By Dr. Elizabeth Blood (Chairperson)
The faculty of the Department of Foreign Languages has voted to rename the department in order to better reflect our philosophy towards language education and our departmental mission statement. Effective August 1st, 2010, we will change the name of the department to: Department of World Languages.
Our reasons for making this change are several. First, the primary language we teach is Spanish, which is not a “foreign” language for many Americans nor is it foreign to many of our students who come from Spanish-speaking backgrounds. Further, in many American households, French, Italian, Arabic, Chinese, and other languages are native languages, not foreign ones, while English may be a foreign language for new immigrants. In our Department, we often have native speakers of languages such as Spanish or French who take advanced language, literature and culture courses in their native language, just as native speakers of English would take advanced English writing or literature courses. Therefore, the label “foreign” is not the most appropriate to describe what our Department offers to the Salem State community.
Second, we do not want our students or the Salem State community to view learning languages as something that is “foreign” or marginalizing, as something that is apart from the norm. On the contrary, we want the Salem State community to see language learning as something that connects individuals to the diverse cultures that create the United States of America, as well as to other cultures around the globe. We want our students to learn about other cultures and to learn to speak other languages in order to discover the beauty of difference but also the shared humanity that, once revealed, makes other cultures seem not so foreign afterall.
Third, with the recent growth of our language programs to include three full years of Arabic and soon two years of Chinese (Elementary Mandarin Chinese I will be offered for the first time in Fall 2010), along with Italian, French, and Spanish, the languages we now offer at Salem State are native languages to people who live in North America, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. While we don’t teach all the languages spoken in the world, we now offer enough options so that every continent is represented on our campus.
We feel, therefore, that the name “World Languages” is a better fit for us, and we hope you will join us in embracing this new identity.