Reasons for studying specific foreign languages










Like most UMD students who study another language, you too may want to make Spanish your choice. It is, after all the second language of our nation. Over 300 million people speak Spanish worldwide, making it one of the largest markets for businesses and one of the most useful languages in the world for travel. Close to 30 million people living in the U.S. are Hispanic, and soon one out of every six people living in the U.S. will be Hispanic. In the past, learning Spanish used to be a way to open doors, but soon it will be a necessity. Employers are seeking applicants who can speak Spanish in nearly every profession (medical, government, legal, journalism, finance, education, sales, etc.). A large body of literary work is written in Spanish and Spanish-language films continue to receive praise from the film industry and viewers. At last count, there were more than 16,000 Spanish publications, 250 Spanish TV stations and 5,100 Spanish radio stations. Learning Spanish can help you learn the other Latin-based languages such as French and Italian. These languages all have Indo-European roots and share some characteristics (such as gender and extensive conjugation) that are present in Spanish but not English. Knowing Spanish can make your travel experiences more enjoyable. It is estimated that U.S. citizens spend more travel time in Spanish-speaking countries than in any other foreign countries (excluding English-speaking countries). Spanish is the official language in 21 countries and an official language in the European Union, UNESCO, GATT and many other international organizations.

Or, consider French, the language learned by those interested in French Art and History and their integral links to American culture; by those wanting to visit American tourists’ favorite destinations, from Provence to the Alps, from Paris to the wine country; by those wanting to experience life la française, which includes month-long holidays, an inordinate time of eating, drinking, and speaking of politics (a refreshing change in a Dilbertesque era of corporate downsizing and mega-mergers); by those who know that French is extremely marketable in American big cities (New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles) where huge French corporations, fashion houses, and banks are found. French is one of the world's major international languages: it is spoken by over 200 million people in 43 countries, on five continents. The prestige of French art, music, dance, fashion, cuisine, and cinema makes French a culturally important foreign language. France is one of the most prolific producers of international films. When you understand French, you don't have to rely on subtitles to enjoy a French film. French literature is one of the richest and most influential of the modern European world, featuring authors such as Rabelais, Montaigne, Racine, Proust, and Marguerite Duras. Several well-known philosophers were also French, including Descartes, Pascal, Rousseau, Voltaire, Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir. These authors' works are far more appreciated when read in the original language. There is currently great interest in the literature and culture of many Francophone countries and regions, especially in Africa and the Caribbean. French-language authors from outside France such as Patrick Chamoiseau, Maryse Condé, and Tahar Ben Jelloun now have international followings. A knowledge of French can open doors to graduate school, important research, and careers in the fields of medicine, the environment, business, engineering, and science and technology. American companies well established in France include: IBM, Microsoft, Mattel, Dow Chemical, Sara Lee, Ford, Coca-Cola, AT&T, Motorola, Steelcase, and Johnson & Johnson. The French section of the department offers study abroad opportunities in.

Or consider German, the secondly most commonly used scientific language in the world, the language of Goethe, Marx, Nietzsche, and Kafka, of Mann, Brecht, and Grass. Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and Schubert, Brahms, Schumann, Wagner, Mahler, and Schoenberg as well as Freud, Weber, Einstein, and Heisenberg, Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger. Many of the Western world’s most important works of philosophy, literature, music, art history, theology, psychology, chemistry, physics, engineering and medicine are written in German and continue to be produced in German. It has the largest number of native speakers in the European Union and is among the ten most commonly spoken languages in the world. The German-speaking world has produced some of the most revered filmmakers of the 20th century – from Fritz Lang to Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders and a new generation of transnational directors such as Tom Tykwer and Fatih Akin. German and Austrian filmmakers such as Lang, Billy Wilder and Ernst Lubitsch also shaped the history of Hollywood. Germany is the world’s largest exporter and the home to numerous international corporations.

Thanks to the foresight of a number of faculty and administrators, UMass-Dartmouth probably offers a wider range of opportunities for study in Germany than in any other country at the current time. The most economical exchange opportunity is between UMass and the German State of Hessen, including the universities of Darmstadt, Frankfurt, Giessen, Kassel, Marburg, Frankfurt, Fulda, Giessen-Friedberg, and Wiesbaden. There are also opportunities at the Music & Art Academies of Frankfurt and Offenbach. Tuition is waived: only academic fees and living costs are required. There are many courses in English and German allowing students to build skills and earn credits in diverse fields of study. Academic terms range from 3 weeks in Winter to 4-5 weeks in Summer, a single semester, or even a full year. Moreover, UMass-Dartmouth offers direct exchanges with both the University of Kassel and the University of Wolfsburg; and students can also apply through the UMass system to universities in the German State of Baden-Württemberg.

Or consider Italian, one of the top five economies in the world, a world leader in the culinary arts, interior design, fashion, graphic design robotics, and space engineering. Italy's cultural importance spans from antiquity through the present, of which the Roman period and the Renaissance are perhaps the two most influential moments. According to UNESCO, over 60% of the world's art treasures are found in Italy. Some of the most famous Western artists, from Giotto to Michelangelo, were Italian. Knowledge of Italian is vital to understand the contexts of this art. Italian literature boasts some of the world's most famous writers and thinkers, from Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch and Machiavelli, to Verga, Svevo, Pirandello, and Gramsci, to name a few. Since Roman times, Italy has exported its literature and culture to other parts of Europe and beyond, in the areas of Latin literature, Romanitas, humanism, opera, film, science, political thought, fashion, design, and cuisine. Knowing Italian allows you to understand, appreciate, and analyze this treasury of human expression.

Or consider Chinese, one of the world’s oldest and richest continuous cultures, over 5000 years old. Mandarin Chinese is spoken by over 873 million speakers, making it the most widely spoken first language in the world. In addition to the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, Mandarin Chinese is also spoken in the important and influential Chinese communities of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, and Mongolia. China is now the second largest economy in the world and the study of Chinese opens the way to different important fields such as Chinese politics, economy, history or archaeology or teaching. China will play a major role in world affairs in the future. As China now has opened up to the West, there are opportunities for employment in all areas. China is a wonderful country in which to teach English while developing your language and cultural skills. The experience is great, and it’s something you will never forget.

Or, consider Arabic, a Semitic language used by more than a billion Arabs and Muslims around the world. Originally spoken in Arabia, the language spread with the rise of Islam (AD 610) into such regions as North Africa, the Indian subcontinent, China, Asia Minor, and the Iberian Peninsula. It is now the fourth most widely spoken native language in the world after Chinese, Spanish and English. Learning Arabic can benefit anyone majoring or minoring in International Relations, Political Science, Comparative Literature, Islamic Studies, Religion, History, Anthropology, Social Studies, African Studies, Women’s Studies, Linguistics, and many other fields. Knowledge of Arabic is in great demand and has helped recent college graduates get high-paying job opportunities. Since the Middle Ages, Arabic has left an indelible mark on numerous other languages, related and unrelated — including English. Hundreds of Arabic literary works have been translated into world languages, and the Qur’an is among other things one of the world’s great masterpieces of verbal art.

To construct this page we have borrowed many ideas from the following universities and adapted their content to our purposes. Thank you! These include: Stanford University, The University of Michigan, the Dept. of FLL at University of Northern Iowa, the Dept. of Foreign Languages at Union College, the website of Learn NC, the website of the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literatures at Boston University, and pages of The Modern Language Association. Also, Colorado State University, Sonoma State University, San José State University, University of Minnesota, Rutgers University, San Diego State University, Penn State, Ohio State.