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ERIC Number: EJ1060289
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-Mar
Pages: 12
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2133
Hispania White Paper: Where Are the Experts?
VanPatten, Bill
Hispania, v98 n1 p2-13 Mar 2015
Most collegiate departments where one can find Spanish, French, German, and other non-English disciplines are referred to as "language departments," either formally or informally. Such designations are interesting as they suggest to the outsider (i.e., non-language person) that these departments consist of experts in language. In this essay, I will lay out the argument that this is not the case. I will argue that a focus on literature and culture does not make for expertise in language. I will then offer representative demographic research on the percentage of language faculty that can be considered experts in language. As will be seen, the percentage is quite low. Subsequently, I will describe some of the consequences of this low percentage, and I will conclude with an open letter to deans and other administrators regarding the current state of affairs. As will become evident, underlying the issues raised in this essay are the development of language proficiency and the nature of language teaching in university settings. Because language departments are generally charged with language instruction, and because students (and others) often expect some kind of proficiency at the end of an undergraduate career in languages, it is not trivial to ask: who is driving the bus of language development?
American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, Inc. 900 Ladd Road, Walled Lake, MI 48390. Tel: 248-960-2180; Fax: 248-960-9570; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A