Foreign Languages Across the Curriculum (FLAC): An Immersion Option at the Post-Secondary Level
The ACIE Newsletter, November 2000, Vol. 4, No. 1
By Jolene Jacobson Barjasteh,
Associate Professor of French, FLAC director (2000-2001),
St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota
Last fall, one of my students stopped by after class to discuss her options for continuing to study French language and culture beyond the fourth-semester college level. "I've just finished my language require-ment sequence," she said, "and I'd love to take more French. But I'm a science major, and I simply don't have the room in my schedule for another French class. What can I do?"
In the past, I may have struggled to find a satisfying answer for this student. Now, how-ever, I responded with enthusiasm: "Register for Medicine, Ethics and Society, an interdisciplinary course being taught by a team of professors in philosophy, sociology, and French."
My student seemed skeptical until I explained how this particular course would provide her an opportunity to use her language competence and cultural knowledge in specially designed assignments and discussions for its Foreign Languages Across the Curriculum (FLAC) component.
What is FLAC?
For over a decade, St. Olaf College faculty members from humanities, languages, and social sciences have redesigned appropriate courses in areas such as economics, history, religion, sociology, and political science to allow students to do some of their coursework in a foreign language. Options include conversation components in Chinese, French, German, Norwegian, Russian, or Spanish. In a one-hour weekly session, students read and discuss materials in the designated foreign language related to the core disciplinary course. Thus, the integration of content and language becomes the focus of the FLAC component.
Successful FLAC Courses and Models
The St. Olaf faculty's keen interest in real life language use is related to the college's commitment to provide its students with a global perspective in today's fast-changing world. To that end, instructors who participate in the FLAC program offer courses that appeal to three main groups of students. Some of them seek to fulfill general education requirements by linking their knowledge of foreign culture to another area of study. Others want to deepen their understanding of a specific region of the world or certain facets of another culture as a part of their own special course of study. Finally, many students enroll in FLAC courses either in preparation for study abroad or upon their return in an effort to integrate more successfully the off-campus experience with on-campus learning.
The roster of successful FLAC courses reflects the expertise of its faculty and the interests of students with intermediate-high to advanced-level language proficiency. Courses such as Modern France, Chinese Civilization, Soviet and Russian Foreign Policy, and Modern Latin America attract students intrigued with the history and development of a certain region. Offerings such as Christian Theology in Historical Context, Mare Balticum, and Contemporary Latin American Issues provide students with differing cultural viewpoints on selected topics.
Faculty members have shown great creativity and flexibility in teaching courses with a foreign language component. Three types of component models have emerged over time in response to the needs of our students. In the "single instructor" model, the professor of the discipline or core course has sole responsibility for the language component and speaks the foreign language with the students. In the "readings enriched" model, the professor of the core course leads discussion in English of materials students read in the foreign language. Finally, the "paired instructor" model, also known as the "St. Olaf model" because of the pioneering efforts of our FLAC program, brings two instructors together to collaborate in an innovative way. The foreign language professor is responsible for the foreign language component; the professor of the core course attends the language sessions as a participant.
Is FLAC for You?
The St. Olaf program depended initially on outside funding from sources such as the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE). More recently, FLAC has continued to thrive on an endowment established by the Virginia Ann Dekker Groot family, in recognition of the program's successful contribution to inter-national education at the college. This endowment allows us to offer modest stipends to faculty members who teach in the program. However, the real motivation for participation in FLAC is the "hands-on" experience of analyzing texts in the original language with eager, enthusiastic students.
Although your institution may not have funds available for faculty development of this sort, you can still take the following initial steps toward this type of integrative study: