The Language Engagement Project (LEP) is not a traditional language requirement. Coordinated by The Language Center, it consists of a series of curricular initiatives across three schools reporting to the Chancellor of Rutgers-New Brunswick: the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Communication and Information, and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. Other RU-NB Schools are welcome to join; some may do so in the near future.
The LEP is built on two premises:
1) Languages are everywhere. They are not an insular subject nor a niche specialty. As a vital part of the very fabric of the “globalized” world in which we live, they are best learned in active connection with other domains of experience and areas of study, from the Humanities to the Sciences to Professional fields. This is particularly true of multilingual and multicultural New Jersey, where more than 30% of the population speak a language other than English at home, second language education is rising, and a Seal of Biliteracy was recently instituted.
2) Languages are already here. Meaning here at Rutgers, which is host to one of the most linguistically diverse student, faculty, and staff populations in America. Dozens of languages are present and spoken on campus every day. The LEP strives not only to honor this amazing diversity, but to give it a prominent, unprecedented role both in student life and in academics. Its fundamental goal is to embrace and nurture the language culture(s) of Rutgers students, whether they are heritage speakers, native speakers from other countries, or new learners of languages entirely different from their own.
The LEP fosters the creation (under the code number 991) of 1-credit interdisciplinary Language Modules, attached to 3-credit courses in subjects ranging from History to Chemistry, in collaboration with our Language Departments and programs. These modules explore the relevance of specific languages to the contents of the fields themselves, and/or to the cultures of the people involved in these fields.
The LEP also encourages the creation of 1-credit 991 Courses designed to reflect on second language learning; on what it feels like to encounter another language; on what it means to think in more than one language; on the myriad ways in which languages interact with culture.
In this spirit, the Project supports the addition of language courses to all Study Abroad programs based in countries where a language other than English is spoken; and to innovative Study Away programs reaching out to language communities here in the United States – in New Jersey particularly.
Finally, the LEP inspires 1-credit language activities, which are not courses in the usual sense but a form of peer-to-peer learning: students receive credit for participating in Language Exchanges (two students “swap” their respective competences in two different languages, including English), Language Mentoring (a student more advanced in a particular language tutors a less advanced one; both receive credit), and Language Service (student activities involving outreach to and/or immersion in communities using languages other than English).
The Language Engagement Project will spearhead countless such innovations over the next few years. The Project is just beginning, and will ultimately take the form that its partners and constituents – students and faculty, departments and schools working together – want it to have.
If you care – or are curious – about languages, about today’s multilingual reality and about the opportunities, as well at challenges, it offers to all of us, we invite you to consider joining this one-of-a-kind adventure. This site brings you all the information you need about the LEP.