Please update your web browser or disable Compatibility View.

Modern and Classical Languages

Department Chair: Chuck Villette

Faculty: Margaret Cook, Nathaniel Dubin, Karen Erickson, Carolyn Ford, Chikako Keymer, Andreas Kiryakakis, Camilla Krone, Lisa Ohm, Sarah Pruett, Scott Richardson, Wendy Sterba, Mark Thamert OSB, Vera Theisen, Chuck Villette

The study of another language is an adventure, an exploration into the workings of minds both like and unlike our own. As human minds mold language, so language also molds human minds. A language is therefore not only a means by which we represent our thoughts; it is also a medium that presents the world to us in a certain way. When we learn a new language, we learn to see differently - we acquire a new perspective from which to view both ourselves and the world. In the literature of another language we encounter a culture revealed, extended and tested by its most critical and inventive thinkers, who use the language to explore their society's limitations and possibilities. Because the study of language liberates us from bondage to a single cultural perspective and allows us to converse with members of another culture, it has from the times of the ancient Romans been considered central to a liberal education.

Students of the classical languages - Greek and Latin - strive to gain an understanding of the ancient peoples whose hard thinking about the perplexities of the human condition, preserved in literature of astonishing richness and beauty, has provided the foundation of modern Western civilization. In these languages the emphasis falls primarily upon developing the students' reading ability.

Students of modern languages seek to understand an intricate contemporary culture and explore the literature and traditions that give it life. The major in French and German, accordingly, consists of a balanced program of languages, literature, and civilization, and should ideally include one or two semesters of foreign study. Study of Chinese and Japanese, integral to the Asian Studies minor, may include participation in the colleges' study abroad programs in China and Japan.

For students whose first language is not English, courses are available in English as a Second Language. The focus in these courses is on improving language proficiency in listening comprehension, speaking, reading and writing, with special emphasis on the language skills necessary for success in an advanced academic setting.

For information on the Spanish major, please see the Department of Hispanic Studies:

A language major is often interdisciplinary in nature and prepares students for a wide variety of careers, both in the United States and around the world. Some students pursue careers in teaching or go on to graduate school in their field, others enter those professions in which applicants with a broad liberal background are sought. Beyond that, the linguistic competence associated with such a major is increasingly of interest to employers in a growing number of business, service, and government fields. As a result, students often choose to join a foreign language major to an additional major.

The MCL department also provides the core curriculum requirement in language proficiency for all CSB/SJU students. In order to fulfill this goal, all students should:

  1. Know the basic grammatical structures of the target language.
  2. In the modern languages, achieve balanced development of speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills.
  3. In the classical languages, develop reading and writing skills.
  4. Understand the relationship between language and culture.
  5. Acquire an inclusive perspective on the target culture(s), one which ranges from artistic accomplishments to details of everyday life.
  6. Demonstrate awareness of the intellectual discussion provided by the learning of a foreign language above and beyond the language's practical usefulness.


The Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures conducts regular assessment of student learning in linguistic skills as well as in the literary and cultural components of the major. Methods of assessment include: language placement test for incoming students, regular review of skills in speaking, listening, reading, writing and cultural understanding according to proficiency guidelines, a senior project written in the target language and presented in a public forum.

Modern Languages Basic Requirements for all Majors and Minors:

212 is a prerequisite for 300-level courses; it also fulfills a core humanities requirement (HML literature).
Students planning to major or minor in a language are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the colleges' study abroad options.

In order to ensure a well-balanced program, no student may apply more than 10 credits toward a major or minor in any one semester, whether on campus or abroad. Exceptions will be granted only in unusual circumstances and must be arranged in advance.

Up to 4 credits in a supporting field taught in French and German at a foreign institution may, with the approval of the chair, be counted toward a major or minor in that language.

Courses in literature in translation may not be counted toward a major or minor.

All majors must present a senior project in a public forum. In consultation with a faculty advisor, students choose a project appropriate to their previous course of study and/or their individual goals (399 listing).