Modern Languages and Literatures

About us

Union College pioneered the study of modern languages 200 years ago, when other American colleges and universities offered only the ancient languages of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. Today, Union continues in this tradition, recognizing the essential importance of the past, but acutely aware that because students live in an increasingly interdependent world, their need for a global education, including more than one culture and language, is greater than ever.

Union offers a comprehensive program in the study of modern languages, literatures, and cultures. We teach courses in the original languages, as well as in translation. There are full programs leading to a major in French, Spanish, German and Chinese; an interdepartmental major in Russian; and minors in Chinese and Japanese (students can count courses from these programs toward a major in Asian Studies). Union also offers a year of Hebrew; a course in Italian for students preparing for the term abroad in Florence, Italy; a course in Portuguese for students preparing for the term in Brazil; and the possibility of study in Arabic.

Modern Languages and Literatures career paths

Graphic: career paths of Union language majors

To develop and maintain their skills, students have the option of living in language-oriented theme houses on campus, participating in language club activities and language tables, and attending throughout the academic year presentations by renowned speakers, poets, artists, and performers. Students may also participate in a range of exciting mini-term programs that include Martinique, the Louvre, a pilgrimage tour or combined Engineering/Liberal Arts term in Spain, and environmental studies in Brazil.

Union students who pursue language study have immediate access to a dynamic and committed faculty. An extensive library collection and a state-of-the-art language laboratory offer media-interactive language learning, satellite reception of foreign news broadcasts, and a rich collection of foreign film in video and DVD format, all of which are incorporated in lively and creative ways into a widely varying course curriculum. These courses are teacher-student interactive, often interdisciplinary in nature, and frequently taught in electronic classrooms, allowing faculty to combine their teaching styles with the latest developments in technology-assisted language learning.

Students can easily combine a language major or minor with virtually any discipline offered at Union College, thus enhancing their potential to flourish in an international job market that is placing increasing value on the knowledge of other languages and cultures. Furthermore, our students can earn invaluable post-graduate experience teaching English outside of the US, through programs such as JET in Japan, NET in Hong Kong, the French and Spanish government Teaching Assistantships, and the Fulbright program. We invite our students to consult with any of the faculty members in our department or the advisors in the Becker Career Center for guidance towards success in a variety of careers.

Department mission statement

In the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, we understand that culture begins with language. By living language in and beyond the classroom, our students cross borders and discover intersections that enrich their lives and environments. They learn not only the integral role languages play in shaping cultures of others as well as their own, but how immersion in other cultures through language unlocks aspects of their own lives they did not imagine existed. Our faculty are experts in face-to-face, technology-supported, immersive learning, and practitioners of interdisciplinary study. As a result, our students have the unique opportunity to pursue rigorous research projects in the target language that traverse arts and humanities, social sciences, science and engineering. With emphasis on critical analysis across a wide array of fields, our language programs expand students’ ethical and intercultural values through experiences that prepare them to negotiate a diverse range of perspectives and situations in their neighborhoods, workplaces, and communities, both local and global. Studies in Modern Languages and Literatures train students from day one in skills of adaptability, flexibility, and mobility, thus significantly broadening their opportunities on the world job market and for competitive graduate studies, while enhancing their sensitivity to realities of a shared life.

Please contact us for more information about our programs and offerings.