In an effort to grow the language and literature department, Oklahoma Christian University will offer German and intermediate French courses next semester.
According to Professor of Spanish Tina Ware, Oklahoma Christian has students passionate learning foreign languages and she wants to accommodate these interests by increasing the size of the language and literature department.
“We are hoping to consistently have German on the schedule—right now we have Spanish, French and Japanese,” Ware said. “We would like German to have a mainstay, and in the future, we would like to have a minor in French.”
Ware said Oklahoma Christian is home to many French-speaking Rwandan students – students who might be interested in upper-level literature and grammar classes in French.
Department Chair Gail Nash said the department believes in the power of foreign languages, but the courses are dependent on student enrollment. Concerning the value of foreign languages, Nash said studies show learning a foreign language is good for brain health.
“There is a ton of research on the value of being bilingual, and even if you aren’t truly bilingual, the plasticity of the brain when moving between languages keeps the connections between the two hemispheres working,” Nash said. “There have been lots of studies that it is really good for the brain and how to learn and speak foreign languages, and in a small way, even with high school English, it shows you that there are different ways of saying similar things.”
In addition to having a healthier brain, Nash said learning the language of another country, such as Germany, before traveling there shows respect to the country.
“I knew a couple preparing to go to Germany and they had prepared for almost five years to start learning German but decided to wait to learn the language until immersed in the culture,” Nash said. “When they arrived and started German classes, some of the German’s were like, ‘Why didn’t you study German during the five years preparing to come?” The Germans could not understand why the couple waited to learn the language.”
As of fall 2018, Monika Gerstenlauer-Beiler will serve as the German professor on the Oklahoma Christian campus. Gerstenlauer-Beiler was born in Germany and returns to her homeland each year. She taught 19 years at Edmond North High School and taught German courses at the University of Central Oklahoma for 17 years.
Nash and Ware said students interested in the Vienna studies program should consider taking German prior to the trip. Junior Carson Brown participated in the Fall 2016 Vienna studies program and said taking German beforehand would have been helpful.
“It would have been nice to have gotten the opportunity to get a head start on learning German before I went to Vienna,” Brown said. “I think for a while, we were a little unprepared when it came to the language barrier, and I think [learning German] could have helped with culture shock.”
Brown said learning German helped her feel “more independent” and “less like a tourist.” She also said learning and practicing words and phrases local to Vienna helped immerse her in the culture.
New Courses offered will include German I from 11:40 a.m. to 12:55 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Intermediate French I from 2:40 to 3:55 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Spanish for Medical Interpreters, which will be an online summer course.