Why Study a Language
O'Shaughnessy Hall, home of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
Why Romance Languages and Literatures?
The Romance languages, which are spoken as a first language by nearly 700 million people worldwide, descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of soldiers, settlers, and slaves of the Roman Empire, which was different from the Latin of the Roman literati. During the Roman Empire’s decline, and after its collapse in the 5th century, Vulgar Latin evolved independently within each local area, diverging into dozens of distinct languages. The overseas empires of Renaissance Spain, Portugal, and France spread Romance to the other continents. Indeed, despite the languages’ European roots, more than two thirds of the world’s Romance-Language speakers today live outside Europe, mainly in Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
Through the centuries, each of the Romance Languages, – which include French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, among others– has evolved to become the heart of great cultures that have produced some of the masterpieces of world literature. Students in the Department gain proficiency in one or more of the Romance languages, and through their study they enter into new and inexhaustibly rich cultures whose literature, art, music, and film have profoundly shaped our own. Many of our students spend a semester or year abroad, immersed in the language and culture they are studying.
Studying Romance languages also has practical advantages. In an increasingly globalized economy, our graduates know that fluency in the Romance Languages opens up a world of opportunities both in the US and abroad. Many students choose to study French, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish as a supplementary major or minor in addition to another field of study, like business, history, philosophy or political science.
The skills in communication and critical, interpretive, and creative thinking, as well as the broad experience and self-confidence in new environments that our program fosters, are invaluable to a variety of career paths, from business and law to medicine, education, and the arts. Our majors graduate not only with the satisfaction and advantages that multilingualism affords, but with a deeper understanding of other ways of life, and of their own lives as well.
Fields Offering Professional Opportunities for Majors in Romance Languages and Literatures
• International Trade
• Print/Electronic Media
• Scientific Research
• Social Work
• Religious Service
• Politics and International Relations
Important Skills Acquired by Majors
• Research and Data Analysis
• Cultural Sensitivity & Social Adaptability
• Oral and Written Presentation
• Memorization and Organization
• Computer Literacy
• Articulate Communication