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The Value of Foreign Language Study

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The Value of Foreign Language Study

March 1, 2013

Recently a Cedarville University French professor attended a campus career fair and asked each recruiter if they would give more consideration to candidates who could speak another language in addition to English. The response from each recruiter, regardless of the career path, was a resounding “yes.”

This reaction echoes the perspective of employers at large, as seen in the Association of American Colleges and Universities 2006 survey report, “How Should Colleges Prepare Students to Succeed in Today’s Global Economy?”  Among the knowledge sets and skills that employers would like colleges to emphasize more, 72%  wanted more emphasis on “global issues and developments and their implications for the future,”  60% wanted more emphasis on “the role of the United States in the world,” and 53% wanted more emphasis on the “cultural values and traditions in America and other countries.” 

At Cedarville University, the goal of the foreign language faculty in the Department of English, Literature, and Modern Languages is to give students the linguistic and cultural tools they need in order to function effectively in other cultural settings. The concept of “cultural competence” involves not only understanding the grammar and vocabulary of another language, but also seeing how language shapes one’s view of the world and being able to express oneself in culturally appropriate ways.

Linguistic competence opens the door to cultural competence, which involves understanding the proper ways of communicating related to  non-verbal communication, protocols, and the underlying values that shape an individual’s way of interacting with others.  These skills are essential for any profession that involves working with individuals from diverse backgrounds, whether in the U.S. or overseas. 

The Department of English, Literature, and Modern Languages currently offers majors in Spanish and in K-12 Spanish Education, minors in Spanish, Spanish for Professionals, French, German, Western European/Middle Eastern/Asian/Latin American Area studies,  courses in Arabic and Chinese, and a teaching endorsement or certificate in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).  We have also discussed a major and minor in Linguistics, for students who want to study multiple languages or who are interested in career fields related to Linguistics. 

All of our Spanish majors participate in Cedarville’s study abroad program in Valencia, Spain, either for a semester, a year, or a summer.  Our students live with Spanish-speaking host families and are paired with “intercambios,” students from Spain who want practice speaking English and are willing to help our students sharpen their Spanish conversational skills. Our Office of International Programs provides opportunities for study abroad in more than 45 other countries, including Ireland, England, China, South Korea, Austria, South Africa, and Jordan.  Students are able to complete up to 16 hours college credit per semester at current Cedarville tuition rates while gaining first-hand experience of another culture.

As Stacie Nevadomski Berdan  states, in her article to students and parents-advising them to consider the quality of foreign language offerings when choosing a college, “No matter what career you’re considering, language proficiencies matter to employers.” 

Cedarville University strives for excellence in all it does, and compares well with Stacie Nevadomski Berdan’s checklist.  When your student is looking to make the college selection, consider opportunities in foreign language study. 

Dr. Loach has taught at Cedarville University since 1978. She teaches upper-level undergraduate courses in Spanish language, literature, and culture. She is responsible for developing a number of programs the foreign language department. She has also worked as a consultant for Educational Testing Services, reviewing and writing for the Spanish language web-based CLEP exam. She has conducted research in Latin American women’s literature, immigration, inclusive teaching, and translation/interpreting. She has traveled to Spanish-speaking countries including Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina, and Spain.

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