Romanian has been offered by the LRC and the Slavic Department at Columbia University for almost seven years now. Until 1999, Romanian history was offered through Fulbright programs.
The shift from a series of discontinuous history classes to a language/culture course on a quasi-permanent basis, as well as the various and constantly-changing needs of the students required the continuous adaptation of the curriculum. The culture could not be offered separately. Although students taking Romanian were interested in cultural “facts”, such as samples of folk culture, history, identity anecdotes and stereotypes, they were in small number and a separate class in Romanian culture was not justified.
This project is meant to integrate the cultural facts in a way that enables those who take the language to assimilate culturally-appropriate behaviors and thus to perform the language in a state of increased awareness.
Romania’s admission in the EEU will push forward economic exchanges as well as social projects. One should not forget that Romanian is the fourth language of Europe, according to the number of its speakers. European as well as US organizations and enterprises have opted for Romanian outsourcing, which means that a correct and coherent knowledge of Romanian mentality and contemporary culture cannot but help them cooperate with the local personnel more efficiently.
The integration of culture into language teaching has been an efficient means of teaching languages and preparing the students for a direct contact with native speakers, even in the absence of hands-on experience in the respective country. The creation of an authentic communication space – culturally sensitive and non-judgmental – provides the students not only with an expanded vocabulary and mobility in communication but with the capacity of understanding the behavior of a people/group/community through language.
Dr. Mona Momescu