International Languages and Cultures

Alexandra Hill, Ph.D., chair

Faculty: Booth, Castanette, Echenique, Hall, Hill, Looney, Reyes-Giardiello, Warshawsky

The mission of the International Languages and Cultures department (Spanish, German, French, and Chinese) is to prepare and motivate students to understand, live, study, and work in international communities at home and abroad. In the international languages courses required of all B.A. students, as well as in those of its majors and minors, the program:

  1. Builds proficiency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing the target language.
  2. Fosters appreciation for other cultures and the international global community.
  3. Develops the critical thinking skills and humane values inherent in the University’s liberal arts tradition.

International Languages and Cultures faculty members guide and inspire students to experience other cultures through the study of language and literature, and through periods of total immersion abroad. In their teaching and in their research, faculty are dedicated to the study of language and literature for its own power and pleasure, and as a means of promoting understanding and enjoyment of cultural differences. They are committed to student-centered instruction, which develops the international language proficiency and confidence majors and minors need to be successful in graduate programs, as well as in a wide range of careers, such as business, government, education, social work, and health care.

The Department of International Languages and Cultures offers a German studies major, Spanish major, a French studies major, and minors in French, German, and Spanish. The international languages and cultures program offers courses in Chinese language and in French, German, and Spanish language, literature, and culture. Students interested in an international languages and cultures major or minor should consult with the department chair.

Students beginning their study of French or Spanish at the University of Portland are encouraged to take a free online placement test. After taking the test, the student will receive information indicating which course will provide the best fit for the student’s level of proficiency. Students should contact the chair of the International Languages and Cultures department for information on how to access the exam.

Learning Outcomes for Language Majors

Language Proficiency in Speaking, Listening, Reading, and Writing

Students graduating from the University of Portland with a B.A. in French Studies, German Studies, or Spanish are required to take the computerized STAMP 4S language proficiency assessment before graduation. Majors will be contacted to take the exam during the spring semester and will be required to attend two testing sessions, one for the assessment of reading, writing and listening and the other for the assessment of speaking. Administered by Avant Assessment, students’ reading and listening proficiencies are scored automatically by the computer; students’ writing and speaking are scored by Avant’s certified raters. Avant’s scoring rubric is closely related to national standards for proficiency set by the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Our current assessment data on oral proficiency indicates that by the time they graduate, German Studies majors should demonstrate intermediate-mid speaking proficiency; French Studies and Spanish majors should demonstrate intermediate-high speaking proficiency. Although assessment of listening, reading, and writing skills is new to our programs, we can expect graduating majors to be able to demonstrate the same level: intermediate-mid for German Studies majors and intermediate-high for French Studies and Spanish majors. The 2012 ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for the intermediate level are described in full on the ACTFL website:

Intercultural Competence

Language proficiency is the key to interacting with and understanding a culture, therefore, students completing a major in French studies, German studies, or Spanish are uniquely prepared to engage with the target cultures. Study abroad and other immersion experiences can result in a transformative process in which one develops greater awareness of cultural differences and how they relate to one self. French studies, German studies, and Spanish graduates of the University of Portland will demonstrate their intercultural competence through the following learning outcomes:

  1. Knowledge.
    1. Demonstrates knowledge of the target cultures, especially cultural practices, and identifies current as well as past major social and political issues.
    2. Demonstrates in target language knowledge of target cultures.
  2. Skills.
    1. Uses the target language, in written and spoken form, as well as experiential knowledge, to work with a variety of cultural products in order to engage with, reflect on and compare the target cultures.
    2. Demonstrates engagement with a variety of cultural products and experiences, and the ability to reflect on this engagement.
  3. Transformation.
    1. Realizes that differences exist between behaviors in one’s own culture and that of the target cultures.  Recognizes the social complexity of culture including differences according to age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background, religion, and region in the target cultures. While the understanding of differences may still be developing, accepts challenges to explore ideas and ways of knowing that are outside of one’s own paradigm of individual and cultural understanding.  Demonstrates a willingness to seek out international and intercultural opportunities.
    2. Shows curiosity towards and a growing understanding of the social complexity of cultural differences through a demonstrated willingness to challenge one’s worldview.