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2012-2013 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog

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Modern Languages and Literatures - Program Description

For additional information about opportunities your college offers, please refer to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences section in this catalog.

Chair: Al-Mallah. Professors: Cata, Pozzi, Rydel, C. Smith, Wright; Associate Professors: Al-Mallah, Anderson, Caillaud, Eick, Fidalgo-Eick, Golembeski, Gomez, Maisel, Moret, Pettes Guikema, Robinson, R. Smith, Vrooman, Watts; Assistant Professors: Fortes, Fox, Lara, Liang, Menke, Serrata, Yancey, Yen.


The importance of foreign language study has never been more obvious than in today's global society. Leaders in business, government, and throughout the community are calling for increased awareness of the interrelatedness and interdependence of all nations and societies. One of the traditional barriers to understanding, and to the free ow of communication, has been a lack of informed citizens with competence in at least one foreign language. There is no better way to understand and appreciate cultures other than your own than to communicate with other peoples in their own language. What is more, the mastery of a foreign language inevitably improves your command of your native language. With such a high premium on communication skills in the world today, foreign language study is not a luxury; it is a necessity.

Career Opportunities

A bachelor of arts degree in a modern foreign language is a true liberal arts degree, with all the breadth of cultural understanding and communication skills that have always characterized liberal arts study. The demand for teachers of foreign languages is increasing both in schools and in business and industry. Combined with a major or minor in another field, the B.A. in foreign languages opens many possibilities in the worlds of international trade, international relations, diplomacy, government, tourism, and service organizations.

Given the increasing diversity of the American population and the presence of large numbers of persons whose native language is not English, foreign language study is also an asset to those who plan to work in a variety of professions within the borders of the United States, both in the public and private spheres. Virtually all large corporations and many smaller ones in Michigan and throughout the country are now or soon will be active in international markets. There have never been more opportunities for college graduates with foreign language skills.

Participating Programs

East Asian Studies (
The East Asian Studies program at Grand Valley State University explores the languages, cultures, histories, and socioeconomic conditions of China and Japan. The program recognizes the complex traditions and historical contributions of these countries while acknowledging the essential roles they play in the world today.

Latin American Studies (
Knowledge of Latin America and its people, including those in the United States, is an essential part of a liberal education today. Students in a wide variety of majors and professional programs can benefit from studying Latin America. In fact, the Latin American Studies program is for any traditional or continuing student who simply wants to learn more about the fascinating and diverse cultures of Latin America.

Middle East Studies (
In the tradition of liberal education at Grand Valley State University, courses in this minor introduce students to the "heritage, problems, and perspectives" of Middle Eastern cultures, thus helping them to better understand their own culture and the culture of Michigan, which is home to the nation's largest Arab American community, half Christian, half Muslim, with substantial Jewish congregations.

Russian Studies (
A major in Russian Studies leads to a Bachelor of Arts degree. Because proficiency in the Russian language forms the most crucial component of the program, the major requires completion of third-year Russian (RUS 301, 302, or equivalent) with a grade of B or above and recommends a Russian language minor. Students need at least three years of Russian language study to be able to grasp basic grammar skills and begin to gain oral proficiency. Students may enhance their language skills by participating in approved summer intensive language programs both in Russia and the United States.

Mary and Wilhelm Seeger Scholarship

Several years ago, Grand Valley State alumni established the Mary and Wilhelm Seeger Scholarship to honor these two well-respected faculty members for the contributions they have made to our students over the last quarter-century. The scholarship, a non-renewable award of $1,000 will be awarded to a full-time student in the top quarter of the entering class who is planning to study one or more foreign languages at Grand Valley, either as a major or in combination with another field of study.

This scholarship is for entering freshmen only. In order to qualify the student must meet the following criteria:

  • entering freshman
  • 3.5 GPA
  • 26 ACT composite score
  • interest in studying a foreign language

Students are contacted by the department and invited to apply for the scholarship, based on the above criteria. Students already receiving another GVSU award of excellence do not qualify.

Student Organizations (

Francophiles, German Club, Il Geranio, La Tertulia

Honors Societies

Pi Delta Phi (French), Delta Phi Alpha (German), Dobro Slovo (Russian), Signa Delta Pi (Spanish).

Degree Requirements

A student working toward any B.A. degree must successfully complete the third semester course in a foreign language.

Transfer students who wish to major in a foreign language at Grand Valley must take a minimum of 12 credit hours of advanced-level coursework (300 or above) with the Department of Modern Languages at Grand Valley to qualify for a major. For transfer students who wish to minor in a foreign language, a minimum of six credit hours of advanced coursework (300 or above) with the Department of Modern Languages at Grand Valley is required. This requirement includes those who have graduated from other institutions and now seek teaching certification from Grand Valley.

Students seeking secondary certification in foreign languages must take the foreign language methods seminar, Education 331, in order to be certified. Students may also choose to enroll in foreign language and literature courses on a credit/no credit basis.

All French, German and Spanish majors and minors seeking teaching licensure must demonstrate oral proficiency at the advanced-low level (or higher) prior to enrolling in the College of Education. A study abroad experience of at least one semester is strongly recommended.

The 380 special-topics courses are available in all foreign languages. The independent study and research courses in French, German, Russian, and Spanish are available to qualified students for independent study in areas not covered by the regular foreign language offerings.

Placement in Language Courses

Students who have studied a foreign language in high school or who have practical knowledge of a foreign language must take a placement examination prior to enrolling for further study of that language. Students must enroll in the course in which they place on the examination. Instructors who determine that students are inappropriately enrolled may direct them to move to the appropriate level. Students can count one placement test per semester (only the first attempt).

Transfer students with prior college language study are not eligible to take the placement examination in that language, and must enroll in a course at the next appropriate level.

Students with non-college language learning may be able to earn college credit by achieving an appropriate score on an approved national test, such as Advanced Placement (see "Credit by Examination" below).

Native speakers are not eligible to take the placement exam, nor are they eligible to enroll in 100 or 200-level courses, except SPA 203. The students should talk to an advisor in the Department of Modern Languages for proper placement.

"150" Course

This course is designed for students who have sufficient prior study to make placement in 101 inappropriate. The 150 course includes a review of first semester language (101) and covers the same material as 102. Completion of the course with a grade of C or higher prepares students for 201. The "150" course fulfills the general education category CGE/B.

Foreign Language Resource Center (Laboratory) (

The Language Resource Center offers access to state-of-the-art audio, video, and computer technologies. The LRC laboratories host 66 language-learning workstations, which are reserved exclusively for GVSU language students but closed to general campus use. All elementary and intermediate language courses require a minimum of 50 minutes a week of lab attendance. The audio-visual and computer resources are used to enrich many upper-division courses, too. Foreign language students can also access most of the LRC audio resources from their homes, or elsewhere, via the Internet. LRC equipment and software are being constantly updated and expanded.

Study Abroad (

Grand Valley urges all students to seek study abroad experience. Foreign language majors and minors will make exceptional progress by combining study abroad with their formal coursework on the home campus. Moreover, approved study experiences of varying lengths summer, semester, or academic year carry full academic credit for all participants, including non-majors. The majority of programs currently offered takes place during the summer and are accompanied by a Grand Valley State University faculty member. Longer stays can be arranged, however, through Grand Valley's institutional ties with colleges and universities in most regions of the world.

For more information, students should contact the Padnos International Center at (616) 331-3898.

Regular accompanied programs include:

China One or two semester programs in Chinese language and culture at East China Normal University, Shanghai.

France A summer school program in French language and culture located in Nice in southern France.

Germany A faculty-led summer program in German language and culture and a full semester exchange at our partner institute in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany; semester exchange (primarily for business students) in Mosbach/Bad Mergentheim.

Japan A faculty-led spring program in Osaka; semester or full-year programs at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities in Hikone and Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu; and full-year exchange program with International Christian University of Tokyo.

Jordan A faculty-led summer school program at the University of Jordan in Amman where students study colloquial Arabic and get immersed in Arabic culture.

Mexico A summer school program offering classes in Spanish language, literature, culture, and civilization in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Poland Summer and academic year programs in economics, management, and the Polish language located at the Krakow University of Economics.

Russia A faculty-led summer program for various levels of Russian language and Russian culture instruction.

Spain Intensive Spanish language studies (all levels) for fall, winter, or summer semesters at the University of Deusto in Bilbao, Spain.

Taiwan A summer school program offering classes in Chinese language and culture in Taiwan.

Grand Valley offers two full years (16 credits) of instruction in Arabic, Italian, Japanese, and Polish. The 201 course satisfies the B.A. degree cognate. Courses in Arabic are part of the Middle East Studies minor and courses in both Chinese and Japanese language are part of the East Asian Studies minor. Plans are under way to increase offerings in these and other less-commonly taught languages.

Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and Polish Language Instruction

Grand Valley offers two full years (16 credits) of instruction in Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and Polish. The 201 course satisfies the B.A. degree cognate. Courses in both Chinese and Japanese language are part of the East Asian Studies minor. Plans are underway to increase offerings in these and other less commonly taught languages.

Courses of Instruction in Chinese:

Courses of Instruction in Italian:

Courses of Instruction in Japanese:

Courses of Instruction in Polish:

If you are in need of assistance please submit any questions or comments.