About the Modern Languages and Literatures Department
In 1795, Union College broke away from the traditional curriculum of offering its students the ancient languages and moved toward offering modern languages. French was the first offered.
In 1795, students were only admitted to Union if they were already acquainted with Greek and French. German was the second language to enter the Modern Language curriculum in 1838.
In 1854, Eliphalet Nott stated that students needed to graduate with either a "classical" degree, for which the diploma was written in Latin, or a "scientific" degree, for which the diploma was written in either French or German. Union's Catalog specified that science students were to take two successive terms of French in their sophomore year and three successive terms of German in their junior year. Spanish and Italian were offered on a "voluntary basis."
By 1869, the modern language requirement for the scientific course had more than doubled. French was studied for six terms during the first two years of college, and German was studied through the sophomore and junior years.
By 1889, the modern languages had become a requirement for all students. Fifty years later, however, the curriculum in modern languages shifted. Union's 1939-40 Catalog offered eleven courses in German, ten in French, eight in Spanish, two in Italian, and three in Russian.
Despite the integration of new languages, language requirements significantly decreased. In 1971, Union permitted women to enroll, expanding the student body from 1400 men to 2000 women and men. Even as the College eliminated the language requirement in that same year, this newly diverse student population took advantage of the increasingly varied language options.
The newly introduced Term Abroad Program, invented by Professor Fredrick A. Klemm after his first "Spring in Vienna" program in 1969, aided in the diversification of languages offered. Early term abroad programs included: Bogota, Colombia, France, Spain, Vienna and a Goethe-Institut site in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Today, the Modern Languages and Literatures Department at Union College offers Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, and Russian. The Department, which includes a Language Center and multi-media classrooms, is found in the Humanities Building. Language study is a part of Union's Core Curriculum. To satisfy the Linguistic and Cultural Competency (LCC) component, you can take two courses in one of our languages if you are placed at 101 or above, or three courses if you begin your language study at the 100 level.