Association of Departments of Foreign Languages


2011 ADFL Tool Kit for Department Advocacy

Background Materials

Institutional Resources and Arguments

The documents listed above provide the background information necessary to support various arguments for the continuation of language programs.

Language departments contribute to the general educational mission of a college or university. Without humanities programs and the potential for language study, institutions of higher education may be considered technical colleges or vocational schools. Language departments contribute to the internationalization and globalization goals of most modern colleges. Quoting from the mission statement or strategic plan of your institution can help support your argument.

Language programs contribute fiscally to the institution. Language study is usually part of the core requirements, and enrollments in lower-level language courses bring in tuition dollars.

Degree completion figures are often used to determine tenure-track faculty lines. Language majors are often listed as second majors, but institutions do not always release the figures for double majors and minors in their campus news. Double majors and minors represent significant measures of educational effectiveness and student accomplishments, and they are used for reporting outcomes to accrediting agencies. These figures are reported to the United States Department of Education and are available on your campus through the office of institutional research or the office of the registrar. To protect programs with few majors, some departments combine discrete language majors into one modern foreign language major, with subcategories for specific languages.

Study abroad is an attractive feature for undergraduates and highly valued by administrators. Besides fulfilling the global competency goals of the institution’s strategic plan, study abroad may bring in tuition revenue from students going abroad and from those coming to campus in their place.

Investment in foreign language and international studies is highly supported by the government through Title VI. The United States government’s proposed Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act calls for the expansion of international expertise and language study. Its goal is to make study abroad the cornerstone of higher education. Language programs with study-abroad partnerships help fulfill this goal.

For departments of languages, study abroad presents challenges as well as opportunities, as discussed in Best Practices in Study Abroad: A Primer for Chairs of Departments of Foreign Languages.

Alliances with other units in a college strengthen a department’s position. Interdisciplinary coordination with faculty members from anthropology, art history, English, history, music, philosophy, religion, sociology, women’s studies, and area studies departments can lead to successful cross-disciplinary, team-taught courses and activities.

Beyond the college itself, educational endeavors with other schools such as medicine and health sciences, business and international studies, agriculture, architecture, engineering, and law are now frequent. Partnerships can take the form of dual-degree programs, language courses for professional use, language across the curriculum, film series, guest lectures, and other innovative interdisciplinary approaches. Does your institution send students in marine biology to study in France or Japan? Look for possible international connections in what may seem unlikely places.

For institutions that offer service learning, support outreach programs, and encourage departments to pursue development activities, the MLA Language Map provides information regarding language communities in your vicinity and where the languages of these communities are taught. Enrollment data for 2009 is found on the map.

Partnerships with local businesses, industries, or individuals with interests in other countries may offer support to activities of language programs.

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