the world.

Learning a new language gives us a distinct point of view from which we can evaluate and understand our own language, as we acquire linguistic and cultural competence in that language. Language learning is the discovery of a new world and a new self. Therefore language study has intrinsic value in and of itself.

Literature has traditionally been the main material and vehicle for language learning. Indeed, literature is an ideal medium for exploring the possibilities of language. Through the study of literature, speakers and readers new to the language discover narrative structure, character development, and literary forms, conventions and values.

The study of literature involves analyzing literary texts, film and digitally produced materials and learning to appreciate their formal structures and aesthetic elements. The skills acquired by analyzing and understanding these works give students greater sophistication and add to their critical thinking. Moreover, the discipline and work required in learning to appreciate literary works enriches students’ lives beyond their academic career.

Although we affirm the centrality of language learning in one’s development of intercultural competence, we also recognize the importance of culture education. In this context, we define culture in broad terms to include, for example, rhetorical traditions, nonverbal communication styles, and cultural values that guide such communicative behavior, We believe that culture should be taught in both “culture-specific” courses within each language section and “culture-general courses that cut across language sections Just as learning a new language allows us to understand and evaluate our own language, so too does the understanding of another culture enable us to define our own culture.

As a department we do not advocate one single method of teaching. Our pedagogical practices vary according to the given language, the instructor's pedagogical training, preferences, course material, and the needs of students. The Department is thus committed to incorporating diverse approaches in our teaching. Such commitment is also reflected in our emphasis on the use of technology, study abroad and service learning. Such diversity of approaches, however, is grounded in the Department’s central goal: to instill in our students the basic principle that language is essential to the study of culture, intellectual inquiry, and life-long learning.