The Language Requirement is part of Columbia’s mission to prepare students to be informed and culturally sensitive citizens. Knowledge of another language and culture is the best way to understand the contingent and constructed nature of one’s own culture, and therefore to appreciate both its achievements and its shortcomings. The two years of language study that are required by Columbia University represent the minimum proficiency needed to achieve this goal.
The Spanish Language Program seeks to foster and sustain a continued progress in the development of a student’s language proficiency throughout their undergraduate career. Specifically, our program aims to educate students so that they will be able to successfully function not only in everyday Spanish-language environments, but also particularly in Spanish-language academic contexts, which require a precise, informed language proficiency, with activities (from the earliest levels) that are not limited to functionally communicating in daily foreign-language contexts, but that include, among other tasks, understanding and interpreting literary and cultural texts, listening to lectures and taking notes, participating in class discussions, understanding the grammatical inner-workings of the target language, answering exam questions, delivering oral presentations on complex topics, doing research, and writing papers in the target language.
This means that, throughout the four semesters of Spanish, the curriculum is designed to teach and train students to the steady and successful acquisition of a pedagogical, operational approach to a usage-based Spanish grammar, as well as a broad general knowledge of diverse literary and cultural artifacts that will provide them with a background knowledge of relevant historical and cultural developments, and the basic methodological and linguistic tools necessary for a critical cultural analysis of these artifacts in an academic context.
Through the application of this ‘integrated curriculum’, we therefore build our courses in a meaningful, motivated foreign language instruction for specific (academic) purposes that focuses on grammatical form from a cognitive perspective, and a task-based, collaborative approach to the learning of language and culture as a whole.
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