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Languages and Cultures Department

Mission and Goals

The Languages and Cultures Department is committed to teaching midshipmen to:

  • communicate effectively in a foreign language and interact in culturally appropriate ways with native speakers of that language;
  • acquire insight into the heritage, cultural values and practices of the foreign country or countries studied;
  • develop disposition and cognitive strategies for lifelong studying of other languages and cultures.
Midshipmen at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

The Languages and Cultures Department emphasizes quality and professionalism in all its programs, beginning with introductory and intermediate language courses taught in the target language and extending through the minors program, with advanced courses in literature and culture. The department faculty is committed to excellence in the areas of teaching and research of the various languages, literatures, and cultures it offers. It integrates the study of foreign languages into the overall mission of the Naval Academy and provides midshipmen with the means to access and analyze other cultures.

Within the Naval Academy curriculum, the study of foreign languages contributes to the understanding of different worldviews and symbolic systems of communication. It provides tools for analyzing how language and culture structure human consciousness, thereby enhancing the capacity of future officers to evaluate situations in a multicultural environment and to respond to them appropriately. In broad terms, the Languages and Cultures Department aspires to provide the Fleet with linguistically skilled and culturally informed graduates who can be called upon to serve the needs of the Navy and Marine Corps.

Language Proficiency and National Security

One of the highest priorities in the Navy and the other armed services is the development of language and cultural expertise in its officers, civilians, and enlisted ranks. In the recently adopted Defense Language Transformation Roadmap, foreign language and cultural proficiency are considered “as important as critical weapons systems" and are called “strategic assets in the Global War on Terrorism.” Naval Academy graduates with foreign language proficiency are needed in the Navy and Marine Corps to support the transition to a new approach to warfighting in the twenty-first century. In response to the mandates of the Defense Language Transformation Roadmap, the Languages and Cultures Department has instituted majors in Arabic and Chinese.

The Defense Language Transformation Roadmap, issued in 2005, states that “Language skill and regional expertise … are as important as critical weapon systems.”

The Navy’s Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, adopted in October 2007, lists as a key task “to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with more international powers”.
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“A key to fostering and sustaining such relationships is development of sufficient cultural, historical, and linguistic expertise among our Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen to nurture effective interaction with diverse international partners.”

The Language Skills, Regional Expertise, and Cultural Awareness Strategy for the Navy and Marine Corps mandates a significant increase in the number of officers and enlisted personnel with foreign language ability and cultural proficiency, stating:

“… success in achieving the nation’s Maritime Strategy depends in large part on our ability to communicate with and comprehend potential adversaries, enduring allies, and emerging partner nations. As the lessons of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom attest, communication and comprehension are enabled through awareness of foreign cultures, regional expertise, and skill in foreign languages.”

The National Security Language Initiative summarizes the benefits of foreign language learning for Americans in today’s globally interconnected society:

“Speaking another’s language promotes understanding; conveys respect; strengthens our ability to engage foreign peoples and governments; and provides others with an opportunity to learn more about America and its people.”
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