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Hello new School

Newly formed institution houses university’s languages and linguistics research within one superhub of language learning

By Heath McCoy
Florentine Strzelczyk, vice-dean of the Faculty of Arts, has been a driving force in the creation of the new School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Cultures.
Photo courtesy of Florentine Strzelczyk

Bringing all of the University of Calgary’s language and linguistics units together to create a greater hub for language learning and analysis has been a process several years in the making, but as of July 1 that ambitious plan came to fruition.

Perhaps fittingly, given the multiculturalism Canada prides itself in, the School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Cultures (SLLLC) was officially born on Canada Day with a merger between the former departments of linguistics, languages and cultures, and French, Italian and Spanish.

The consolidation was the next logical step, following an earlier merger between the former departments of linguistics and Germanic, Slavic and East Asian studies, back in 2013.

‘Have a unified, strong voice’

Creating one unified hub for language learning and the study of linguistics, literatures and cultures within the university makes sense for a number of reasons, explains Florentine Strzelczyk, vice-dean of the Faculty of Arts, who was instrumental in spearheading the move to consolidate.

“Internationalization is a prominent goal for this university under the Eyes High strategy, and to have a unified, strong voice is really crucial in promoting language learning abroad, language immersion and the encountering of other cultures,” says Strzelczyk. “Rather than speaking with a number of disparate voices, I think having a unified voice in this sense is very important.”

She adds: “We now have a critical mass of theoretical and applied linguists, language pedagogues and literary and cultural experts. To have them together in a group, where they can exchange research ideas and discuss ways to optimize teaching and learning is a great thing. We believe that bringing them and their resources together will only excel the quality of teaching for our students, as well as the quality of collaborative research.”

Following in footsteps of School of Creative and Performing Arts

This is not the first time that the Faculty of Arts has consolidated smaller departments to form a school. The move has been made once before within the faculty, with great success. In 2013 the former departments of music, drama and dance merged to form the School of Creative and Performing Arts. That was an evolution that created greater performance opportunities, with more collaborative efforts between the former departments. The merger also opened up doors for important interdisciplinary work in both teaching and research.

The creation of the School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Cultures will also facilitate such collaborative and interdisciplinary benefits, notes Strzelczyk. “Having a school makes better sense than having several smaller departments, because schools tend to have more of a practical component,” she adds. “Within the new school, that component — analyzing and learning languages — will give students a practical real-world skill set.”

Broader experience for students

Meanwhile, housing the language students and the linguists under one roof can only broaden the learning experience for both camps.

“Linguistics students study language as a system,” says Strzelczyk. “What does it take for me to form a question and for you to understand that I’m asking you something? But many linguistics students appreciate the opportunity to actually learn the languages they are dissecting and analyzing in a practical way. Whereas for language students, they can benefit by taking courses in linguistics and understanding the structure of human languages in a more analytical sense.”

“The new school creates better opportunities for everybody.”