According to linguists, we learn the rules of our native language intuitively; along the way, we are taught exceptions to those rules. Learning to speak, we all know, comes from mimicking the sounds all around us-- including those our parents would prefer we not parrot. The study of foreign languages at Lawrence, after the first year, relies on the same process: learning by immersion. You don't learn to swim, after all, by practicing strokes on your beach towel. Will you make mistakes? Certainly, but an immersion setting encourages you to trust yourself and to improve by getting comfortable with making those mistakes, which we feel is an important step in becoming more effective communicators John Rassias, a celebrated professor of foreign languages at Dartmouth College, says it this way: "We don't learn to speak but we speak to learn."
The department offers three options: Latin, French, Spanish, and Chinese. The requirement is for at least two consecutive years in any one language, but students are strongly encouraged to continue their study beyond the second level. Your ability to take risks and willingness to be vulnerable are important measures of success at Lawrence—and the only ways to become a more proficient communicator in a foreign language. Along the way, by emphasizing the all-important relationship between language and culture, we encourage you to view language proficiency as the ticket to becoming a more globally competent citizen.
Honors designation is for students above the second year of language study who are selected by the department on the basis of oral and written proficiency, demonstrated ability in previous work, and performance. French and Spanish students must be willing to function completely in the target language in the classroom, and full participation in oral activities will be expected. Course materials and outline are similar to those in the regular level course with all facets being treated in more depth. Supplementary materials will include reading, analysis, and comparison of authentic literary selections. Expectations for student performance will be more stringent than those for regular level students. In order to be eligible for honors, students must have achieved a grade of at least A- in the previous year course (B+ in Latin) and receive the recommendation of the language department. To remain in the honors program for the following year, a student must receive a department recommendation. Final placement may depend on the number of spaces available in the honors program.