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Modern Languages Stories

Why Study Another Language?

Career Opportunities
In an increasingly interconnected world, knowledge of another language can facilitate business and social transactions and provide knowledge crucial for success in a multicultural environment. This lesson is not new for Americans, although it has often been ignored. It is said that Benjamin Franklin’s success in securing French support for the American colonies, support that was crucial in the War for Independence, can in large part be attributed to his knowledge of French language and culture. An increasing number of jobs today require an understanding and knowledge of other cultures. In a world of business such experience may not be sufficient in and of itself, but combined with another subject area or concentration it frequently puts job candidates at a distinct advantage. Students with language backgrounds often go on to jobs of extraordinary interest and variety. But the advantages of language training are also clear in ways  that may be less evident. In an era in which undergraduate training may tend towards the pre-professional, the professional schools themselves (particularly law and medicine) have looked upon language acquisition as an indication of a student’s ability to think analytically and systematically to acquire a large body of information. In short, work in the languages, far from closing out options, keeps those options open.

Intellectual Interest
At PSU students can choose from a range of courses which vary in their emphasis on particular skills or on particular topics. Many language courses combine language study with literature, but many others focus on non-literary texts or use literary texts in non-traditional ways. Others use music, film, or television to promote language study. Still others are devoted to specialized topics in history and civilization. Often the line between language courses and topics courses (in literature or civilization) is a fine one, and many students derive special pleasure from studying topics of interest to them in another language. The challenge of such courses, and the resulting accomplishment, is a special source of satisfaction.

Study Abroad
PSU encourages study abroad in a host of foreign programs and institutions. Students must plan their program of study in advance and apply for credit through the Office of International Programs and Services (118 Whitesitt Hall), but the process is a relatively simple one.

Which Language to Study
Do you continue with a language you have already studied or begin a new one? Should you choose a language that is relatively familiar to you, or step outside of your previous experience to study one that is entirely new? Perhaps you already know the answers to these questions, or perhaps the following list of language options will suggest possibilities. The best place to get information about language offerings is in the Modern Languages Program. Faculty can discuss course content, refer you to specific instructors, relate experience of other students in their courses, and assist with placement questions. They can often provide advice about study-abroad opportunities or future employment options, or at least direct you to other sources of information. Don’t be shy about approaching such faculty, even if your questions are exploratory. They are eager to share their experience and their interest with new students.

PSU Language Options

Mandarin Chinese is spoken by over one billion people around the world. China will play a major role in world affairs in the future. Since China opened up to the West, opportunities have increased for employment in all areas. China is one of largest trading partners of the United States. Many companies do business in China and have long-term investments there. International businesses prefer to hire a person who speaks more than one language. They value employees who are able to speak Chinese and function successfully in diverse cultural contexts. China is also a wonderful country in which to teach English while developing your language and cultural skills. The experience is great, and it is something you will never forget.

Regardless of your special interests or the concentration you may choose, during your years at PSU you will feel the influence of France. Historically, France and its culture have played a major role in areas as diverse as philosophy, sociology, political science, cuisine, dance, art, cinema, and literature. Today, French studies encompass the literature and culture of the entire French-speaking world both inside and outside of France, including many countries in Africa and the Caribbean, Belgium and Switzerland in Europe, and our northern neighbor, the Canadian province of Quebec. Some students are attracted to French by the beauty of the language; others are fascinated by the desire to study or live in a francophone country and realize that to do so, they need to know the language. Courses at PSU allow students to study intellectual currents, including the history, politics, economics, customs, traditions, and literary and artistic trends in the French-speaking world. A major and a minor in French are available.

Have you ever seen images of Rio’s colorful Carnaval? Heard the sultry cadences of that most famous of bossa novas, “The Girl from Ipanema?” Moved to the rhythm of samba? Do you remember the voyages of Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan? How about Brazil’s thrilling World Cup victory? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are already familiar with Luso-Brazilian culture. But there is so much more. By studying Portuguese, you will learn about a culture known for its warmth, music, and poetry. You will find that Portuguese, spoken by more than 200 million people, is a language of both great lyricism and great humor.

Russia has long fascinated the Western imagination, with its huge land mass, its culture walled off from the European Renaissance by two centuries of Tartar occupation and then, after another two centuries, forcibly and imperfectly harnessed to European models by Peter the Great. In the nineteenth century this autocratic society astonished the world by producing several generations of brilliant novelists, playwrights and poets whose art touched depths of human experience seldom plumbed before. Here is endlessly fascinating material for students of human nature, political theory and practice, history, economics, high culture and mass culture.

Spoken by around 500 million people in the Iberian Peninsula, the Americas, North Africa and the Philippines, the Spanish language can claim a present and future as significant as its past. Many people in the U.S. study Hispanic language, literatures and cultures for practical and professional reasons. But they find much more than nuts and bolts in the extraordinary language which has given world literature great geniuses like Cervantes, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, García Lorca, Borges, García Márquez, several Nobel laureates, and a stellar cast of enduring fictional archetypes. Spanish courses at PSU draw on a history rich in adventures and encounters: from the time of Spain’s multicultural past, through the Christian Re-conquest and global expansion, struggles for independence and democracy, to the growth of vibrant Spanish-speaking communities in North America. Courses at PSU explore history, politics, economics, customs, traditions, and literary and artistic trends. A major and a minor in Spanish are available.