Improved Spanish and French Curriculum

Starting Fall 2014, ROCS faculty are rolling out a new curriculum for all Spanish and French majors. Inspired by the 2007 MLA Report on the future of foreign language education and cognizant of the growing need for graduates to pass high stakes language exams in order to find post-BGSU employment, ROCS faculty sat down in the spring of 2013 to design new curricula for their language majors. Their aim was to better integrate language learning and cultural understanding throughout the educational process. This would be in stark contrast to the typical twentieth-century foreign language education process whereby students would spend four semesters learning the basics of the language with an emphasis on grammar mastery and vocabulary building, then take a two semester “comp and con” (composition and conversation) sequence, after which it was presumed that students had mastered the language and could delve into the riches of the literatures and cultural traditions of their chosen language. Language learning would continue, it was assumed, but it would be a more passive activity, or something that students continued to develop actively on their own. This was essentially the sequence at BGSU, as it was across the country. Today, however, we live in a global world. The ability to communicate effectively in the Spanish or French language is more important than ever. Language skills are at a premium. The best research in the field, furthermore, shows that the real mastery of a language simply takes longer than the six-semester sequence traditional university curricula gave it.
The new BGSU curriculum addresses this issue by integrating explicit language teaching and assessment in all areas of communication through the remainder of the 3000-level curriculum, including in classes devoted to literature and culture. This will mean a minimum of five more classes with explicit language components before students ever approach the truly challenging ideas-oriented courses that form the 4000-level capstone of the BGSU language degree. The materials from the old 3000-level literature and culture sequences will still form the content foundation of the new 3000-level courses, only the focus will shift from content coverage to active language learning through carefully guided reading, discussion, and analysis.
The new majors promise to produce BGSU graduates with the strongest language skills yet. We’re excited to get started and to begin seeing the results of ever-more active—and noisy—classrooms. Ah, the sweet sound of engaged classroom conversation!