(continued...)

Krauss has seen the Spanish department change for the better during her four years at Muhlenberg. More great teachers have been hired, additional courses have been added and there has been far more interest from students. For example, the Spanish Club, for which Krauss is secretary, has grown from a handful of members during her freshman year to 80 now.


Students and faculty celebrate the holiday season with their annual departmental party. In preparation, students make traditional Russian food in the home of Dr. Luba Iskold, assistant professor of Russian. Pictured, from left to right, are: Kathryn Flynn '07, Matt Jakubik '06, Aaron Solomon '06, Iana Arutunova '07 and Rachel Courtney '06.

Marx said that classes are focused on the four skills of language learning: speaking, reading, writing and listening comprehension. “This is the liberal arts approach to teaching and learning within our profession and our institution,” she said.

It is department policy to speak the language being studied in class—at all levels, Marx said. “If it is necessary to use English upon occasion, it is done sparingly.”

Students are learning far more than just a language, however.

Roughly half of all language majors and minors study abroad, giving them a chance to become immersed in an entirely different culture. And on campus, the department offers a variety of guest speakers and other events, such as International Night, which is highlighted by poetry readings, acting and music in the target language. Recent speakers have included award-winning writer Marjorie Agosín, a Spanish professor at Wellesley College and a literary critic, poet, essayist and human rights activist. Agosín spoke about Chilean poet and Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda as part of a celebration marking the 100th anniversary of his birth. The day’s events included a Simposio de Estudiantes (Student Symposium) in which Muhlenberg students in the Spanish program presented scholarly papers in Spanish on Neruda’s life and work.

Community service also is a strong component of the department—both locally and internationally.

The Russian Club, for instance, has collected school supplies for Ukrainian schoolchildren. In the fall of 2004, the French Club organized a fundraiser for the Haitian victims of hurricanes. The group held a raffle on Homecoming Weekend that benefited the residents of Project Pierre Toussaint, a home for boys in Cap Haitien, Haiti. Dr. Eileen Ketchum, visiting assistant professor of French and French Club advisor, said, “The effort was a success both in raising funds and in raising awareness to the plight of the Haitian people.” Ketchum said that the French Club plans to make fundraisers of this nature an annual tradition. Back in Allentown, where the Hispanic population is 26 percent, Associate Professor Erika Sutherland’s advanced course, “Spanish for the Community,” places students in the Latino community as interpreters at law offices, hospitals and other locations.

“I hope to channel the massive energy brought by our students to serve their [own] needs as well as those of the growing local community of Spanish speakers,” Sutherland said.

Marx, who also headed the language department from 1993-97, expects the department to continue to flourish.

She plans to explore the possibility of establishing honors programs and offering Italian as a major or minor—if current student demand continues. In addition, Marx wants to implement an annual symposium for advanced students, in which all language majors and minors would present their academic work to the community. English won’t be the dominant global language forever.

A new linguistic order eventually will take form, Dr. Kipa said, making it difficult for monolingual speakers to fully participate. That’s why it’s so important for today’s students to know more than one language—so they can understand and communicate with other cultures.

“I wish we took the study of language more seriously,” Kipa said. “You absolutely need it in the global village.”

 

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