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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 19, 2024

Department of Romance Studies announces new multilingual major

Next semester, the new major will combine study of two or more Romance languages into one major.


The F.W. Olin Center, which houses the Department of Romance Studies, is pictured.

The Department of Romance Studies is unveiling a new interdisciplinary major — aptly named Romance Studies — for the upcoming fall semester that will allow students to study two romance languages simultaneously. In addition, the French department has also tweaked requirements for the French minor to accommodate students with higher proficiency, with credit toward the six required courses beginning at French 4.

According to Distinguished Senior Lecturer Amy Millay, students will be required to take a total of 10 courses, including Romance Linguistics, taught in English. Millay described it as a “choose your own adventure” combination of a minimum of two languages: Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian.

Students must pursue a primary language starting at courses numbered 22 or 23 and at least two classes completed above number 30. For the secondary language, students must start at course number 21 and complete at least one course above number 22. Students may also pursue an optional third language or take a Latin course.

Nina Gerassi-Nevarro, professor and chair of the Romance Studies department, explained the benefits of the Romance Studies major as opposed to a major in just one romance language.

“In a way, students will be even more prepared,” Gerassi-Navarro wrote in an email to the Daily. “For this major students have to navigate two languages and, despite similarities, two different cultures. To the extent that learning a foreign language increases your analytical skills, stimulates creativity and your cross-cultural understanding, being able to move in two languages enhances these aspects. Even if you are not as fluent in the second language you will have developed a deeper understanding of how linguistic and cultural differences inform political and economic outcomes, which is certainly an asset to have in our globalized world.”

While major materials say that students will have typically reached some proficiency in one language before pursuing the major, Distinguished Senior Lecturer Anne-Christine Rice explained that this is not a strict requirement.

“A very motivated student with no previous knowledge in a Romance language could do the major but it would be a significant investment in time and energy,” she wrote in an email to the Daily.

The Department of Romance Studies surveyed over 300 students about their interest in the Romance studies major in the fall of 2023. Of those who responded, 60 of them indicated that they were “strongly interested” in the major.

Shortly after the interest survey was sent out, leaders in the Romance studies department held an informal discussion to gain valuable insight from interested students.

“This initiative stemmed from conversations we had with students who are native/heritage speakers of a Romance language and studying another [language] at Tufts,” Rice wrote. “They were eager to pursue a major which combined their identity and interests, and other students are language enthusiasts who are interested in two or three languages offered by our department.”

The department learned more about the students’ interests, allowing them to plan major requirements accordingly.

“Student feedback was invaluable, leading us to incorporate many of their suggestions into our major guidelines,” Rice wrote.

After deliberation on the requirements of the major, the department decided that they will tailor course selection to each student’s proficiency level in their respective languages.

Adriana Bussel-Alonso, a first-year interested in the major, shared her excitement about the opportunities the major presents.

“This major will make it easier for me, and other students who enjoy learning languages and have a curiosity for Romance Studies to advance in these areas,” Bussel-Alonso wrote in an email to the Daily. “I am a native Spanish speaker, and I am taking high level classes in both French and Portuguese. Before this major was announced, I was planning on dropping one of the languages since I wanted to explore other potential majors and classes.”

The new major will not only expand her future class options, but give her the opportunity to continue taking Spanish courses.

“It convinced me to keep on taking classes in both languages,” Bussel-Alonso wrote. “Now, I am inspired to take Spanish classes for the optional tertiary language component and continue my language learning journey.”

The department will now offer French and Spanish minors for students studying at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Additionally, they opened a minor in French to all students in the School of Arts and Sciences, previously only available to students starting at lower levels. To acquire this minor, students can take six courses taught in French at any level beginning at French 4.

“We are thrilled to offer this opportunity to a growing population of students at Tufts who are interested in the history of Romance languages and seek to attain proficiency in two or more [languages],” Millay wrote.