Academics: Majors and Programs

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Discovering the World Through Language (continued)

The department of world languages and literature gives students a global view of the world that puts the language and culture of others at the forefront.  We strive to prepare students who can order dim sum in Chinese in Beijing, navigate the map of the Paris métro in French, or discuss the complexities of the euro zone in Spanish while in Madrid. 

Our six world language options – Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese and Latin – address language skills while also illuminating cultural and social practices in other countries. The department offers specialized programs in French and Spanish leading to either a major or minor. Japanese language students can elect to take an interdisciplinary minor in Japanese Studies; and students of Chinese may take part in the College’s new Asian Studies minor.

"There are a lot of students who come with very good foreign language skills from high school who are interested in studying abroad, so they come to our classes to perfect their skills before they go spend a semester or a year in a Spanish- or French-speaking country," said Frederick Langhorst, associate professor of Spanish and chair of world languages and literature.

Plenty of Jobs for Language Enthusiasts

Creating a new generation of globally aware graduates, the program opens opportunities in teaching, Foreign Service, human rights agencies, social work and community service organizations, international corporations, international business and sales, consulting, interpreting, journalism, and the medical and legal fields, just to mention a few examples.

"Taking French at Spelman helped me in my first assignment overseas," said Ruth A. Davis, C’65, retired member of the U.S. Foreign Service, whose first assignment was Zaire, which is now the Congo.  "Perhaps the most exciting career to which one could aspire, the Foreign Service gives one the opportunity to represent America abroad and offers exposure to different cultures and languages."

Access to opportunities at home also helps French and Spanish majors shape their career paths. For instance, Spelman students can shadow language interpreters at Atlanta’s Grady Hospital.

The Grady Hospital program is also a service-learning opportunity for students who are required to keep a journal in Spanish and do volunteer work at the hospital six hours each week. There are also volunteer opportunities with the local Latin American Association, which is sometimes in need of Spanish speakers.

"I was glad to be a part of the program because it is designed to serve those who can’t help themselves," said Vivian Aquayo, C’2011, who notes that Atlanta has an ever-increasing Hispanic population.  “This department acts as a resource center and offers much more than interpretation ,such as aid to people who can’t ask for assistance themselves.” 

Go Teach English Abroad

"There are Fulbright winners from our Spanish and French majors who go on to teach abroad under a Fulbright scholarship, usually in Spain, but sometimes in France or in Chile," said Langhorst.

Also, students take advantage of research opportunities and participate in Spelman’s Research Day.  In Assistant Professor Jacqueline Alvarez-Ogbesor's class, students will make a presentation on the literature and culture of Equatorial Guinea at a regional conference.

Students Show Interest in Foreign Languages

"The interest in languages has increased over the years, particularly in study abroad, so languages naturally feed into that," Langhorst said.  "You’re never quite sure what a student will take from a class but when a student comes back from a study abroad experience, you can really see how we’ve made a difference."