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Inclusive lexicon: Language Department rebrands

Students pose for a photo in the Department of Language and Culture Studies. The department changed its name from the Department of Foreign Languages to be more inclusive in the programs that it offers. Photo courtesy of Millersville University.

Julia Walters
Associate News Editor

Millersville introduced its new Department of Language and Culture Studies last week; it was  previously called the Department of Foreign Languages. They changed their name and expanded their program to incorporate new opportunities and resources for increased student success.

The new program incorporates a new option in Culture Studies. According to the department chair Dr. Susanne Nimmrichter, this option was specifically designed to help students interested in pursuing a double major. 

“That was our primary reason for developing [the program], to make it doable to double major. We reduced the number of required courses, put in more electives, and no longer have any required related courses so that there’s plenty of space to complete a second major.” This takes a weight off the shoulders of many students who are interested in a double major, but have been intimidated by the course work required to do so.

Another new addition is the Culture Studies minor. The minor allows the department to count credits from elementary language courses. Additionally, it gives students the option to count courses that are taught in English about the culture of those countries where the language is spoken.

Dr. Nimmrichter says this is “specifically to encourage students who did not come with language skills from high school to be able to complete a minor with 18 credits.” This minor is designed to be less intimidating for those students who do not have much background with another language, but still want to incorporate language and culture in their degree.

Culture is an operative key word when discussing the changes within the department. Even in the new title of the program, the word culture is purposefully placed to remind students that this is just as important as learning the actual language of a specific country. Dr. Nimmrichter added that “we wanted to make that very clear in the department and program name… What we teach is not just the language, but we’re teaching the culture as well.”

Just as significant is the removal of the word “foreign” in its previous title, the Department of Foreign Languages. “We didn’t want to continue to use the word foreign since the languages that we teach are not really foreign languages in the United States,” said Dr. Nimmrichter. “Spanish is spoken right here in the city, Pennsylvania Dutch is a German dialect, and there are also pockets in the United States and Canada where French is spoken… So it’s not really a foreign language.” The systematic removal of the word foreign shows an underlying inclusivity in language and culture that Millersville is attempting to represent.

Millersville is continuing to improve and expand upon its various departments and programs in order to help with increasing student success. With all the innovating changes that have happened within the Department of Language and Culture Studies, students who are working toward a degree in this field will surely have the opportunities and resources for an accomplished academic career in college and beyond.

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