USF St. Petersburg to offer new language courses
Foreign language requirements may seem like a chore for students who feel the university has few programs to offer, but this semester, additions to the newly named department of society, culture and language may bring some relief.
The only language courses that USF St. Petersburg has offered to students have been Spanish, French and American Sign Language. Students can also add Arabic to their options and eventually consider Chinese in the fall.
+“Language courses and minors complement any degree, and prepare students for the global world they are inheriting,” said Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Frank Biafora.
More options for satisfying foreign language requirements increase the potential for new minors, clubs and majors. As a result, the department is developing a new bachelor’s degree program for USFSP students called Foreign Language and Culture. Under the program, students will select a language and study a broader area of topics revolving around culture and literature.
“We recognized that many universities have narrowly focused language degrees and we were looking for a program that would be attractive for students and yet still distinctive enough to hold their interest,” Biafora said.
New programs are built around student demand, community needs and their relevance to contemporary global issues.
“Arabic and Mandarin connect with people in the two most important emergent regions of our planet,” said department Chair Jay Sokolovsky.
Fulbright, a state department sponsored program, provides funding for foreign language teaching assistants to work in universities like USFSP, which is facing budget cuts and other financial set backs.
“An opportunity with Fulbright knocked on our door and since we’ve noticed a range of increased interest in Middle Eastern culture and language, we were happy to jump on board,” Biafora said.
Fulbright covers the costs for teaching the language for one school year, which allows the university to scale potential student interest, but after that, the university has to sustain the program itself to keep it in place long-term.
The program offers educators and scholars from nearly 50 countries the opportunity to develop their professional skills and gain first-hand knowledge of the United States, its culture and its people as a way to aid in developing a greater understanding and knowledge of people among different nations.
“This global world is very competitive and students need to be focused more broadly on various cultures,” Biafora said. “We are trying to build a framework to launch students into different career opportunities that will provide them with unique learning experiences to distinguish them from the pack.”
Knowing more than one language is essential today. Martine Fernandes, coordinator of world languages and professor of French, speaks French, Portuguese, English and Spanish, and still wants to learn Arabic and Chinese.
“I would like to ask [the university to offer] Portuguese next because Brazil is an important economic partner for Florida and is a growing global economy right now,” Fernandes said.
Fernandes also said Florida’s Brazilian population is growing and has an influx of Brazilian tourists visiting Florida—especially Orlando and Tampa.