Last semester, we interviewed some of the amazing MC professors from the School of Business, the Biology and Chemistry Departments, and the English Department for our Department Series. As a continuation of this series, we are now putting the spotlight on the Modern Languages Department.
The Modern Languages Department offers majors such as Foreign Language International Trade (FLIT), French, International Studies, Modern Languages (a combination of two languages with a required minor), and Spanish. The Department also offers minors in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish. In an effort to learn more about this Department, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Beth Stapleton, Professor and Chair of the Department, as well as Dr. Amy Williamson, Associate Professor and Assistant Chair. Dr. Stapleton teaches upper-level Spanish and linguistic classes. Dr. Williamson primarily teaches Intermediate Spanish, as well as Literature Survey of Spain, Literature Survey of Latin America, Short Story, Film, Advanced Spanish Writing, Women Writers, Advanced Conversation and Composition.
Below are their responses to some of our questions about this department.
Does a student need to have any knowledge of the language they would like to study prior to working towards a major/minor in the Modern Languages Department?
Stapleton: All of our freshman level classes start with zero knowledge of the language So, in theory, no. If students do have prior knowledge of the language, we like to push them a little higher depending on where they’re at. But a student can be at zero knowledge and start in 101.
Williamson: No, our freshmen classes are designed for true beginners. We prefer that students with some background in the language start at a higher level than Elementary.
What can one expect in a typical, upper-level Modern Language course?
Stapleton: Sometimes you do oral presentations, sometimes you write papers. All the content varies – we have literature, history and civilization, business, linguistics, etc. So, it depends on the content. However, they’re all taught in that specific language. The mindset of our teaching is called communicative language teaching based on comprehensible input. It’s a science of teaching. We provide language at a level that the students can understand or comprehend and then we build on that.
Williamson: Upper-level classes are taught in the target language and are focused on content rather than skill acquisition. The instructor and the students speak in the target language primarily during the class. In the upper-level classes there is a final paper or presentation that the students will write or present in the target language.
How can a student get involved in the Modern Languages department?
Stapleton: As a major or a minor. Also, any student can study abroad. For BA students, it’s required to have 12 hours of language, but even it you’re not a BA, we recommend picking up a language as a minor. But, even if you don’t take a language, you can still study abroad for summer or semester programs.
Williamson: We have several was for students to get involved. There is the Voyager Program where current students serve as representatives for our department alongside faculty members at various events during the year. We also have an honor society, Alpha Mu Gamma, that plans lots of different activities during the year. Our students work in the Gowin FLLC (Foreign Language Learning Center) as lab supervisors and tutors for students in our language classes. We usually have departmental events for our majors and minors as well during each semester.
How should a student study for your class(es)/others like it?
Stapleton: Any language class, the rule is study at least 10-15 minutes a day. You can’t cram a language – you have to keep up with it every single day. You can also look at things on YouTube or watch movies to help. But, within the class itself, you should try to study 10-15 minutes every day.
Williamson: Language learning is a skill, and, like any skill, practice is key. The best way to learn a language is to use it! Speak the language in class, find a conversation partner, study abroad and make opportunities where you have to use the language. Attending class is also important, as are daily reviews of the material, keeping up with the assignments, and clarifying questions. Language should also be used as much as possible outside the classroom. Listening to the radio and music and watching TV or movies in the language are helpful as well.
What are my career options as a student majoring in a Modern Language?
Stapleton: You could do International Business with the Foreign Language International Trade (FLIT) degree. You could be a translator at a hospital or a law firm (or several other types of places). We have social workers that have used language, we have missionaries, we even have a guy who works for the FBI now. International Studies majors get involved in DC doing international relations.
Williamson: We have students who have pursued careers in missions, teaching in the U.S and abroad, business/banking translation, medicine/therapy/nursing, social work, law/immigration/INS, law enforcement/FBI and diplomacy. Language can be paired with any career. That is something each student should consider when studying a language.
What is your favorite thing about MC’s Modern Languages Department?
Stapleton: I love our people. I love the faculty, I love our students. I think that could be said for anyone at MC. MC is made around people. People in humanities put the human in humanities. We have really great connections with our faculty and students. We are a very open department. We like to give you face-time, not just “face-book” time.
Williamson: I enjoy being a part of each student’s language learning journey. It’s delightful to watch a student work hard to master a concept and share the moment when something clicks. It’s exciting to hear a student say he or she dreamed in the language or said something spontaneously in the language. These are milestones in learning another language and they are genuinely meaningful to the students.
The Modern Languages department is full of professors who are so excited to gift you with their knowledge and to come alongside you as you embark on learning a new language or on how to do business on an international level. There truly are so many different things you could do with a major in this department. It’s also important to note that a minor in this department is not only going to look great on future applications, but it will assist you in virtually any career path you take. I’m already using my knowledge of the Spanish language to assist me in my mission trips overseas and even in one of my jobs as a medical assistant.
If you’re interested in learning more about this department, click here. Dr. Stapleton would also like to extend the invitation to contact here via email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any specific questions about the department.
Looking forward to taking “Advanced Medical Spanish” in the Fall