The ubiquitous, expanding presence of dozens of languages in the United States makes their ongoing decline as academic subjects, across all levels of American education, a puzzle and a scandal. A chasm is widening between the multilingual world in which we live and the monolingual world in which we teach and learn. The Language Engagement Project’s driving idea is that this chasm must and can be closed.
Rutgers is one of the most linguistically diverse universities in the nation; so is New Jersey among states. We believe that this reality must be recognized; precisely described and understood; and then embraced and nurtured across our institution. With it, with the responsibility it entails, come many challenges, but also many extraordinary opportunities.
Accordingly, three Schools at Rutgers - New Brunswick – the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Communication and Information, and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences – have adopted the Language Engagement Project, which is being proposed to the consideration of other Schools as well, and has recently received significant support from the Chancellor’s Fund.
The Project is a major initiative focused on three deeply correlated goals:
• To promote and transform the teaching and learning of world languages as a key tenet of higher education, by making their presence and relevance felt across the curriculum;
• To celebrate and unleash our students’ own language cultures and abilities, by creating innovative formats beyond the classroom, and by making the multilingual nature of Rutgers visible and precious to all;
• To affirm and honor, likewise, the multilingual nature of Rutgers’ environment, by reaching out to language (and language instruction) communities across New Jersey.
This vision is expressed in a series of innovative one-credit courses, modules, and activities, designed to awaken new intellectual and pedagogical connections between languages and other fields, as well as among the languages of our students.
In turn, these ongoing creation will lead to a one-credit requirement proposal, which will be presented to the vote of the faculty in participating Schools by May 2021. Whether or not it is adopted, our hope is that the Language Engagement Project’s innovations will endure and flourish, to the extent that they will have succeeded in bringing our languages out of the shadows, and in demonstrating their vital relevance – to all campus lives and to the very process of learning.