In an effort to better provide services relevant to the ever-globalizing world, DePaul University’s Department of Modern Languages has announced the creation of new master’s programs in a number of foreign languages that are currently taught for undergraduates.
The new Master of Arts (M.A.) in Modern Languages is offered for Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. Far from being a strict furlough towards specific, narrow language education, each program will allow people to “cluster,” or specialize, into a specific area of knowledge within their language, such as linguistics or literature. Mark Johnson, Professor of Spanish, is the new graduate director of the program.
“These master’s programs will offer very flexible curriculums,” said Clara Orban, professor and head of the Department of Modern Languages. “They’re open to students of all types of B.A.’s, not just in languages … Our hope is that these languages can be used as a gateway to a variety of global interests, not just as an end in itself.”
These new M.A.’s are expected to draw people from a variety of fields. For example, Professor Li Jin, the chair of the Chinese Department, expects that a number of students who will enroll for an M.A. in Chinese will be people already working in a field of business, who are coming back to “advance their language proficiency to a professional level.”
The plan to adopt these language programs into DePaul’s graduate school has been in the works for a while.
“We began formulating the current program two years ago. It was finally approved in February,” said Orban. “We thought this was the right time, as the college of Liberal Arts and Sciences is very enthusiastic about new master’s programs. Specifically, there’s a lot of interest in bilingualism.”
Professor Jin explains her specific interest in finally offering a master’s program in Chinese.
“Chinese is possible the most challenging language for English speakers. Research shows it takes 14 years to learn it fluently. The four years of undergrad education is just not sufficient, so we wanted to offer classes to finally develop professional level Chinese.”
As these professors see it, language education is growing as an essential part of today’s increasingly internationalized society.
“I firmly believe that your generation is moving into a world in which being monolingual or mono-cultural just isn’t enough,” said Corban. “The idea that everyone speaks English is an elitist view; oftentimes, only elites in other countries speak English. Knowing a foreign language, on the other hand, allows you to understand a culture as a whole, and interact with all strata of a society.”
Li also explains what she sees as further benefits of bilingualism.
“I have researched the cognitive aspects of second language acquisition. Cognitively, bilingual people are often more efficient in multitasking,” said Li. “(Language education) also allows you to look at things through multiple perspectives. It shapes your analytical skills as well as your global knowledge.”
These new master’s programs are expected to be effective in attracting students to DePaul’s graduate school, which has been dwindling in enrollment in recent years. Orban explains that the school will accept applications based on a rolling admission that will continue through next year.
“We expect to attract people from a wide array of backgrounds as well as people who are already in the workplace; they may realize that it improves their marketability.”