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Rutgers Centers for Global Advancement and International Affairs

Global Focus

Linguistic & Cultural Diversity


At Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, we believe that the study of linguistic and cultural diversity is a reflection of the changing demographics of our state and nation. In the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), departments such as the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Department of French have a strong focus on educating and researching the importance of linguistics and cultures, as well as building bridges between languages and communities. Over 35 languages are taught throughout the many SAS departments. Languages that are explored by Rutgers faculty across the university range from the North American Indian language Mohawk, the Afro-Asiatic Amharic, to the East Asian language Korean.

The Linguistics Department involves research and training in all areas of the discipline. They offer graduate programs as well as a major and minor in linguistics. Faculty dedicate themselves to research that benefits the department and its students.  For example, Ken Safir is the director of the African Anaphore Project which provides descriptions of a wide range of African languages in order to assist in linguistic investigation. Data is made available to any linguist who is interested. Safir personally focuses on syntactic theory, Germanic and African linguistics, and binding theory. Another faculty researcher is José Camacho, chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.  He focuses on Spanish linguistics, second language acquisition, language contact, and Amazonian linguistics.

In addition to a strong faculty, the Linguistics Department provides research space. The Phonetics Laboratory provides high quality equipment for recording, experimentation, and analysis. The Phonology and Field Research Laboratory is home to equipment for high quality audio recording. Also within the department, the Robert M. Jeffers Memorial Library holds an ever-growing number of course materials, journals, books, and conference proceedings. The Department of Linguistics works closely with the Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science (RuCCS).

The Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures (AMESALL) was established in 2008 to reflect the increased global interest of students. AMESALL focuses on the teaching of the languages and literatures of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Faculty give classes in over a dozen languages from these three regions, and additionally offer introductory and specialized classes, most taught in English, covering topics such as literature, folklore, sociolinguistics, and translation. Courses offered in this department range from elementary modern languages like Arabic, Hindi, and Twi, and classical languages like Qur’anic Arabic, Aramaic, Ge’ez, and Sanskrit, to classical and modern literatures of the three regions, trans-regional literary and cultural experiences, women writers of Africa and the poetry and prose of devotion, love, and desire in Hebrew and Sanskrit.

Additionally, both AMESALL and the Linguistics Department maintain close ties with the university’s World Languages Institute at the School of Arts and Sciences. It offers graduate students the opportunity to take courses in either department with the ultimate goal of becoming K-12 language teachers.

AMESALL and the Linguistics Department also have a strong relationship with area studies centers like the Center for African Studies (CAS), the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES), and the South Asian Studies Program (SASP). The university supports and encourages faculty research in African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian countries as well as linkages with universities and non-governmental organizations across these regions.

The Department of Asian Languages and Cultures offers introductory language programs for students just beginning the study of East Asian languages. This includes the different writing systems and in-depth analysis of Asian cultures. Undergraduate majors include Chinese and Japanese Concentration in East Asian Languages and Area Studies. Minors include Asian Studies and Korean.

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese has the goal of making sure that students in all areas in the Department become proficient in interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational modes of communication through linguistics, cultural studies, or translation. It offers many study abroad opportunities. These include experiences in Spain, Argentina, and Peru.

Additionally, the Department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies concentrates on cultural, social, and political histories of Spanish-speaking areas of the Caribbean, and communities in the United States that are of Latin American heritage. Some focuses include: Dominican transnational cultures, Puerto Rican literature, and Latinos and community. Students can take advantage of the many opportunities presented to them through the Department, such as a writing tutor, internships, and independent study. The Department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies has many projects, programs, and collaborations as well.

The Department of French has 15 notable faculty members who are dedicated to the teachings of French language, culture, and Francophone literature. Students can graduate with a minor, major, or graduate degree from the department as well as spend a summer abroad in Paris. The Department of French offers many opportunities for its students.  For example, female students may live in the French Speaking Housing on Douglass campus. French is spoken throughout the house and French food, music, and movies add to the experience.

The Modern Greek Studies Program is a small language program with courses offered to students of all majors, and a minor in Modern Greek Studies. Study abroad is offered for yearlong and summer study. The Department of Jewish Studies also has excellent study abroad opportunities through its programs with Ben-Gurion University, University of Haifa, and Hebrew University in Israel. The department also offers an array of public events that assist in the cultural enrichment of the community. Students can major or minor in Jewish Studies or minor in Hebrew. Those wishing to expand on this can also receive a graduate degree in Jewish Studies as well.

The Department of Germanic, Russian, and East European Languages and Literatures offers many programs for undergraduate and graduate students as well as a masters in the art of teaching. Rutgers in Berlin is a summer abroad program for students interested in German and German Studies as well as students who wish to visit Berlin while taking English classes such as Creative Writing, and Berlin Since the War. For those who wish to immerse themselves in German culture without a passport, German Special Interest Events host movie nights that are open to the public.

One of the most important aspects of linguistic and cultural diversity at Rutgers is enriching the knowledge of the students. Whether it is through study or work abroad, it is important to prepare students for jobs in a globalized world. Amongst other lessons, they learn the importance of knowing a second language and the customs of a different country or region in order to be culturally sensitive and understand that language and culture are crucial to the identity of a person and a community. Rutgers University believes in the significance of linguistic and cultural diversity and the breaking of barriers between different languages and communities.