Dec. 5, 2011
Department looking to broaden language offerings
By Brittany Keithley, media relations assistant
Northwest Missouri State University’s Department of Communication, Theatre and Languages is expanding its language course offerings at the University, starting with the introduction of a Russian language course this fall.
Currently the department offers degrees in Spanish, a minor in sign language and some coursework in French. With increased interest in Russian and Chinese, the department is working to better meet the needs of students. The new Russian course was offered for the first time this fall and the department hopes to offer Chinese courses by next fall.
Dr. Dave Oehler, the department’s chair, said the new courses offer another opportunity for students to experience languages and cultures that interest them.
“We have seen interest in expanding the language offerings for several years,” Oehler said. “Chinese, Japanese and Russian were at the top of the list, but to start a new language program you need faculty to teach those languages and normally faculty are trained in only one language.”
The department reached out to Dr. Curtis Richardson, assistant professor of history, humanities, philosophy and political science, to teach the Russian course. Richardson was attracted to the Russian culture growing up during the Cold War era and enjoyed reading Russian novels. He went on to study Russian for four years in graduate school, traveled to Russia for a summer program and lived in Russia for nine months.
Richardson’s Russian background made him a good fit to teach the new course, and he looks forward to sharing his knowledge of Russian culture with students. Richardson said he hopes they take away more than just new language skills.
“I hope they come away with at least a reasonable knowledge of the language,” Richardson said. “This course is more than just a language. I hope they better understand the Russian culture and this opens the door of making them more aware of the world.”
Jamie Campbell, a Northwest student from Ireland who is working toward her master’s degree in history, enrolled in the course because studying a foreign language is essential in her future doctoral studies. Intrigued by Eastern European history, she began studying the Russian language and looks forward to the challenges it presents. The Russian language is particularly challenging, she said, because it is based off the Cyrillic alphabet, which was derived from an ancient Greek script. The Cyrillic alphabet is the basis of alphabets used in various languages throughout Eastern Europe and Asia.
“It has been quite challenging to learn the Cyrillic alphabet, but studying the Russian language has been an extremely rewarding experience,” Campbell said. “I feel a strong sense of accomplishment when I am able to decipher the strange shapes of the alphabet and derive meaning from them.”
Though Campbell was required to study a foreign language, she found that acquiring new language skills better prepares her for the job market. She encourages others to try learning foreign languages.
“I believe the acquisition of new language skills is a rewarding and beneficial experience,” Campbell said. “The ability to communicate in another language gives an individual added value in the job market. This is extremely important in an increasingly integrated global economy where the competition for top jobs is fierce and often international in scope. Learning a new language can also lead to personal enrichment through opportunities to travel to new countries and make new friends abroad.”
If the interest in Russian grows beyond one course per trimester, the department may consider expanding the program. In the meantime, Northwest is teaming up with other universities to offer more languages. Northwest has a cooperative arrangement with Missouri State University and will begin offering Chinese courses through interactive television next fall. Northwest also is looking to offer Arabic and Japanese language courses.
“It’s useful to have these language programs and we need to have more languages,” Richardson said. “The addition of Chinese and Russian courses is important because they are two of the most important languages in the world, and they are key to a well-rounded education.”
Oehler added, “The world is becoming smaller and we are interacting more with people in other countries. The need for study in more languages is going to be higher in the future, so we are beginning to better serve the students in that way.”
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Northwest Missouri State University
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