I have long had a fascination with languages. In high school I studied Latin for two years and followed that with two years of Spanish. When I graduated from Oberlin College in 1971 with an A.B. in Psychology I also had studied the equivalent of a Spanish major (including credits earned at the University of Guanajuato, Mexico).
While a graduate student at Ohio State University I marveled at the language fluency of foreign fellow graduate students (I spent 6 months doing research at the University of Bergen, Norway and was humbled by the challenges of learning Norwegian and by how much more about the United States Norwegians knew compared to me!). A critical component of these language learning experiences was having opportunities to be exposed to the literature, theater, art, history, and cultural contexts of these languages. I have yet to see convincing empirical evidence that the software such as Rosetta Stone lives up to its heavily advertised promises. I think something like teletandem may be a more practical way to provide language immersion. I greatly admire a number of thought leaders who write well and think deeply about authentically internationalizing education.
What is the appropriate foundation for general education in the 21rst century? Are we faculty appropriately educated for teaching in the 21rst century? What skill sets, traditions, and knowledge are as vital today as when this academic institution was founded? Can we change our general education program without intentionally changing our institutional mission? How do we avoid throwing out the baby with the bath water?
Should part of a general education be mastery of another language? If so, how does one define mastery—knowing the right phrases to allow one to travel within another country? Or should one be fluent in another culture’s history, customs, idioms, national concerns, and language? Can this be achieved within the traditional four years of a college education and still allow students a traditional major? If we are interested in being more global, shouldn’t we append USA to all our institutional publications?
Can internationalization be achieved through the 21rst century equivalence of international pen pals using Skype or VoiceThread? Can “mastery” be achieved through online tools alone such as Ella or Rosetta Stone? Through BBC language acquisition in 12 weeks courses? Or by other such (free) online language learning resources?
What does is mean to globalize or internationalize a campus? How can that best be achieved? Is the best way to do so to bring international students and faculty to campus? To send our students and faculty abroad? To create communication opportunities world-wide through Internet means? To expand faculty and students’ knowledge of history, cultures, international economics, and international relations? To conduct collaborative international research and learning projects? The simple answer is, “yes”