|Vol. 17, No. 17||Jan. 22, 1998|
The MLA, which has approximately 30,000 members, invited its past president Jean Perkins, retired chairperson of modern languages and literatures at Swarthmore College, to make a presentation on foreign language education and the training of future teachers at its meeting. For her talk, Perkins focused on the UD foreign languages department, calling it a "vibrant and dynamic unit," while also giving an overview of the foreign language programs of the consortium of Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore colleges.
The talk attracted a standing-room-only crowd, Zipser said, and Perkins' remarks will be published at a later date.
To prepare for her talk, Perkins visited the UD campus, talking to Zipser, Theodore Braun and Monika Shafi to get firsthand information about the foreign language program.
Perkins gave an overall picture of the department, which teaches some 7,500 students per year, almost half the total undergraduate population, and pointed out that 35 percent continue to study a foreign language after meeting the basic requirements, choosing from nine modern languages, plus Latin and ancient Greek.
She attributed this success to the whole department engaging in what she termed "marketing, in a very good sense," where instructors carry on an "active dialogue with each class on the various options available in the next semester" and are involved with other departments.
"One of the areas in which Delaware really excels is study abroad," Perkins said in her talk. Zipser pointed out that there are 15 study abroad programs sponsored by the department, including semester programs for advanced foreign language students in Paris and Granada in the fall and Siena and Bayreuth, Germany, in the spring.
Several programs are offered to all students with intermediate level skills during Winter Session. Locations include Costa Rica, Martinique, Mexico (in conjunction with political science and international relations), Granada, Bayreuth, Siena and Caen in France. Summer programs are offered in Paris, in conjunction with the music department, and in Kobe, Japan. Any undergraduate who participates and takes two additional advanced courses on campus receives a Foreign Language Certificate.
Perkins also cited the "excellent Foreign Language Media Center," installed in 1989 and now being upgraded, which enhances language and culture courses.
In the area of teacher training (approximately 20 students with Foreign Language Education certificates graduate each year), Perkins pointed out that "one interesting feature is that all the foreign language pedagogy courses are given within the foreign language department," except for the other required education courses, and "this means that people who are actively engaged in teaching languages themselves are the ones who train the next generation."
The need for foreign language teachers is increasing as more states require foreign languages courses for high school graduation, Perkins said.
Perkins credited much of the department's success to Zipser, as a "truly dedicated department chair... open to new ideas and suggestions [and] supportive of his faculty."
"We are pleased at this recognition of the effectiveness of the UD foreign languages program and to have been chosen as a model by a respected and well-known colleague in the field," Zipser said.
-Sue Swyers Moncure