In a diverse world, learning a language and gaining an understanding of a new culture is essential for obtaining a well-rounded education at UMass Lowell.
The Department of World Languages and Cultures provides plenty of study abroad opportunities for students, and within the department a community of foreign language blossoms. Department Chair and Associate Professor Dr. Carole Salmon said students at UMass Lowell can declare an additional major or minor in a language as late as their junior year.
For students who are interested in majoring in a language, the department has four options. Students can choose between French, Spanish, a combination of French and Spanish or a combination of Spanish and Italian. With any of these tracks, students will receive a Bachelors of Arts in World Languages and Cultures, said Dr. Salmon.
“So if you major in just French or Spanish, it’s 36 credits within the same language. If you do an Italian/Spanish or French/Spanish [major] you [take] 18 credits for each language.
So it’s basically as if you were going to have two minors,” she said. In all, UMass Lowell offers courses in eight languages: Arabic, Cambodian, Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, she said. Students can also complete their language requirement by taking a 3000 level seminar in Latin taught only in the fall semester.
“It’s hard to think of reasons why students shouldn’t [study a language] because I think everyone should,” said instructor of French studies Danielle Boutwell. “[Studying] a language gives students a well-rounded education because they are exposed to new cultures, different ideas, ways of thinking, different political systems and everything new they haven’t yet discovered.”
French and Spanish remain to be the most popular languages, said Dr. Salmon, but since the introduction of the Italian minor and the Italian/Spanish major option, the number of students has grown. Dr. Guilia Po DeLisle, lecturer in Italian studies, said an end goal is for Italian studies to be its own major.
“It’s a good thing that students are able to learn both languages. We had students in the past that were majoring in Italian/Spanish or just minoring that were involved in study abroad and had the possibility to learn both languages very well,” said Dr. Po DeLisle.
Some students may be intimidated by studying a language at a collegiate level because of the speaking component in upper level classes, said Boutwell. Matthew Tallent, junior political science and French major, said a solution to this can be found by studying abroad.
“Going to a foreign country and immersing yourself in the language you want to learn is unlike any other experience,” he said. “Not only did my grasp of the French language grow, but so did my confidence in using it.”
When students study abroad, they also have the chance to receive credits. Dr. Salmon was the first in her family to live and study abroad, and she says that it is essential for language majors and minors to really learn and understand the language and culture.
Within the department, study abroad opportunities are plentiful. Students can spend part of their summer, one semester or a full year abroad, said Dr. Salmon. Over the summer, the department holds at least two faculty-led programs in an international country.
This coming summer, one of the faculty-led study abroad programs will be held in Cadiz, Spain under leadership of Dr. Maria Matz, associate professor of Latin American studies and culture. Participating students can take three to 15 credits towards their Spanish major or minor.
“The University has come together to develop the study abroad experience and it’s been a really nice collaboration between our department, the college and the University,” said Dr. Salmon.
For example, in summer 2016 the art history program collaborated with the French program to study abroad in Paris; students who studied abroad took both art history and French language classes at a university in France.
Isabel-Baez and Tallent earned six credits toward their French majors in Paris under leadership of Dr. Salmon and Professor Cadero-Gillete. “If I could make it the whole time speaking French to everyone, then the classroom becomes nothing more than practice: practice for real life and the way I’d like to use French in the future,” said Tallent.
The future for students who study a language is bright, said Dr. Salmon, and many industries are inclined to hire possible candidates who speak more than one language. Options for bilingual students include teaching, working for the federal government, non-profit organizations, health professions, translating, working for an airline and more; the list is endless, said Dr. Matz.
“Working while speaking another language is going to give you an edge that [will] increase your marketability,” she said.
Students need to dream bigger, said Tallent, and they need to be prepared for anything after college. “Don’t limit yourself or your career to the Anglophone world. Be the employee who can conduct business in China, or the researcher who can collaborate with France, or the politician who can act as an ambassador to Germany. But above all, do it for yourself.”