Departmental Vision

The Gustavus Adolphus College Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures (MLC) seeks to inculcate in students, at beginning and advanced levels, the ability to use language to both appreciate other cultures and to negotiate the complexities of an increasingly intercultural world. The department places particular emphasis on the teaching of culture in all its forms: seeking to instill the idea that while the understanding of language has practical benefits, the study of literary and cultural traditions in a broad context will bring further rewards. The tradition of social justice is an important one, and we incorporate it into our courses, whenever appropriate, at home and abroad. As a Modern Languages department in a state that is rapidly becoming more international, both culturally and economically, the Department aims to develop citizens with a sophisticated understanding of intercultural communication.


Currently, all Gustavus Adolphus College students take a minimum of two semesters of language, or demonstrate that they have attained an equivalent level. The Department hopes that all students will take four semesters of language, in order to reach a level of proficiency that will allow them to function in real-life situations in the target language.


Most students entering the program are tested to determine the proper level at which to enter the program. This placement test allows students to be placed in the correct level. Students in the correct level are appropriately challenged in order to enable them to gain the greatest benefit from the course.


Student majors and minors are given the opportunity to develop depth within an area of study in the target language. Through the advanced study of language, literature, and culture, students are able to attain linguistic and cultural proficiency, while gaining an understanding of the history and peoples associated with each language. In particular, the Departments hopes that students will graduate with the cultural knowledge that enables them to spread this awareness to others, thereby increasing cultural understanding, intercultural communication, and an appreciation for the valuable artistic and social traditions that are a part of each language.


Students select an advisor from among the tenured or tenure-track faculty in each language section. In some cases, Spanish, for example, this selection may occur based on an area of interest within the program, i.e., linguistics, Peninsular or Spanish-American studies. Students work with the advisor to plan a program of study, select a study abroad site, seek graduate studies advising, or other academic topics.

Study abroad

The Department seeks to have all majors and minors spend one year abroad studying in an approved program that the student selects in consultation with his/her advisor and Center for International and Cultural Education. Currently, most majors spend one-semester abroad, and many minors do as well. Students choose their study abroad program based on academic interests, internship possibilities, and program reputation. Courses are selected in consultation with the advisor, and some of these courses assist students in progressing toward successful completion of the major. In addition, the abroad experience is envisioned as a rich cultural component in the student's study program at the College. Students are expected to take full advantage of the abroad program. Upon returning, students are asked to share the knowledge/experiences with the Gustavus community of students/faculty through presentations, portfolios, and course participation.

Teacher education program

The Spanish section works in connection with the Education department to prepare students for the teaching profession and certification by the State. Students in this program gain important linguistic and cultural expertise by studying abroad, in addition to completing the major. The Department oversees the instruction of the language teaching methodology course. Students gain additional experience by serving as language tutors in the Department and by working closely with faculty members in the student employment program. The Department hopes that, in the future, student interest in teaching will mean that all sections are able to participate in teacher education.

Tutorial program

Each language section runs an in-house tutorial program overseen by a faculty member and staffed by student assistants with the help of the language assistant. Here students can receive peer assistance, as well as have the opportunity to learn teaching skills by working with their peers in a tutorial situation. Faculty members conduct occasional tutorials for the tutors to offer help in explaining language topics.

Language assistant program

The Department recruits a native speaker from abroad who spends an academic year living among the student community and assisting each language program. Assistants oversee cultural activities such as film series, cultural talks, language tables, conversation periods, and work with the tutorial program to help language learners. In addition, assistants aid faculty in the classroom. Currently, the assistant rotates among languages so that only one section per year has an assistant. In the future, the departments seeks to have an assistant for each language, ever year.

Culpeper Language Learning Center

The Center unites students and faculty with the common goals of teaching, learning, and experiencing language and is key in helping to achieve many of the departmental goals.

Here students complete exciting and innovative foreign language projects using new technologies in areas such as: digital story telling, social media, audio and video creation, and text, audio or video conferencing with other students around the world. The Center also provides students with a number of materials to help in their language acquisition and retention process. These include print (magazines, newspapers, books, and other reference material) and electronic media (Online materials, DVDs, and Satellite TV) along with foreign language board games.

Each week faculty and students have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of workshops put on by the Culpeper director and Culpeper student workers. These workshops train faculty and students in the use of new technology tools, peak interest in foreign languages within students across campus and help explore foreign language teaching and learning potential. The Center also sponsors a number of events and contests, which help students to actively use their foreign languages. Among these is a foreign language short-film competition, a photo and art contest, and a cross-disciplinary foreign language computer game creation contest.

The various resources provided by Culpeper help students prepare for study abroad experiences and help with retention of language and further development after they return. In addition, as they actively participate in all that Culpeper offers, students are prepared to participate in a global world through new technologies. The Culpeper center seeks to become a campus-wide resource for students in many disciplines.