Department of Modern Languages and Literatures
H. Rafael Chabrán, Emeritus
Marie-Magdeleine Chirol Hill, Co-Chair
Lizardo Herrera, Co Chair
Doreen M. O’Connor-Gómez
Language study is desirable for liberally educated people because such study provides insights into other peoples and cultures. It also heightens awareness of language and generally strengthens knowledge of English. A concentration in Modern Languages and Literatures provides its graduates with both a specific area of skills and competence in language and culture, and a sense of the relationship between a particular discipline and the large body of knowledge that is the patrimony of liberally educated persons.
Whittier College’s programs in Modern Languages and Literatures stress both practical and humanistic goals. A series of graduated language courses permits acquisition of oral, aural, and written mastery of a foreign language. A comprehensive program of courses in literature and civilization ranges from general introductory surveys through period and genre offerings, to seminars treating individual major authors. This program provides, in depth and in breadth, the experience of another culture and of its modes of thought and expression. The study of Chinese, French, Japanese, or Spanish contributes to this crucial goal by nurturing the development of a sensitive use of the verbal medium.
As educators, we believe that learning languages is essential preparation for participation in the global economy. The USA cannot be a leader in the world while our citizens are captive of their inability to communicate beyond our borders. Knowledge of other languages is essential for business and trade and, more importantly, can be an important bridge to the understanding of other countries, cultures and customs. All college students must be knowledgeable about the broader world and conversant in another language.
Modern communications technology has turned the global village from a dream to a reality. The Department’s Language Resource Center and media ready classrooms bring technology to the student, making the study of languages, literatures and cultures more interactive and effective. Instructors utilize the Internet as a tool to bring authentic, meaningful culture to their students and learning is enhanced through exercises to develop higher levels of skill in speaking, listening, reading and writing.
Students should take a placement exam in their freshman year and also consult a faculty member in the language to determine enrollment level. The department also serves as a resource for preparation for professional careers in government, commerce, law, journalism, science, social work, women’s studies, bilingual education, and teaching, among others.
Committed to interdisciplinary studies, the Department also offers several paired courses in the College’s Liberal Education Program. When paired, these courses are taught in English and are generally numbered at the 100 to 200 levels.
Mandarin Chinese is the native tongue of approximately 1.4 billion people and is widely used throughout Southeast Asia as the language of cultural, educational and commercial exchange. The Chinese major is designed to provide students with linguistic and cultural competency to function successfully within a Chinese speaking society. With a structured sequence of language, culture and literature courses, the curriculum is designed to familiarize students with China’s long history of cultural traditions and to prepare students for study, travel, business and if so desired working and living in a Chinese environment. Students who major in Chinese may major in either Chinese Language or Chinese Studies.
French is the official language of 29 countries and is widely spoken in at least 10 more. One of only two languages spoken on all five continents, it has over 300 million native speakers. It is the 2nd most widely learned foreign language after English, the 2nd most used language in diplomacy, the 3rd most used language in business. It is an official working language of the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, UNESCO, the Olympic Games, the International Red Cross, and international courts. In addition, 780,000 people work for French companies in the U.S. making France the 5th largest foreign source of jobs in the U.S., while many American companies have operations in France. Learning French creates career opportunities and allows students to interact with rich and diverse cultures.
Spoken by almost 600 million people worldwide, Spanish is currently the second most spoken language in the world and is spoken by people of many ethnicities: White, African descent, Indigenous peoples, Asian descent, among others. 33 million people speak Spanish in the United States alone, where Hispanics/Latinx are the largest minority. Spanish is the official language in 21 countries across the world. It is crucial to the increasing trade between the US and Latin America, and is also spoken in extensive areas in Europe, Asia and Africa. Learning Spanish and becoming fluent allows for communication with a broad swath of the world and opens many opportunities for students. Not surprisingly, many students pursue and study Spanish and find themselves engaged with the vibrancy of the language, its peoples and cultures.
The program in Japanese offers training in spoken and written language, as well as study of Japanese culture through a wide range of topics, including literature, linguistics, history, philosophy, art, modern culture and communication. Language classes are conducted in Japanese as much as possible, and provide students personal interaction and communicative practice, including language lab, and opportunities to experience linguistic as well as cultural hands-on experience with native Japanese speakers through various activities and projects. Other classes are conducted in English. The primary goal of the Japanese program is to develop both Japanese language skills and cultural awareness sufficient to succeed in the Japanese speaking society, as well as to provide an opportunity to widen insight into one’s own native language and culture. Knowledge of Japanese is a valuable asset to those who seek opportunities in business, teaching (JET: the Japan and Exchange Teaching Programme in Japan), and government. The College offers a study abroad program at Obilin University in Tokyo, Japan. The courses taken abroad may satisfy minor requirement.