MODERN LANGUAGES CELEBRATES 50th ANNIVERSARY at Cal U - NewsMODERN LANGUAGES CELEBRATES 50th ANNIVERSARY at Cal U - News

MODERN LANGUAGES CELEBRATES ANNIVERSARY

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Posted on March 8, 2011

The Department of Modern Languages and Cultures is celebrating 50 years of language teaching with foreign films, a salsa dance workshop and a banquet honoring students with a major or minor in Spanish.

The film festival features six movies with foreign-language themes. All begin at 7 p.m. in the Blaney Theater, inside Steele Hall. Admission is free.

In the series are:

  • Amreeka  (Arabic)                      March 3
  • Les Miserables (French)            March 16
  • Son of the Brice (Spanish)         March 17
  • Germinal (French)                      March 31
  • The Syrian Bride (Arabic)           April 7
  • Evita (Spanish)                           April 28

The “Salsa Night” will showcase dance instructor and performer Ed Ribar, who will demonstrate the intricacies of L.A.-style salsa from 8 p.m.-midnight March 29 in the Performance Center. Admission and refreshments are free.

The celebration concludes with an anniversary dinner honoring outstanding language students from 6-9 p.m. April 21 in the Kara Alumni House. Awards will be presented and a tango dance performance is planned.

Department History

French language classes first were offered at Cal U in 1961. Before long, Spanish was added. Over the years the department also has offered classes in Arabic, German and Russian. 

In the 1990s a series of classes in culture were added to complement the language classes and help students prepare for the Praxis exam administered to pre-service teachers. A state-of-the-art language lab was set up in Old Main and faculty members, mostly native speakers, were hired.

Library additions were made to reflect the growing interest in Latin American art and literature.

Today, the department offers bachelor’s degrees, dual degrees and minors.

Through the years the department has been a leader in offering study abroad, beginning with trips to Spain, France and French-speaking Canada during the 1980s.

Several years ago associate professor Margarita Ribar, chair of the department, began leading full-immersion trips, where students travel to a foreign country and attend intensive Spanish classes for two weeks while living with a host family.

Other students study abroad for a semester or more while refining their language skills.

The department offers face-to-face tutoring, but also utilizes online learning and virtual language labs that students can access from the privacy of their residence hall, off-campus apartment or home. Students receive their assignments and communicate with their professors online.

“I know it sounds like something from ‘Back to the Future,’ but that’s the way we teach languages today,” Professor Ribar said.