World Languages and Cultures provides a learner-centered approach to language education/learning. The program currently offers seven languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish. Professors mentor students as they gain functional competence in a language other than English, develop cultural understanding and become responsible global citizens. Students prepare to study or live abroad, enhance professional development, and pursue personal interests while working with professors of the language(s) being studied.
Focusing on the development of functional communicative competency, students learn to use the language rather than merely learning about the language.
Students work with professors in class twice per week and with a native speaker of the language in smaller groups once per week. The native speaker helps them learn how speakers of that language really speak. This experience simulates, on a small scale, the way in which students learned their first language. The opportunity to practice grammar and to have questions answered in English is available from the professor. A better understanding of the relevant culture(s) is developed in both these settings.
Students are, in part, evaluated through midterm and final examination. All midterm and final examinations include an oral interview with the professor, with content based on the materials assigned in the syllabus.
The ePortfolio is a collection of work produced by a student which documents his/her improving competencies throughout the time of study.
Students who have previous experience studying the language must complete the placement process to ensure that they begin study at the level for which they are prepared. First-Year students will take the placement exam at home prior to summer orientation and all other students can take the placement exam during specified times during the academic year prior to registration.
Drake University does not have a general language requirement. However, several academic programs require language study (Education endorsements in French, German, and Spanish; the Global Ambassador Certificate; International Business; International Relations; and Vocal Performance).
In addition to academic offerings, the language program organizes additional opportunities for students to improve their linguistic competence and gain additional cultural knowledge. Students can, for example, interact with members of the Des Moines community who speak the language at events such as Día de los Muertos. They might also participate in Drake's International Film Festival. Occasionally, the program sponsors other activities such as a karaoke night, an origami workshop, and weekly language tables.