Language study has historically been an integral part of Muhlenberg College's curriculum. The College's faculty has always recognized the liberal arts mandate for the study of language and endorsed it as a route to maturity, as an experience which not only provides linguistic skills and develops the intellect, but also fosters cultural awareness and expands one's view of self and the world.
The language teaching profession has extended the literary/cultural approach in recent years to include a more clearly identifiable, career-oriented transactional dimension. The latter is
the direct result of a growing need for individuals with advanced foreign language competence due to significantly increased international diplomatic, business, trade, and travel activities. In short, the United States has begun to recognize gradually that to remain competitive in the global economy, language competence, as well as literary / cultural awareness are essential. In comparison, non-English-speaking countries have traditionally had a much stronger awareness of the need for language competence and have encouraged and rewarded serious language study. Europe, where many people are already bilingual, if not multi-lingual, has designated this year as the European Year of Languages, espousing the view that language study is a matter-of-course in life because language, "the pedigree of nations" according to Samuel Johnson, is the portal to the world.
After evaluating several possibilities of improving the language program at Muhlenberg, the Department faculty last year proposed a new and more efficient approach to the College's language requirement. The new requirement, with entry level determining exit level, is student-focused and capitalizes on a student's previous second language experience and acquisition aptitude; it also serves the needs of all students by permitting better differentiation among their levels of competency within a two-semester experience. Yet, it does not neglect the literary/cultural dimension and allows interested students to develop their linguistic and cultural competence to the best of their abilities.
The nineteenth century novelist L.W. Lockhart saw language as "the inventory of human experience" while Charlemagne reportedly observed that "To have another language is to possess a second soul." From those perspectives I invite you to take advantage of Muhlenberg's language programs in Latin, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Russian, Spanish as you prepare for "a life worth living" in the new millennium in which we now unarguably find ourselves.
Albert Kipa, Ph.D.
Professor and Head
Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures