A-Salamu Alaykum*

* Arabic greeting meaning “Peace be upon you.”

writingExpanding foreign language offerings, particularly such nontraditional ones as Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic, has been one step in enhancing and integrating global education throughout the curriculum.

Japanese has been taught since 1985, and Chinese since 2007. The Chinese program was enhanced with the addition of a full-time professor in 2010 — Li Yang, assistant professor of Chinese — and a Fulbright teaching assistant from China, Qian Wang. Yang notes that 30 students are currently taking courses in Chinese, and a May interim course will be offered in China for the first time in 10 years. Plans are under way to propose a minor in the language.

Kelley Reslewic ’12, international affairs major, took three semesters of Mandarin Chinese on campus. She then completed the semester-long IES Beijing Language Intensive program at Beijing Foreign Studies University in China, a Lafayette-affiliated program.

writing“Speaking Chinese is becoming an increasingly important and relevant skill for Westerners to have,” she says, “My study of the language and culture will pay off greatly. After I finish law school, I plan to use both my legal training and Chinese language skills, which is a unique and valuable combination.”

Today, global companies are looking for highly developed communication skills. “Several semesters of a language and cultural studies as well as an immersion experience of living, studying, and working closely with people who speak another language are sufficient to tip the scales in a job candidate’s or graduate student’s favor,” says Sidney Donnell, associate professor and head of foreign languages and literatures.

As a result of strong student interest, a pilot course in Arabic began last spring semester. The Guided Independent Language Studies (GLS) program was organized by Michelle Geoffrion-Vinci, associate professor of foreign languages and literatures, and Mary Toulouse, director of the Foreign Languages and Literatures Resource Center.

In the self-instructional course, students create an e-portfolio to record and monitor their work. They learn conversational and written Arabic through multimedia components, supplemented with conversation partners and grammar tutors.

writingA native Arabic speaker, Yohannes Seyum ’14 grew up in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. He took the course to improve his writing skills, and he was a conversation partner for beginning students.

“The course provided me with a strong foundation for my study of the language and is important to my plans to work in national security or the intelligence field,” says Jessica Aston ’11. “I developed my writing skills and was lucky to have the chance to study with two students who speak Arabic, enabling me to learn dialectical differences between regions.”

Meanwhile, Alison Finn ’12, a history and religious studies double major, studied Arabic this summer through an Arabic-immersion program at University of Wisconsin-Madison, funded by the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship she received from the U.S. Department of Education.

Lafayette’s department of foreign languages and literatures offers majors and minors in French, German, and Spanish, as well as a minor in Russian. Greek, Latin, and modern Hebrew also are taught.

In addition, students had the opportunity this fall to study Italian. The course is offered as a videoconference link with DeSales University, a member of Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges.

The characters above are Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic for “peace.”