Jun 25, 2024  
2023-2024 Academic Catalog 
2023-2024 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

World Languages and Cultures

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Our language programs play a fundamental role in the College’s mission to educate for a global community. We encourage students to become actively engaged learners of diverse cultural traditions and global perspectives through the study of world languages, literatures, and cultures.

The programs in the Department of World Languages and Cultures emphasize language proficiency, analysis of different kinds of complex texts, cross-cultural competence, and study abroad. This preparation allows students to use their language, critical thinking skills and artistic literacy in various professional fields. Linguistic and cultural competency in a second language also allows students to participate more fully in local and international communities, enjoying a richness of life that goes beyond national boundaries.

Saint Mary’s College proposes that all of its graduates should have knowledge and understanding of another culture and its language (see below, language proficiency requirement). To this end, the department has created a lower-division curriculum whose learning outcomes meet criteria established by the American Council on Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). All students will demonstrate intermediate language skills-listening, speaking, reading and writing-in the target language. Instruction balances a solid grammatical foundation with practical training, including exposure to culture and geography, in both classroom and multimedia settings.

The Department of World Languages and Cultures offers courses in French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. Students can pursue a major in Spanish or French, and/or a minor in French, Spanish, East Asian Studies, or Italian Studies. Students interested in foreign language study are encouraged to explore the options of a major in Spanish or French; a double major in a foreign language and another discipline; a language minor to complement a major in another academic area; or a language studies minor. Additionally there are many natural links between the department’s course offerings and those of other departments with the same goal of global learning, such as Global and Regional Studies and History.

We strongly encourage our students to study abroad for a semester or more. Students can choose from SMC sponsored programs in China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and Spain, or from many other international centers through Lasallian exchanges and independent programs.

Furthermore, proficiency in a second language is the natural complement to the local and international internships described in the internship database available through the department’s website. We support our students as they apply their cultural knowledge through internships related to their language of study. Students who secure an internship gain valuable work experience, enhance their professional skills, and lay the groundwork for their future careers.

We strive to prepare our students with the communicative skills necessary to participate successfully in an increasingly globalized working environment that asks for culturally knowledgeable, multilingual citizens.


David Bird, PhD, Professor, Chair

Maria Grazia de Angelis-Nelson, Adjunct Associate Professor

Costanza G. Dopfel, PhD, Professor

Helga Lénárt-Cheng, PhD, Professor

Claude-Rhéal Malary, PhD, Associate Professor

Brother Michael Murphy, PhD, Visiting Associate Professor

María Luisa Ruiz, PhD, Professor

Frances Sweeney, PhD, Professor

Naoko Uehara, Adjunct Associate Professor

Joan U. Halperin, PhD, Professor Emerita

Maureen Wesolowski, PhD, Professor Emerita

Alvaro Ramirez, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Programs Offered

The Department offers a major in French and Spanish, and a minor in East Asian Studies, French, German Studies, Italian Studies, or Spanish. In addition to a program of study for students who wish to major or minor in language, the Department of World Languages and Cultures plays a key role in the educational experience of all Saint Mary’s students through the Language Proficiency requirement of the Core Curriculum.

Language Placement Exam

Incoming students are strongly encouraged to take the Foreign Language Placement Exam online. Students should contact the Language Placement and Proficiency Coordinator who will assist them with access to the online exam. Students may take the placement exam once during each academic year and results are valid for one academic year. For placement in all other languages, students must contact the Placement and Proficiency Coordinator in the Department of World Languages and Cultures. Native speakers of Spanish are encouraged to take SPAN 300  as an alternative to SPAN 301 . Students who have taken the AP exam in literature should consult the Placement and Proficiency Coordinator for appropriate placement.

Minors in World Languages and Cultures

Learning Outcomes for a Minor

Students graduating with a minor in East Asian Studies, French, Italian Studies, German Studies, or Spanish will be able to:

  • CONVERSE using the present, past and future tenses in everyday situations.
  • DEMONSTRATE satisfactory reading and writing skills.
  • ENGAGE the target culture through various disciplines, including politics, economics, anthropology, history, literature and art.


Prerequisite Grades

Any course listed in this department with a prerequisite assumes a grade of C- or better in the prerequisite course.


    Bachelor of ArtsMinorCertificate


      French - Lower DivisionFrench - Upper DivisionItalian - Lower DivisionItalian - Upper Division

      Note: Upper-division courses in Italian are offered as World Languages in Translation.

      Japanese - Lower DivisionJapanese - Upper DivisionLatin - Upper DivisionSpanish - Lower DivisionSpanish - Upper DivisionWorld Languages and Cultures - Lower DivisionWorld Languages and Cultures - Upper Division

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