An Essay on the Role of Language in Collegiate Foreign Language Programmatic Reform1


  • Hiram Maxim

    1. (Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin) is an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of German Studies at Emory University.
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  • 1

    This essay is based on a paper delivered in the AATG-sponsored session “How Revolutionary Are We? Current Issues on Curricular Shifts at Private Institutions” at the 2007 Annual Convention of the Modern Language Association (MLA) in December 2007 in Chicago, Illinois. The author would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers and Ingeborg Walther for their invaluable feedback on earlier drafts of this article.


This position paper argues that collegiate foreign language (FL) education has lost sight of the central role that language plays in the profession. Regardless of one's sub-field within foreign language education (i.e., linguistic, literary, or cultural studies), the profession shares the common focus of exploring how to make and interpret meaning in and through language. The paper therefore recommends that an acknowledgement of and re-commitment to this foundational principle provides common ground to effect the types of change within departments that have long been called: the integration of upper- and lower-level instruction; the reform of graduate student teacher education to foster curricular thinking; the explicit and systematic attention to the development of advanced language abilities; and the establishment of a collaborative departmental culture centered around publicly shared beliefs and concerns.