Modern Languages Program Overview

Come to know other cultures as they know themselves

Studying a modern foreign language isn’t just studying a list of words and phrases: It’s studying a culture, a people, and a way of life, and it opens up new worlds of understanding into literature, art, architecture, music, history, drama, and philosophy.

It also teaches you to communicate in a deeper and truer way. Studying a foreign language gives you a fuller understanding of words, grammar, and metaphors in your native language as well as in the languages of others. It makes your mind more flexible, more adaptive and agile. It teaches you the art of nuance and subtlety. And it prepares you to engage the global community with greater knowledge and greater perception.

If you want to better understand the world in which you live, if you want to travel and discover the riches of history and tradition, if you want to serve the Church in the U.S.— a Church increasingly and profoundly affected by Hispanic migration—or if you want to succeed in an interconnected, global economy, you should consider majoring in French or Spanish at Franciscan University.

As a language major, you will learn to listen, speak, read, and write in your chosen language. You will also learn about the literature penned in that language—the books of history, philosophy, theology, poetry, and fiction that both shaped the language and were shaped by the language. And you’ll come to understand the culture and history of the French or Spanish-speaking peoples, as well as their enduring contributions to the contemporary world.

To achieve these goals, you will study language in a way that reflects its links to human experience, studying it through literature, art, music, film, philosophy, theology, and science. Small-sized classes mean you will receive plenty of personal attention and individualized instruction from Franciscan’s world-class modern language faculty. Additionally, you’ll have the advantage of using our Language Learning Center, which allows you open access to computer technology that complements your classroom studies. The Learning Center is available for private practice, group study, reading, listening, and viewing foreign films.

All three majors afford you a large number of elective hours, making it possible to study a second or third foreign language, or study for a second major in other fields. By the time you graduate, you will be able to speak, read, write, and listen in French or Spanish. You’ll understand the culture and history of the French or Spanish-speaking peoples. And you’ll have the communication skills you need to be an asset to any business or organization in today’s global economy.

Missions, Aims, and Goals

The study of foreign languages is an important element of an education in the liberal arts, vital today for any student who seeks fruitful interaction in a rapidly evolving and interconnected global culture, but especially for the student educated in the Catholic and Franciscan tradition. Foreign language study is an important discipline for refining one’s communication skills, improving clarity of thought and expression, and enhancing the knowledge and use of one’s native language. It fosters the mental flexibility required in an ever-changing workplace environment. Learning a second language expands one’s cultural awareness and lessens dependence on stereotypical expressions and formulaic reasoning. Knowing a foreign language deepens an education in the humanities, rendering more vivid the student’s knowledge of history, geography, philosophy, literature, and the fine arts. Above all, the acquisition of a second language engages the individual on the path of responsible citizenship in the world community, encouraging foreign travel and exploration of foreign cultures, essential elements of a truly liberating education.


The Mission of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures therefore is to provide a comprehensive program of instruction in French and Spanish for students wishing to major/minor in these fields and to provide courses for students wishing to acquire skills in these languages on the elementary, intermediate, and advanced levels.

Teaching in the modern languages emphasizes the four linguistic skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing in order to foster effective interpersonal communication, essential comprehension and appreciation of written and spoken texts, as well as reflection upon them, and critical reaction to them. For this purpose, the language programs also seek to impart an awareness of the cultures which use the languages, both in their historical and contemporary contexts. Languages therefore are studied in a manner that reflects their links to many fields of human experience, including literature, art, music, film, philosophy, theology, and science. The Department’s goals thus include enabling students to be informed about world events, at least in as far as they affect the cultures they study, and responsive to the experiences and perspectives of societies at different times and places. In acting on its mission, the Department furthermore helps students experience the classics of Western civilization and develop historical consciousness. While the subjects in the Department’s domain are taught according to their “proper autonomy,” they are brought as far as their nature allows into relation with Christian revelation, Catholic tradition, and specifically Franciscan values.


In light of the above mission, the programs in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures are designed with three general aims: 1) to provide courses in French and Spanish for students wishing to acquire skills in these languages on the elementary, intermediate, and advanced level; 2) to provide students with an opportunity to complement their major studies in another field with a minor in French and Spanish, and 3) to provide a solid comprehensive program in French and Spanish for students wishing to major in the field.

Major Programs

The majors in French and Spanish are offered for three categories of students:

  1. those students who wish to acquire a liberal education centered on the intensive study of foreign language, literature, and culture;
  2. those planning to do graduate work in these fields, and
  3. those intending to use the foreign language in their chosen professions.

The major programs include a variety of courses in language command, linguistics, literature and culture, so that students may gain exposure to all necessary aspects of their chosen field of study. Overall, the departmental course offerings in French and Spanish are designed so as to facilitate that majors should have a chance to

  • become increasingly able to comprehend the spoken and written French or Spanish language with a reasonable degree of accuracy and also become increasingly able to communicate effectively in both spoken and written modern standard French or Spanish demonstrating a reasonable command of vocabulary, grammar, and idioms;
  • acquire a global understanding of the origins, development, and enduring contributions of French-speaking or Hispanic cultures and civilizations, and
  • be introduced to a wide selection of literary works of various genres and styles and by a variety of authors from different historical periods.

Upon completion of the French major, a student should be able to demonstrate

  • undergraduate knowledge of modern French language, grammar, and syntax;
  • a general familiarity with French history, geography, and civilization, as well as
  • a general familiarity with French literature.

Note: to facilitate assessment of these program learning goals, all French majors will take the departmental French Assessment Exam twice: when first enrolling in any 300 or 400 level course, and again during the final semester of enrollment in a French course.

Upon completion of the Spanish major, a student should be able to demonstrate

  • undergraduate-level skills in Modern Standard Spanish,
  • undergraduate level ability to reflect upon a selected issue in and/or work of Hispanic culture past and/or present either in terms of its component parts and/or its contemporary/historical context and/or in terms of Catholic and Franciscan values and/or in terms of common human concerns across the ages and/or in terms of a comparison with another culture, and
  • undergraduate-level ability to produce a project that is valid, coherent, cogent, adequately developed, and adequately presented.

A large number of elective hours makes it possible for a language major to acquire skills in a second or third foreign language, or pursue academic interests, especially a major, in other fields. Small-sized classes afford personal attention and individualized instruction. Our Language Learning Center complements the work of the classroom by making use of computer technology; it is available for private practice, group study, reading, listening, and viewing enjoyment.

Study Abroad
  • All qualified students are encouraged to gain cultural and linguistic knowledge by spending a few weeks, a summer, a semester, or an entire year abroad in France, Québec, Switzerland, Latin America, or Spain. Interested students should consult with their foreign language advisor about selecting one of the many approved foreign language study programs sponsored by other institutions or institutes according to their individual needs and personal desires. Furthermore, help with arrangements and limited logistical support, especially as concerns a semester or a year abroad, is available through the University’s Study Abroad Office.
  • All students have the opportunity to participate in the University’s semester-long Study Abroad Program in Gaming, Austria.
General Language, Literature, and Civilization Courses

The Department of Modern Languages and Literatures offers language courses in French and Spanish on the elementary, intermediate, and advanced levels, as well as literature and civilization courses, to accommodate students majoring in other fields, and in particular: (1) those who, as part of their liberal arts education, wish to acquaint themselves with the literature and worlds of thought outside their own cultural environment; (2) those who wish to combine the knowledge of a foreign language with other professional interests, thus enhancing job opportunities and advancement, and (3) those who will need the knowledge of one or more foreign languages for research.

General Language, Literature, and Civilization Courses

For students pursuing the Bachelor of Arts degree, the foreign language requirement is 6 credits at the intermediate level in a modern or classical language. For students not prepared to enter the intermediate level, a six-credit elementary course is also required. The foreign language requirement may also be satisfied by examination or other verification of proficiency.

Academic Catalog

View the Modern Languages Program on the Undergraduate Catalog

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Alumni Profiles
Beyond the Classroom
Austrian Semester Abroad

Grow, develop, and be formed into a more mature student by spending a semester in Franciscan’s Austrian program. You’ll expand your major in unbelievable ways by traveling to places such as Rome and the holy sites of Christendom, and through courses taught at a 14th-century monastery that also serves as your home.

Department Faculty
Dr. Alberto Descalzo

Dr. Alberto Descalzo

Associate Professor

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Sherri Kurz Descalzo portrait 9-11-2020 -9667

Dr. Sherri Kurz Descalzo

Associate Professor

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St. Francis Statue and red leaves on trees

Dr. Kathleen Spinnenweber


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Dr. Timothy Williams

Dr. Timothy Williams


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Prof. Karin Zinner

Prof. Karin Zinner

Austria Program

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Language Placement Exams

Get information about taking the language placement exams during New Student Orientation.