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Modern Languages and Literatures Department Gets New Name

The Modern Languages and Literatures Department has a new name – World Languages and Cultures.

In fall 2017, the department officially changed its name to World Languages and Cultures to adapt to current changes and trends among language departments in universities across the country.

According to Department Chair Dr. John Thompson, the department’s name change has not changed the major’s curriculum. 

World Languages and Culture Students with a project
Students show off what they have learned after a Japanese 
calligraphy workshop in the Language Lab. 

“Modern languages and literatures reflects what we do because we believe in teaching literature, but we believe that literature is a part of culture,” said Thompson.

The department will continue to teach literature as an aspect of culture, but the department’s former name did not encompass every aspect of culture the department aims to teach.

“We changed the name so it would be broader,” said Thompson. “We want to be more inclusive by including all aspects of culture in the name.”

In addition to the name change, the department also created a new opportunity for bilingual students. The department partnered with the Cal Poly School of Education to develop a new single-subject teaching credential for bilingual students.

Dr. Silvia Marijuan, world languages and cultures professor, helped develop the credential so students would have the opportunity to teach another language in schools.

“When I came to Cal Poly, I thought we needed to create more opportunities for the students and for the world languages and cultures majors,” said Marijuan. “This will help the Latino community on campus because they are bilingual, and they have a lot of linguistic skills.”

Currently, two students are enrolled in the language single-subject credential program. Both students are postgraduate Spanish speakers hoping to pursue a career teaching Spanish.

Students working on a project in German class
Students working together on a project in German class.

“It’s becoming more commonplace for people to learn another language because they think it’ll benefit them later to be bilingual,” said Jasmine Elliot, who is currently enrolled in the credential program. “Especially here in California, where a high percentage of our population speaks Spanish, if not some other language. More and more people are taking Spanish in high school, making it a high-need field.”

Students of the single-subject credential work with teachers at Morro Bay High School and San Luis Obispo High School and learn how to teach the language firsthand — yet another way students are practicing Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Marijuan. “We are happy to create new programs and also help the students.”

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