Each academic area trains its scholars to think in a particular way or adopt a certain approach to interpreting information and viewing the world. How does this academic approach in the Department of Modern Languages intersect with our Christian faith? In a sense, Modern Language faculty really wear multiple hats. As we teach higher level language skills, we often delve into the diverse fields of history, culture, political science and literature. Because of this, many of the connections we see between faith and learning may hold true for those departments as well. The Department of Modern Languages fully supports the college's mission to educate men and women toward maturity of intellect, character, and Christian faith in preparation for lives of service, leadership and reconciliation. As students deepen their cultural knowledge and perfect their communication skills, they also develop a global perspective that honors the Christian values of peace, justice, reconciliation, hospitality, service, respect for others, and a desire to create a better world. Below we have outlined four specific ways in which language study connects faith and learning at Messiah College .
- A large part of our time in the language classroom is spent role playing. At the lower levels students may pretend they are buying clothing in a store in France or ordering food in a restaurant in Chile. The use of our imaginations is required to transport ourselves to another culture and imagine that we are interacting with people there. In upper level courses we may explore how it feels to live under a dictatorship, how it feels to learn in a different educational system, or what it means to have a dramatically different concept of family. The time spent walking in someone else's shoes also prepares students to communicate with people very different from themselves in language, ethnicity, class, and beliefs. During travel abroad experiences, there is ample opportunity for students to interact with the other. The desire to understand and communicate with people very different from ourselves is valuable. We believe that it fosters the Christian values of compassion, empathy, hospitality, love and respect for others.
- In our language classrooms we hold an ethical perspective as we wrestle with issues of injustice, discrimination or brokenness that often emerge as we study history, literature or current events. These issues are present, for example, as we discuss the emergence of street gangs in El Salvador and the effects of gang violence on community life. Examining this issue leads to ethical questions about responsibility, forgiveness, and how to respond with love in a way that values all people. It provides a concrete example for thinking through God's call to reconciliation and responding to brokenness in the world.
- As students study language, they begin to perceive themselves as world citizens. They realize that they are important players in a web of relationships, histories, cultures that extends far beyond themselves and their immediate surroundings. They learn about global problems whose roots and solutions stretch across national borders. It becomes clear that there is an urgent need for people who are globally informed, able to move in and out of various cultural settings, and able to communicate in several languages. Instead of focusing narrowly on their own needs and life goals, students are able to search for their roles in the world as God's servants.
- One of Messiah College's goals is to challenge students to "see anew" or experience a kind of transformation as they learn. Much of language learning is based around seeing anew. As we learn a foreign language, we are acquiring new words to describe our experiences, exploring new cultural values, and learning new ways of understanding the world. Much of the joy and excitement of international travel experiences and cross cultural communication comes from this feeling of seeing anew. However, operating in a different culture also requires the sometimes difficult negotiation of a new identity. Our current beliefs and priorities may be challenged. The process of trying to make sense of the world from new perspectives often leads to meaningful reflection about who we are and who we want to be. As Christians, when we consider new values and new ways to live we can measure their worth against a consistent set of Christian values that root and direct our lives regardless of the culture we operate in.