Overview

The study of a culture through its language offers insights into unfamiliar worlds which cannot be realized in any other way; such study is one of the distinguishing features of a liberal arts education. Moreover, competence in a language other than English can provide a decided advantage for any post-graduate education or career objective.

The Spanish and French Studies program at Occidental is designed to provide the student with an analytical grasp of the traditions and complexities of the Spanish and/or French-speaking world. The rich cultural and literary expressions of Spain and Latin America provide the context for a classroom environment that builds strong conversational skills and immerses the student in intensive language use. Similarly, the department introduces students to the rich intellectual, literary, cultural, and political traditions of the Francophone world through the study of works from Africa, Canada, the Caribbean, and Europe. Classroom instruction and discussions take place entirely in Spanish or French, and Occidental College's strategic position in Southern California also provides students with numerous opportunities to use the Spanish language interactively. The department also offers courses in Modern Standard Arabic, as well as courses in Arabic conversation and Arabic literature and culture in translation.

The department strongly encourages all students, whether considering a major in the department or not, to investigate Occidental's opportunities for study abroad (see Off-Campus Study). In recent years, students from a wide variety of departments, including the sciences, have taken advantage of these programs, greatly enhancing their education and future opportunities. These programs exemplify Occidental's ideal of a liberal education that increases sensitivity to and appreciation of other cultures. Finally, the department also invites students to engage in community-based learning through the different activities available in the intermediate and advanced Spanish language classes.

Linguistics at Occidental College is housed in the Department of Spanish and French Studies.

Linguistics is the scientific study of language as a type of human activity: how languages are constructed and why, where they came from, and how they got that way. It also delineates the breadth and limitations of language's usability. Thus linguistics straddles the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. As an applied field, it is highly useful to anyone learning another language, to those intending to teach English or any other language, to people studying other cultures (since culture is encoded and transmitted largely via language structures), and to those studying human cognition or child development (since language structure plays a central role in both).