Language is the fundamental tool we use to structure our experiences, our ideas, and our culture. We learn from childhood onward both to shape and to share our feelings and ideas through language. In learning a language, however, we also learn (whether we realize it or not) particular cultural emphases and biases. This problem only grows as the concepts we attempt to express in language become more abstract, as with, say, ‘liberty,’ ‘democracy,’ and ‘freedom.’ At Gettysburg College, we are particularly interested in such words in light of the historical heritage of the region, a place where much blood was shed over the meaning of those very words. Thus if we are going to take seriously our regional history, the mission of a liberal arts education, and our place in the world, we need to expand our awareness of other ways of thinking, speaking, reading, and writing. By far the most meaningful way to do this is through exposure to other languages and cultures.
During your time at Gettysburg College, you will have the opportunity to engage with foreign languages, ideas, and cultures in new ways; you might read Flaubert in French, or watch a Werner Herzog film in German, or learn to write in Japanese, Chinese, or ancient Greek (different scripts!), or come to appreciate a sung Latin Mass. You may even engage in an unexpected and lively conversation with somebody in Spanish or Italian. Moreover, we want you to study abroad and experience another culture in its own language, sooner rather than later if possible.
Gettysburg College currently offers its students the following foreign languages on campus: ancient Greek, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, and Spanish. Many other languages are available to students through our study abroad programs and there are also a variety of non-credit bearing ways to study and/or engage in language learning at Gettysburg.
The faculty highly recommends that students begin foreign language study during their first semester. Most of our incoming first year students will have studied languages in high school and this continuation gives students a greater opportunity to develop a global perspective as they concurrently increase their linguistic competence and cultural understanding of a particular language. Whether you continue a language you have already studied, or begin a new language, the sooner you start your language study, the more access you will have to interesting related opportunities including study abroad and special housing options. For some languages, such as Italian Studies, if you do not enroll in a section of a beginning level your first semester, your chances to enroll as a sophomore are drastically reduced.
Gettysburg College requires that all students take two sequential courses of a foreign language in the same language. This requirement holds regardless of whether you begin a new language at Gettysburg or if you place into a higher level of language through our language placement exam. For example, if a student takes the placement exam and places into French 201, that student will take French 201 and in sequence French 202. If a student starts a new language, that student will take two semesters of that language, such as Italian 101 and Italian 102.
Yes. Students may complete their requirement at an appropriate level while studying abroad. Through an accredited program of study, students may also begin and complete their study of another foreign language that Gettysburg College does not offer. For example, a student could take the equivalent of a year's language study in either a full year of study abroad or an intensive one-semester language program that meets the Gettysburg College language requirement.
Personal aptitude, interest, and study-abroad desires usually serve as good guides for students to decide whether or not to continue a language that they have studied in the past. Some students attain a high degree of facility in a language, usually indicated by good grades in high school language classes, and they wish to perfect their speaking, listening, reading and writing skills in that language at Gettysburg College. Many of these students will finally have the opportunity to study abroad in a country where the language that they have studied is spoken.
Other students desire to study abroad in a certain country and have not had the opportunity to study the particular language or languages of that country. In some cases students have studied a particular language for years and have simply lost interest in continuing to study it. Many of these students are excited to start anew.
Students should weigh their language learning options based on a combination of the above considerations, knowing that they are welcome to fulfill their language requirement by studying any language Gettysburg College offers, or another language through study abroad.
The following students are exempt from taking a language at Gettysburg:
a. Students whose second language is English and who have studied in a language other than English at the high school level or higher. These students may petition the Registrar’s Office for exemption from the second language requirement once they arrive at Gettysburg.
b. Students who grew up bilingual and completed high school studies taught in English need to complete the language requirement. Gettysburg College requests that these “heritage speakers” self-disclose their language experience so that both administrative and faculty members may best be able to place them into an appropriate level of the foreign language that they speak, provided that they propose to study their heritage language. Whether or not these students formally studied their heritage language in high school, and that language is offered by Gettysburg College, they should take the placement exam for that language.
If you earned a 4 or 5 on an AP language test, the College will give credit toward one (1) language course. Such students will then take one further course in that language to fulfill the language requirement. For example, if a student takes the AP exam in Spanish and scores a 4 or 5, and then he or she wishes to enroll in a Spanish course, he or she will only have to complete successfully one more Spanish course to meet the College requirement. If that student opts to enroll in any other language besides Spanish, he or she will have to take two courses in the same language. Students with AP credit will also need to take the language placement exam to determine where they should best be placed for their remaining language course. Some language departments will also conduct an assessment interview on campus in addition to the placement exam. Please contact the individual language departments for further information.
The College offers "Promising Language Scholar" Recognition designed to provide incoming students special acknowledgement for excellence in language study. Find out more.