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2023-2024 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog

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Modern Languages and Literatures

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


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 flow 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 people 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.

Honors Societies

Pi Delta Phi (French), Delta Phi Alpha (German), Sigma Delta Pi (Spanish)

Degree Requirements

A student working toward any B.A. degree must successfully complete the third semester course in a foreign language. The Department of Modern Languages and Literatures currently offers the following languages that fulfill this requirement: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish.

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 and Literatures 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 and Literatures 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 and Community Innovation. A study abroad experience is required for students seeking teaching licensure degrees (see individual program details).

The 380 special topics courses are available in all foreign languages. The independent study and research courses in language programs within the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures 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 that is offered by MLL 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).

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

Foreign Language Resource Center (Laboratory)

The Language Resource Center (LRC) 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 per 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. Visit online at

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 many programs currently offered take place during the summer and are led 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 or visit online at

Regular accompanied programs include:

Chile: Intensive Spanish language studies for fall and winter semesters or nine-week spring term at the University of Bío Bío in Chillán, Chile.

China: Faculty-led intensive Mandarin summer program in Nanjing; one- or two-semester programs at East China Normal University in Shanghai.

Dominican Republic: A faculty-led spring program in Santo Domingo. This program offers students the opportunity to expand their knowledge of the language and cultures of the Spanish-speaking world, while living in the oldest European settlement in the Americas.

France: A faculty-led summer school program in French language and culture located in Nice (southern France) and Paris.

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 Tokyo and 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.

Mexico: Intensive Spanish language studies for fall or winter semesters at the University of the Americas - Puebla, Puebla, Mexico.

Oman/United Arab Emirates: A faculty-led spring program in Oman and Dubai. This program introduces students to the language, culture, and business practices of Oman and the UAE (Dubai).

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

Taiwan: Semester programs at National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei.

Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and Russian Language Instruction

In addition to French, German, and Spanish, Grand Valley offers Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and Russian courses of instruction to fulfill the B.A. degree requirement (201-level); the general education requirement (202-level); the language requirement for minors in Middle East studies (Arabic) and East Asian studies (Chinese and Japanese); and the international relations major language requirements. Arabic and Chinese offer a language minor program. A variety of 300-level language and culture courses are offered in Japanese.

Program Requirements

The following programs are available:

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