Departmental Statement of Philosophy

The department of modern languages believes that the ability to communicate (listen, speak, read and write) in another language is fundamental for attaining an understanding of the many cultures that make up the world. For significant intercultural understanding, students must also learn what members of other cultures consider worth talking about: their historical, artistic and literary heritage; their contemporary political, social and economic problems; and their basic customs and values.

Modern language course offerings are intended to build basic communication skills and insight into important topics in literature and culture. All on-campus courses include laboratory sessions with native speakers or advanced speakers of the target language and are supported by co-curricular activities in the language, including the language house program and social activities. All courses aim to increase language proficiency and cultural awareness as well as to prepare students for an extended, off-campus immersion in a culture where the target language is spoken.

Why Languages?

Central College faculty and staff share their perspectives on learning another language:“Learning another language is essential, because a language is a lot like a worldview. One’s comprehension of the inner life, of culture, of philosophy–anything germane to the human condition–expands the more one grows familiar with other tongues. We know nothing without language, so one might say that learning is only as rich as one’s grasp of the written and spoken word, which is the raw material for thought.”
-Prof. Josh Doležal, Department of English

“When I was growing up, my parents taught me that the world was larger than Moscow, Russia, the city of my childhood and adolescence. I developed a strong curiosity about other parts of the world and the cultures represented there. It was only natural that I matriculated at Moscow State Linguistic University to study English and Spanish. My love for English eventually brought me to the United States. I still hope to visit Spain—who knows, perhaps I will be able to realize this dream while teaching here at Central College.”
-Prof. Elena Vishnevskaya, Department of Religion and Philosophy

“Don’t overlook the the potential of a second language as a “bridge” to other non-native speakers. I’ve used Russian to communicate with Latvians, and German to communicate with Hungarians, Czechs and Romanians. What’s more, you could even save a life….I used my Russian once on an airplane to interpret between an English-speaking doctor and a Russian couple with a medical emergency!”
-Prof. Anne Petrie, Department of Music

“Knowing a different language improves your ability to see things from others’ perspectives. It builds empathy and understanding. It lends itself well to conflict resolution and negotiation. But, one of the best reasons to learn another language is this: it’s a humbling reminder that the world is much bigger than you imagined, and that it’s not just about you.”
-Brandyn Woodard, Director, Intercultural Life