World Languages in the Liberal Arts
A liberal arts education prepares students to adapt and thrive in a world of rapid change, cultivating the development of the whole person, while resisting premature specialization. In the World Languages Department, we take the liberal arts to heart—we believe that students can achieve high levels of proficiency in their chosen languages, and that in doing so, they should also become well-informed, culturally open-minded learners who are prepared for global responsibilities and community engagement.
In learning new languages, we foster habits of healthy risk-taking that push us beyond our comfort zones, opening our students’ eyes to new views of the world. Students must adapt to the vulnerability of language learning, and once more fluent, can be exposed more readily and deeply into new cultures.
A liberal arts education includes studying a wide range of topics in an effort to see the nexus of various disciplines and areas of study. Our students all begin with the Latin language. In Latin class, in particular, we build these connections by not only studying the language, but also studying culture, history, mythology, art, and English derivatives of the vocabulary. The liberal arts are also grounded in Classical civilization. Thus by studying the works of Homer, Cicero, and Vergil, we directly interact with the origins of the liberal arts.
By studying the past in Latin, students better understand the present. They are learning the origin of concepts that reverberate throughout literary history. In all World Language classes, students practice greater empathy by seeing the world through the lens of major world cultures, other than their own. Travel abroad, selected films, and current events in the target language help to open students minds, and allow them moments of greater understanding and respect. These insights invariably invite students to challenge assumptions about their own cultures, affirming the best aspects, and making them more informed citizens, better prepared to make a difference both locally and abroad.