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Languages

“I could not envision a more effective and equally humbling and empowering experience in both teaching and learning.”

—Olga Lopez-Cotin, RC Spanish Program Head

Applying the principles of immersion and constant practice to language learning, the RC offers its students the opportunity to choose from six intensive language programs: Spanish, French, German, Russian, Latin and Japanese. Each program takes advantage of the RC’s living/learning environment through the use of lunch tables, where students eat with other intensive learners and their faculty, a coffee hour for relaxed discussion, and, of course, the never-ending banter among students outside of class.

In the RC Intensive language program students finish the LSA foreign language requirement much faster, due to the accelerated nature of the courses. Students take the equivalent of four semesters of language in half the time, and following a proficiency examination, enrich their knowledge of the language in a literature seminar.

Although it may sound intimidating, the intensive method is specifically designed to make foreign languages easier and more accessible especially when you are surrounded by a community that realizes the importance of language. Many RC students choose to major in a language but even more use their advanced language ability to study abroad, seek internships and participate in outreach and projects abroad.

The Residential College's semi-immersion program is an investment that can reap great rewards in a global society. With our students' diverse academic interests, their foreign language skills provide them with an edge as they market their skills to programs, employers, and graduate schools.

Please read our Languages/Proficiency FAQ for more general information about RC languages, proficiency, and other questions you might have about foreign languages.

Click on the links below to learn more of the specifics about the RC’s six intensive language programs:

The RC also offers Language Lunch Tables and Coffee Hours and Study Abroad.

American Sign Language (ASL)

American Sign Language (ASL) in the RC (Note: ASL cannot be used to satisfy the RC Language Requirement)

Why study American Sign Language?

American Sign Language (ASL) is the language of the Deaf community in the United States and much of Canada. ASL uses a gestural-visual modality in which manual signs, facial expressions, and body movements and postures all convey complex linguistic information. It is a fully developed language, with its own systems for articulation, forming words and sentences, and meaning. ASL is separate from English, and is also distinct from other signed languages. An excellent example of the separateness of signed languages from each other and from the surrounding spoken language(s) is that, although English is the shared spoken language of the U.S. and Britain, speakers of ASL do not understand speakers of British Sign Language.

ASL is estimated to be the fourth most commonly used language in the U.S. Through learning the preferred language of the Deaf community, students who study ASL gain access to the rich cultural heritage of that community, which includes a distinguished tradition of visual poetry, narrative, and theater. Students of ASL also learn about other aspects of American Deaf culture, including the values and outlooks of Deaf people, and social and educational aspects of deafness.

Students of ASL may find that they gain a new perspective on how human languages are structured. Through learning a language that uses a different modality of expression than the oral-auditory modality of spoken languages, students begin to discover properties that are common to all languages. Linguists' research on the commonalities between signed and spoken language provides strong evidence that all languages are governed by the same basic properties.

Finally, study of ASL also provides practical training for students entering a range of professions in the field of deafness, and may strengthen students' qualifications for various non-deafness careers.

The ASL Program at Michigan

The Residential College offers a 5-course sequence in American Sign Language. Introduction to Deaf Culture (RCASL 100) serves as a pre- or co-requisite to beginning the language courses. The fourth semester language course (RCASL 202) may be used to fulfill the undergraduate language requirement of the College of Literature, Science, and Arts.

RCASL 100: Introduction to Deaf Culture
This course introduces students to Deaf culture within the United States, and focuses on the link between culture and language (in this case, American Sign Language). An analysis of medical and cultural models of perceiving deafness is investigated to familiarize students with the range of perceptions held by members of the cultural majority and the effect it has on the Deaf community. The influencing factors of educational systems on deaf children are reviewed to understand the link between language systems used in the classroom and the development of a Deaf identity. The historical roots of American Sign Language and the value of language preservation provide for additional overview of attitudes in American society. Social adaptations to deafness and individual factors of communicative and linguistic development are analyzed for understanding the implications of family and social systems on deaf children and adults.

RCASL 101 and 102: Elementary American Sign Language
These beginning courses in American Sign Language (ASL) introduce students to basic grammatical structures and sign vocabulary through intensive classroom conversational interactions involving everyday topics. Emphasis is on practical communicative functions as students learn how to communicate in a visual-gestural channel. Classroom work is supplemented by videotaped workbook and laboratory exercises to facilitate development of receptive language skills. These courses are conducted exclusively in ASL and regular attendance is essential.

RCASL 201 and 202: Intermediate American Sign Language
Students in the intermediate courses in ASL learn more advanced communicative forms including understanding the essential role of facial communication (non-manual behaviors) in forming expressions. Additional vocabulary including idiomatic expressions, are introduced to expand students' abilities to understand and converse appropriately in various settings. Through a conversational approach, students also continue to study selected literature, history, culture, and outlooks of Deaf people in order to develop an understanding of appropriate standards of communicating in ASL. Students completing RCASL 201 and 202 will have acquired a basic understanding of how to communicate in a visual-gestural channel in order to receive and express ASL sentences in everyday conversational interactions.

RCASL 100: Introduction to Deaf Culture is a prerequisite for any and all RCASL language courses.
To be placed on the waitlist for this course please complete this form

If the link above does not work, please use this link: https://umich.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_5gvS9NzUi5UrIpv

French

 

Head of the French Program: Dominique Butler-Borruat (dborruat@umich.edu)

Students who wish to fulfill the RC’s language requirement with French must complete RCLang 190 Intensive French I, RCLang 290 Intensive French II (or demonstrate an equivalent level of skills), and pass the Residential College French Proficiency Exam. Students must then complete a Séminaire en français (RCLang 320). A remedial course, Accelerated Review in French (RCCORE 305) is offered to students who do not succeed at the Proficiency Exam the first time. This course is taught as an Independent Study. Courses are offered in both Fall and Winter terms, except for RCLang 190 which is only taught in Fall.

Activities:

In the RC French Program, as is the case in all RC languages, emphasis is placed on communicative competence. The RC French program offers students the opportunity to practice the skills they are acquiring in the classroom in an informal setting by attending the French lunch tables and the French coffee hour, called Baratin. These co-curricular activities are integral parts of the RC French Program. As such, they are mandatory for students enrolled in RC French classes. The weekly number of contacts varies according to the level. Students should plan their course schedule accordingly.
Anyone (students, faculty, and friends) who has a knowledge of French is welcome at these functions. Refreshments are served. There are always several teachers of French on hand, including native speakers, ready to converse.

  • The French Table is held four times per week Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 12:10-1:00 in South Dining Hall, East Quad. People who do not have meal contracts can bring a lunch bag.
  • The Baratin is held on Thursdays 3:10-4:00 in Greene Lounge, East Quad.

Placement Policy:

All new students must take the LSA Placement Test and talk to an RC academic advisor before registering for a class.
1. Students with little or no background in French elect Intensive French I (RCLang 190 - 8 credits).

2. First-year students with some background in French must take the LSA Placement Test and consult with an RC academic advisor to determine appropriate placement, either in Intensive French I (RCLang 190 – 8 credits) or in Intensive French II (RCLang 290 – 8 credits). Placement is determined based on scores and background in the language.

3.  For students entering the program with more extensive background and who place out of the LSA Placement Test, an academic advisor will decide whether they are eligible to take the Residential College French Proficiency Exam. Dates and times for this exam (administered before the term begins) are communicated to eligible students during Summer Orientation. Additional information regarding the exam is sent via email to the eligible students.

4.  Students who do not pass the Proficiency Exam, either at the end of RCLang 290 or as incoming students, typically enroll in the French Accelerated Review (RCCORE 305). This course is a 4-credit review course and is taught as an Independent Study. Please note that depending on performance, some students who do not pass the Proficiency Exam may still be advised to enroll in RCLang 290.

Course Descriptions:
RCLang 190: Intensive French I (8 credits)

This course meets twice a day, four days a week, and covers in one term the equivalent of a first year non-intensive study at the college level. The goal of the course is to provide the student with a basic but solid knowledge of French grammatical structures and syntax, a limited functional vocabulary, extensive practice in speaking and writing, a familiarity with French sound and intonation patterns, as well as an elementary knowledge of French culture. The lecture component introduces vocabulary and grammatical structures in a situational context with a cultural perspective. In the discussions, students meet in small groups for intensive practice of the material with a strong emphasis on speaking. Upon completion of this course, students should be able to understand simple, non-edited text and oral passages of medium length without reference tools; to be able to sustain an elementary conversation with a native speaker and to be able to communicate effectively in writing on general topics. Attendance is required both in the lectures and the discussions.  Students must attend co-curricular activities at least three times a week, more if judged necessary. In order to receive credits for the course, students must pass the final exam, which tests the four skills:  writing, speaking, reading, and listening.

RCLang 290: Intensive French II (8 credits)
Pre-requisite: RCLang 190 or equivalent
This course, which meets two hours a day, covers in one term the equivalent of a second year non-intensive college course. The goal of the course is to bring students to a level of proficiency defined as the ability to communicate with some ease, if not perfectly, with a native speaker of French, in spoken and written language, and to understand the general meaning and most details of a French text, written or spoken (lecture) of a non-technical nature and of general interest. The lecture component of the course is devoted to a thorough review and an expansion of grammatical concepts and to the development of reading and listening skills. Exposure to primary source materials (current event magazines or newspapers) and to texts of cultural and literary value develops reading ability and vocabulary. Listening skills are trained in informal conversational exchanges and in lectures on French contemporary issues. The discussion sections, which meet in small groups, emphasize the development of speaking skills through extensive practice in analyzing and discussing current topics. Writing skills are refined through composition assignments that provide students the opportunity to improve the accuracy and expressiveness of their style. This course includes individual diagnosis of each student’s pronunciation with a personalized prescription for exercises. At the end of the term, the Proficiency Exam evaluates the level of performance in communicative skills achieved by each student. Attendance is required both in the lectures and in the discussions. Students must attend co-curricular activities at least three times a week, more if judged necessary. In order to receive full credits, students must pass the French Proficiency Exam which tests the four skills:  writing, speaking, reading, and listening. Information on the French Proficiency Exam is provided below.

RCCORE 305: Accelerated Review (4 credits)
Pre-requisite: partial success at Proficiency Exam
The goal of this course is to bring students to the level of Proficiency in the four linguistic skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking. It is designed for students who need further reinforcement in two or more skills, but do not need an intensive course to reach the expected levels. Students work on a review of basic grammatical concepts, and on their conversational and listening skills.  Composition assignments help them improve their accuracy and expression in written French.  Exposure to primary source materials (magazines, etc.) and to texts of cultural and literary value helps students develop their reading skills. Students must attend co-curricular activities at least three times a week, more if needed.  All students must pass the French Proficiency Exam in order to receive credits. RCLang 310 is taught in a semi-tutorial mode: students meet twice a week in class as a group and once a week individually with their instructor to focus on their individualized needs. This course is taught as an Independent Study. Information on the French Proficiency Exam is provided below.

RCLang 320: Séminaires en français (4 credits)
Pre-requisite: Proficiency in Frenc
h
The French Readings course is open to all students who have passed the Proficiency Exam. In these courses, the language is no longer studied as an end in itself, but rather is used as a tool to study other subjects. Thus students have the opportunity to apply their knowledge of the language to other disciplines, mostly in the Humanities. Improvement in all language areas is nevertheless still pursued. The class sessions are taught on an informal lecture-discussion basis, and emphasis is placed on student participation. These seminars provide students with a way of expanding their studies of the foreign language and culture as well as with opportunities for applying their language skills to explore their specific interests in more depth. Class attendance is mandatory, as is participation in co-curricular activities once a week. RCLang 320 counts towards the French concentration and the French minor as a French 270/274 course in the Romance Languages and Literatures Department. This department validates up to two readings courses.

The Proficiency Exam:

The French Proficiency Exam is administered three times each year:  at the end of August, in December, and in April.  All RC students who have completed the second-year level or the accelerated review, including RC students who take French through LSA, are required to pass proficiency before they can take the required fifth semester readings course.
The Proficiency examination is a five-part, comprehensive test of language ability that measures:  1) listening comprehension; 2) reading comprehension; 3) mastery of French grammar; 4) writing ability; and 5) speaking ability (interview).
For more information on the proficiency exam download the RC French Program Brochure.

Beyond Your Language Req:uirement:
Many RC students pursue their interest in their language by electing it as a minor or a concentration. In this case, a majority of them participate in a study abroad program. Some returnees contribute to the French Program by participating in the Directed Peer Tutorship Program. Some students are interested in the Service-Learning course which offers the opportunity to volunteer in the community. Upon graduation, some students decide to teach English in France for a year through the French Teaching Assistantship Program.

RCCORE 309: Service-Learning
The objective of this service-learning course is to offer RC advanced students of French an opportunity to engage in experiential learning related to community service work. It provides RC French students with unique service learning opportunities by connecting them with partnered community organizations outside of the University setting which deal with French-speaking immigrant communities. Currently, students volunteer at Freedom House in Detroit, an organization which offers shelter and legal help to asylum seekers, many of who come from French-speaking West Africa.  The academic component of the course focuses on acquiring knowledge of Francophone West African countries by becoming familiar with their historical, social and cultural contexts, as well as with post-colonial issues. Students are also given the opportunity to collaborate with Freedom House’s legal department by doing supervised translation work.

RCCORE 308: Directed Peer Tutorship
Directed Peer Tutorship is an experiential course for students with advanced competence in the discipline. Advanced students tutor, under faculty supervision, beginning students in speaking skills. They also participate in co-curricular activities, acting as facilitators. Regular meetings with faculty are scheduled during the term to discuss discipline-specific pedagogical questions, and student progress and evaluation.

Translation Project
Advanced students are given the opportunity to apply their language skills by collaborating with Freedom House’s legal department by doing supervised translation work.

Study Abroad
A high percentage of RC students elect to study abroad during their Junior year for one semester or one academic year. Summer programs are also popular. Most students participate in a program offered by the University of Michigan, but selecting a program from a different institution is also an option. The Center for Global and Intercultural Study offers many opportunities for students of French in France, Sénégal, Switzerland and Québec for stays of various lengths:
   * Summer  - six weeks (Grenoble, Québec)
   * One semester (Aix-en-Provence, Lausanne, Dakar, Paris-History of Art)
   * Academic year (Aix-en-Provence, Lausanne, Paris-Sciences Po.)
For more information on those programs, visit the Center for Global and Intercultural Study website and attend the RC French Program Study Abroad Evening in fall.

French Teaching Assistantship Program
A few concentrators who want to spend time in France apply for the French Teaching Assistantship Program.  This yearlong program, which consists of assisting an English teacher in a French school, is sponsored by the French Ministry of Education.
Other students may look for opportunities to intern in a French speaking country, some enroll in the Peace Corps.  Opportunities for which the mastery of the French language is an asset are many.

Dominique Butler-Borruat
French Program Head
dborruat@umich.edu

German

Program Head: Janet Hegman-Shier (jshie@umich.edu)

Click here for the RC German Program’s Facebook page.

Click here for the 2014 UMRC Berlin Study Trip Blog

Japanese

Head of the Japanese Program: Tomoko Okuno (okuno@umich.edu)


Students who wish to fulfill the RC’s language requirement with Japanese must complete RCLang 196 Intensive Japanese I and RCLang 296 Intensive Japanese II (or demonstrate an equivalent level of skills), and pass the Japanese Proficiency Exam (listening comprehension, reading comprehension, mastery of Japanese grammar, writing ability, and speaking ability) at the end of Intensive Japanese II.
The Japanese program offers Japanese lunch tables (Ranchi Teeburu) and Japanese coffee hours (Kaiwa Teeburu) to provide students the opportunity to develop Japanese communication skills they are acquiring in the classroom in an informal setting. Anyone (students, faculty, and friends) who has knowledge of Japanese is welcome. These co-curricular activities are integral parts of the RC Japanese Program; they are mandatory for students enrolled in RC Japanese classes. Students should plan their course schedule accordingly.
 The Japanese Lunch Table is held four times per week Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 1:10-2:00 in South Dining Hall, East Quad. People who do not have meal contracts can bring a lunch bag.
 The Japanese Coffee Hour is held on Fridays 2:10-3:00 in Greene Lounge, East Quad.

Course Descriptions:
RCLang 196: Intensive Japanese I (10 credits)
This course meets two hours a day, five days a week and covers in one term the equivalent of a first year non-intensive study at the college level. It is designed for students with little or no understanding of Japanese to achieve novice-high (or above) level Japanese language proficiency. Through extensive communication practice in classroom activities, students will develop all four skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) and three kinds of Japanese orthography (hiragana, katakana, and 161 kanji) along with understanding of both traditional and modern Japanese culture. Students will learn to acquire a sentence-level command in limited topics around everyday life for college students. Thus, students will be able to understand and use the most basic grammar structures and vocabulary to participate in basic oral and written communications. Daily attendance to class is required. In addition, students must attend co-curricular activities at least three times a week. In order to receive credits for the course, students must pass the final exam, which tests the four skills (writing, speaking, reading, and listening) and mastery of Japanese grammar.

RCLang 296: Intensive Japanese II (10 credits)
Pre-requisite: RCLang 196 or equivalent
This course meets two hours a day, five days a week and covers in one term the equivalent of a second year non-intensive study at the college level. It is designed for students to achieve intermediate-low (or above) level Japanese language proficiency. Through extensive communication practice in classroom activities, students will develop all four skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) and cultural understanding. Students will also learn approximately 350 kanji (Chinese characters). Students will be able (1) to understand everyday conversation, (2) to have the ability to handle various topics and speech styles, (3) to understand written materials on non-technical subjects, (4) to write non-technical topics with ease and precision, and (5) to understand Japanese culture and perspectives. Students will learn to acquire a sentence/paragraph-level command in various topics around everyday life for college students and beyond. Daily attendance to class is required. In addition, students must attend co-curricular activities at least three times a week. In order to receive credits for the course, students must pass the Japanese Proficiency Exam, which tests the four skills (writing, speaking, reading, and listening) and mastery of Japanese grammar.

 

 

Latin

Program Head: Gina Soter (soter@umich.edu)

Students who wish to fulfill the RC’s language requirement with Latin must complete RCCORE 195 Intensive Latin I, RCCORE 295 Intensive Latin II, (or demonstrate an equivalent level of skill), pass the Proficiency Examination, and complete a 300-level course offered through the Elementary Latin Program in the Department of Classical Studies.

The Residential College Latin program offers Latin lunch tables (MensaeLatinitatis) and Latin coffee hours (Convivia) to provide students the opportunity to develop Latin skills and broaden their awareness about the ancient world. Anyone—students, faculty and friends—who knows some Latin or is interested in antiquity is welcome. Mensae meet immediately after class on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at 1–2 p.m. (the same days as class meets). Convivia are held every Tuesday from 3–5 p.m. in the Carl Cohen Reading room or at other specially designated areas. Guest specialists are regularly invited to Convivia. Both Mensae and Convivia are integral parts of the R.C. Latin Program and enrolled students are expected to participate in them on a regular basis.

 

Russian

Program Head: Alina Makin (resco@umich.edu)

Students who wish to fulfill the RC Language Requirement with Russian must complete RCCORE 193 Intensive Russian I and RCCORE 293 Intensive Russian II (or demonstrate an equivalent level of skill in the language). Each course carries eight credit hours, students must then pass a proficiency examination. In addition, all students must take a readings course in the Russian language. Students who pass the readings course have completed the RC’s language requirement.

In addition to the classroom experience, the Russian Program offers numerous opportunities for students to apply and practice their language skills. Regular weekly Russian Teas (Tuesday, 3–5 p.m., Greene Lounge) and daily lunch table conversations (M,T,Th,F, 1–2 p.m., 64 Greene) as well as a special section in the Benzinger Library that contains Russian language videos, journals, and other published materials ensure that students are exposed to multiple opportunities for engagement with the language. The Program also stages Russian language theatrical productions, in which students participate in all aspects of the performance.

Spanish

The RC Spanish Program is the largest of the six intensive language programs; not surprising considering the rising prominence of Spanish in American culture and society.

Program Head: Olga Lopez-Cotin (olcotin@umich.edu)

The Residential College Spanish program offers the Spanish lunch table and Spanish coffee hours (Tertulia) to provide the opportunity to practice Spanish in informal situations. Anyone—students, faculty and friends—who can say something in Spanish are welcome. The Spanish table is held 4 days per week in the South Dining Hall: Monday through Thursday 11 a.m.-12 p.m., and Monday and Thursday 12-1 p.m. There are always several teachers on hand ready to converse with students. On occasion, we invite special guests to join us.

The Tertulia is held every Wednesday from 3:00–5:00 p.m. in the Greene Lounge. Casual conversation and other forms of cultural exchange take place. Occasionally guests also visit the Tertulia. Both activities are excellent opportunities for students to practice the skills they have been acquiring in the classroom. Both activities are integral parts of the R.C. Spanish Program and enrolled students are expected to participate in them on a regular basis.

More information on the Spanish Language program procedures and requirements.