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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 five intensive language programs: Spanish, French, German, Russian, 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)

Sequence of courses

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). Remedial courses are offered to students who do not pass Intensive French I (RCCORE 205) or do not succeed at the Proficiency Exam (RCLANG 310). These courses are taught as Independent Studies. All courses are offered in both Fall and Winter terms.

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). True beginners and students with weak background will be placed in the winter session of Intensive I. 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 remedial course RCLANG 310). 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.

Co-Curricular 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. Typically, three contacts per week are required in RCLANG 190, RCLANG 290 and RCLANG 310 and one in RCLANG 320. 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 12:00-1:00 in the East Quad Private Dining Room. People who do not have meal plan can bring a lunch bag.

  • The Baratin is held on Thursdays 3:00-4:00 in Greene Lounge, East Quad.

COURSE DESCRIPTIONS

RCLANG 190: Intensive French I (8 credits)

This intensive French course covers in one term what a standard first-year college course covers in two. Its goal is to help students gain a solid understanding of fundamental grammatical structures and syntax; a limited but functional vocabulary; familiarity with French sound and intonation patterns; and an introduction to French culture. Upon completion of the course, students should be able to comprehend simple, non-edited texts and oral passages of medium length; sustain a basic conversation with a native or near-native speaker; and write effectively on general topics.

Course requirements:

Attendance is mandatory in both lecture and discussion. Students are also required to participate in co-curricular activities at least three times a week. In order to receive full credit for the course, students must pass the final exam, which tests reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.

Intended audience:

RCLang 190 is open to all UM students, but priority is given to RC students. Students with little to no background in French may take this class in Winter only.

Class format:

The course meets two hours a day, four days a week.

The lecture focuses on grammar. Students are expected to come to class having studied in the textbook the grammatical concepts covered that day. Class time is devoted to clarification, review, and drilling of these concepts. In discussion, students meet in small groups to apply what they learn in lecture. In-class activities, including—but certainly not limited to—vocabulary and homework quizzes, help develop reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.

RCLANG 290: Intensive French II (8 credits)

Pre-requisite: RCLANG 190 or permission of instructor

The goal of this course, which covers in one term the equivalent of a second year non-intensive college 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. Students will also gain knowledge and understanding of French and Francophone cultures. 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 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 pertaining to contemporary France and the French-speaking world. Writing skills are refined through composition assignments that provide students the opportunity to improve the accuracy and fluidity of their written work. This course includes individual diagnosis of each student’s pronunciation with a personalized prescription for exercises. Using the platform TalkAbroad, students converse online with partners from the French-speaking world throughout the term; there is a $25 laboratory fee to cover the cost of the service.

Course Requirement:

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.

Intended Audience:

RCLang 290 is open to all UM students, but priority is given to RC students.

Class format:

The course meets two hours a day, four days a week. The lecture component focuses on reviewing and expanding grammatical concepts. The discussion is devoted to developing speaking skills and gaining knowledge and understanding of cultures from France and the French-speaking world.

RCLANG 310: 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. RCLANG 310 is taught on a semi-tutorial mode: students meet with RCLANG 290 as needed, attend co-curricular activities and meet once or twice a week individually with their instructor to focus on their individualized needs. This course is offered as an Independent Study. Students must pass the French Proficiency Exam in order to receive credits.

Course requirement:

Students must attend 290 lectures based on their needs, participate in co-curricular activities at least three times a week, more if needed, and meet individually with their instructor once or twice a week.

Intended audience:

This course is only offered to RC students who achieved partial success on the proficiency exam.

Class format:

RCLANG 310 is taught on a semi-tutorial mode: students meet twice a week in class as a group and once or twice a week individually with their instructor.

RCLANG 320: Séminaires en français (4 credits)

Pre-requisite: Successful completion of the RC French Proficiency Exam, French 235 or instructor permission.

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. 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. RC students who are concentrating or minoring in French must take the RLL requirement FR 235.

Note that students must take RCLANG 320 the semester immediately following successful completion of the Proficiency Exam. Students who let more than four months elapse between passing the Proficiency Exam and registering in a readings course must retake the Proficiency Exam in its entirety. In the case of a student taking a French course in the interval, the Program Head will evaluate the level of the course and decide whether retaking the Proficiency Exam is necessary or not.

BEYOND YOUR LANGUAGE REQUIREMENT

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 victims of persecution seeking asylum in the USA, 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. In addition, the asylum process is discussed. Students are given the opportunity to collaborate with Freedom House’s legal department by doing supervised translation work and they are in charge of organizing a fundraising event benefitting Freedom House.

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. Regular meetings with faculty are scheduled during the term to discuss discipline-specific pedagogical questions, and student progress and evaluation.

Study Abroad and Internships 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 (CGIS) offers many opportunities for students of French in France, Sénégal, Switzerland and Québec for stays of various lengths. For more information on those programs, visit the CGIS website and attend the RC French Program Study Abroad Presentation in the fall. Some students find internships in a French–speaking country. For more information on internships opportunities, contact the LSA Opportunity Hub.

French Teaching Assistantship Program

Some concentrators who want to spend time in France apply for the French Teaching Assistantship Program (TAPIF). This yearlong program, which consists of assisting an English teacher in a French school, is sponsored by the French Ministry of Education. Some students opt for the same opportunity through a Fulbright Scholarship.

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.

For additional information download the French Brochure. Do not hesitate to contact a French faculty member or the Program Director: Dominique Butler-Borruat at 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 2017 UMRC Berlin Study Trip Blog

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.

 

 

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.