Why are languages relevant to historians?
Language abilities enhance any degree, including a history major. Here are some situations in which language abilities will be of advantage to you:
- Your company offers an opportunity to be posted abroad to a non-English speaking country. Who will get the job: someone who speaks only English, or someone with demonstrated language abilities?
- You are applying for a job in a school which caters to children whose native language is not English. Who will get the job: someone who speaks only English, or someone with demonstrated language abilities?
- You are in graduate school, and there are scholarships available for language study. The scholarships would cover your living expenses for all of your coursework. Who will get the scholarships: someone who speaks only English, or someone who already has demonstrated language abilities?
The business world in the United States, and not least in Wisconsin, is increasingly committed to a global approach. Companies will need more and more people who both understand US culture and speak at least one foreign language.
The United States has a huge population of people whose native tongue is not English. The schools and agencies who work with these people need workers who can communicate with their clientele.
Many graduate programs require foreign language ability in at least one, and often two, languages. The earlier you start, the easier it is. Language-study scholarships can pay for most or all of your graduate studies, but they tend to be awarded to people who have already done some language study.
For graduate work in history, if you study any region other than the English-speaking United States, or modern English-speaking Britain, Australia, or New Zealand, you will have to learn at least one foreign language. For instance, you cannot study German history without learning German, Moroccan history without learning Arabic, Japanese history without learning Japanese, or Latin American history without learning Spanish. And even to study immigrant communities in Wisconsin, you might have to learn Finnish, Swedish, or Hmong; to study medieval Britain you would have to learn Latin and perhaps Old French; and to study New Zealand history you might well have to learn Maori.
So start now!
Languages currently offered on campus at UW-Superior
- American Sign Language
See current information online for further details - offerings are changing all the time.
UW-Superior students are also eligible to cross-register for courses (including language courses) at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the College of St. Scholastica. Language offerings at those institutions currently include French, German, and Russian.
Language study opportunities are also available, both within the United States and abroad.
Language study in the United States
These programs have the advantage that they are usually highly structured and intensive, since they generally aim to compress a semester or more of language teaching into a summer or less. The best ones take a total immersion approach, by which you take a pledge to speak only the target language for your entire time on the course. You are also relatively close to home. They do tend to be expensive, although some programs, such as the one at Middlebury, do offer scholarships or other forms of financial aid.
- East Asian Summer Language Institute, Indiana University
- Middlebury College intensive summer language schools (various languages, scholarships available)
- University of Minnesota summer language programs in the Twin Cities (various languages, scholarships available)
- See also: any school that has a graduate program in your area of interest will have appropriate language study courses too
Language study abroad
This has the advantage that you are right in a culture in which a particular language (or languages) is/are spoken. You have opportunities not only to learn the language in the classroom, but also to experience aspects of the culture for yourself, including some which you may never learn about in the classroom! These programs also tend to be expensive, but again, there are some scholarships or financial aid. The quality of programs can vary considerably, even when classes are being offered by a reputable university.
- Beijing Union University (Chinese)
- CET Chinese and Japanese language programs (Beijing and Harbin, Nanjing and Kyoto, scholarships available)
- Council on International Educational Exchange Study Centers and Study Abroad (various languages)
- EducAsian Intensive Study and Travel Programs
- Hopkins-Nanjing Center (study history, politics, economics in Chinese)
- Qinghai Junior Teachers' College (Chinese)
- School for International Training (various languages)
- State Pedagogical University of Mongolia (Mongolian)
- Summer in China, Beijing Foreign Studies University and Ocean University of Qingdao (Chinese)
- SUNY Brockport Vietnam Project, Danang, Vietnam
- Thai Studies Certificate Program, Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Language teaching abroad
The advantage of this is that it is relatively cheap - in fact you might even get paid! You go as a teacher of English as a Second Language but usually no ESL qualification is required: generally what they are after is an interested and enthusiastic native speaker.
However, the other side of this is that language study for you is usually not an explicit part of the deal. While it is rarely difficult to find someone who can teach you one of the local languages, you will probably have to make such arrangements yourself. This means that the quality of teaching can vary considerably, and if you are to learn anything you will need to be personally committed to studying the language. On the other hand, once you have found somebody to teach you, you will probably be getting one-to-one tuition, which is much the best way to learn.
- Aeon (ESL in Japan)
- Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi'an Branch, China
- Geos (ESL in Japan)
- High school teacher, Hunan province, China
- International Internship Programs, Japan
- Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET)
- WorldTeach (various programs, including Shanghai Summer Teaching Program in China)