We are very excited to share that the Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures (MFLL) has officially changed its name to Department of World Languages and Cultures (WLC). The new name reflects the great variety of approaches and interests in our scholarly work and course offerings, and we believe it best embodies the work we do and the communities we serve, support, and represent.
Our decision reflects current changes and trends among language departments in universities worldwide. In recent years, academic language departments, professional scholarly organizations, and government agencies have adopted the name “World Languages and Cultures” to substitute the “Foreign Languages” and “Modern Languages” designation.
As a department, we decided that the expression “Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures” does not adequately convey the scope of our mission and curriculum. The term “foreign” is becoming increasingly problematic, suggesting a division of the world into the United States and everyone else. In addition, the adjective “modern” has traditionally been associated with a few European languages to the detriment of all the other languages.
To clearly understand the process that brought the department to this decision, it is important to provide a short historical context. MFLL was created in 1999 from the merger of Germanic, Slavic, Asian Languages, and Romance Languages with the objective of consolidating a solid academic unit that would approach the study of language as a sociocultural phenomenon, a communication system, and a means of construction and expression of identity and knowledge.
At present, the department offers courses in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Students can earn a BA in French and Francophone Studies, German, Hispanic Studies, Italian, or Russian Studies. We also have a major in Language and World Business with a concentration in nine of the ten languages listed above, an MA in French, German, and Spanish, and a PhD in WLC with concentrations in French, German, and Spanish.
Our new name acknowledges and embraces the diversity of the cultural areas we study, raises visibility and awareness of the courses, experiences, and activities we offer, and stays up-to-date with developments in the diverse range of languages and cultures taught, researched, and studied by our faculty and students.
We will continue to celebrate the history and achievements of the department, renew and recommit to expanding knowledge, and deepen our collective understanding and commitment to peoples, languages, and cultures. The new name is only one of several changes the World Languages and Cultures department is implementing in the next few years. We will provide a full update in our annual newsletter later this semester.
We are certain that the new name accurately represents UT’s goal of creating a campus that embraces global engagement as a core value while also encouraging diversity, equity, and inclusion. We hope everyone shares our excitement about our new name and departmental direction.
-Submitted by Luis Cano