Possible upcoming changes within the Modern Languages Department


With the increased use of Spanish in the U.S., the Modern Languages Department is considering possible changes within the department.

“By the year 2041, the majority of people living in the United States will speak Spanish as their native language, that’s the majority,” Spanish Professor Robert Hershberger said.

The first change that the Spanish Department has discussed is renaming themselves as the Department of Hispanic Studies. “Currently Spanish is part of the department of Modern Languages, but in the very near future we will organize ourselves as a department of Hispanic Studies, which means we are sort of separating from the other languages in the department,” Hershberger said.

Along with the possible change of the department name, the department also wants a greater focus on culture, while still emphasizing the importance of language itself. "One of the models that we’re looking at is possibly forming a general program of world languages which would have relationships with a lot of our interdisciplinary studies and forming within or parallel to world languages a department or a program of Hispanic studies,” Chair of the Modern Languages Department Alejandro Puga said.

In order to emphasize a focus on culture, there could be changes in the Spanish major requirements, such as a mandatory study abroad experience. “We’re looking at the possibility of requiring study abroad, we see that a good number of our majors are already choosing to complete two of the credits towards their major abroad,” Puga said.

Regardless of changes to the Modern Languages department, students are still having difficulty enrolling in introductory level Spanish courses due to over enrollment. Since courses such as Spanish 140 are always full, students cannot start taking classes to complete a major or minor in time for graduation.

Students who need to fulfill their language requirements are also struggling to get placed in a Spanish class. Sophomore Kelsi Dye has been trying to get into a Spanish introductory class since her first-year, and has been waitlisted every time. “I found it really disheartening when I got my schedule back, and I saw that I didn't have my Spanish class yet again,” Dye said. “DePauw makes it seem as if, when you're an upperclassman, that you'll get into all of your classes because you're a priority.”

Although students have been blaming the system, DePauw is not the reason why students are not getting into introductory level courses. “You get some students, they’ll request that [100 level language course] their first year and then they kind of drop it or they habitually request it like their fifth choice or something so they never do get into it and then they’re still hanging around as seniors and all of a sudden saying well I have to take this to graduate,” DePauw University Registrar Kenneth Kirkpatrick said.

Kirkpatrick also said most students who want to major or minor in a language do not need the introductory classes. “Very few students who end up majoring or minoring in the language in one of the European languages actually start at the 100 level anywhere,” said Kirkpatrick. “Almost all of them are coming in at least at the 200 or 300 levels, so once in awhile you see somebody that started with Spanish 140 that kept taking it, but not very often.”

Puga said that the Spanish section of the Modern Languages department wants to make it clear that all of these changes are not yet determined, but could possibly be implemented in the future. “I would underscore with all of these discussions, again we’re looking at it, we’re discussing it, and next year is really a transitional year for the Modern Languages Department,” Puga said. “That’s when we’re going to really start talking about what is feasible versus what is aspirational and what can we implement in the short run and what can we implement in the long run.”