The Five College Center for the Study of World Languages offers courses in Less-Commonly Taught Languages (LCTLs) to undergraduate and graduate students at Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The Center is supported equally by the five institutions through Five Colleges, Incorporated. An undergraduate student receives credit on his/her home campus through the Five College interchange system; graduate students’ courses will appear on their transcripts but are not credit bearing.
The Center focuses on languages not offered in the classroom at any of Five Colleges. Students are encouraged to explore classroom language offerings through the Five College Language Portal and the Five College Online Course Schedule. The Five College consortium also offers a variety of Certificate Programs in international and area studies. Many of these programs have language requirements that can be met either through classroom courses or through courses offered by the Center.
Language courses offered by the Center are in either Mentored, Independent Plus, or a Supervised Independent Study format. Courses offered through the Five College Mentored Language Program cover all four primary language skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The format includes guided individual study along with one-on-one tutorials and small group conversation sessions. Mentored Language offerings are enriched by visiting international scholars through the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants program. Official ACTFL oral proficiency interview results of early intermediate students in 2011 ranged from Intermediate-Mid to Advanced-Mid.
Independent Plus courses combine independent study with small group conversation sessions and one-on-one peer-tutoring. Independent Plus courses emphasize speaking, listening, and basic literacy in the language; reading and writing practice reinforces developing oral skills. Students are required to complete a standard syllabus during the semester and demonstrate competencies through regular attendance and participation in conversation and peer-tutoring sessions, a homework portfolio, and a final oral evaluation with an external evaluator conducted at the end of the course.
The Five College Supervised Independent Language Program (FCSILP) offers independent study courses in many less-commonly studied languages. The courses emphasize speaking and listening skills. Students study independently following a program syllabus, meet once a week with a native speaker of the language for conversation practice, and complete an oral evaluation with an outside evaluator at the end of the course. Current and recent offerings include Afrikaans, Albanian, Amharic, Bangla/Bengali, Bulgarian, Burmese, Czech, Danish, Dari (Afghan Farsi/Persian), Dutch, Filipino / Tagalog, Georgian, Modern Greek, Haitian Creole, Hungarian, Icelandic, Modern Irish, Malay, Mongolian, Nepali, Norwegian, Pashto (Afghanistan and Pakistan), Romanian, Shona, Sinhala, Tamil, Thai, Tibetan, Twi (Ghana), Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Wolof (Senegal), Xhosa (South Africa), Yoruba (Nigeria), Zulu (South Africa).
Arabic dialect courses in Egyptian, Levantine, and Moroccan Arabic are offered for students who have completed or are concurrently enrolled in the second-semester of First-Year/Elementary Arabic.
In addition to offering courses, the Center also engages in numerous course and materials development projects funded by government and private foundation grants. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has funded the development of the study guides and supplementary materials supporting the Five College Mentored Language Program. These materials are available online to be used by Five College students and by students of LCTL languages at other institutions. Finished materials are housed on the LangMedia web site at: http://langmedia.fivecolleges.edu. The Mellon Foundation is currently supporting efforts to establish a common set of language competency benchmarks for students at the elementary and intermediate levels of Center courses.
Recently completed projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education are CultureTalk Islamic Worlds and CultureTalk: Exploring Critical Languages and Culture. CultureTalk Islamic Worlds features video interviews with citizens of predominantly Muslim countries and countries with large Muslim populations. Topics include family, food, education, religious and cultural customs, work, art, sport, travel, and more. Countries and regions include West, North, and East Africa, the Middle-East, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and South and Southeast Asia. CultureTalk: Exploring Critical Languages adds materials from both Muslim and non-Muslim countries in these same regions.
The Center's Director is Amy Wordelman, Ph.D. Princeton University. The Center's staff members include Agnes Kimokoti, Ph.D. Kenyatta University (Five College Swahili Mentor), Anca Luca Holden, Ph.D. University of Georgia (Language Pedagogy Specialist), Rebecca Thomas, B.A. Hampshire College (Senior Program Assistant), Hayley Culver, B.A. Mount Holyoke College (Program Assistant), Carson Carruth, B.A. University of Texas at Austin (Post-Baccalaureate Teaching Assistant for Hindi), and João Baltazar, B.A. Amherst College (Post-Baccalaureate Specialist for Innovative Language Learning).
The Center also hosts a variety of visiting scholars each year who serve as mentors for other languages. In addition, over sixty local international students work for the Center every year as native speaking conversation partners and as assistants for the Center's materials and curricular development projects. The Center contracts a large number of professional language experts from around the country who help with its development projects and serve as external evaluators for the language programs.
The Five College Center for the Study of World Languages was founded as the Five College Foreign Language Resource Center in 1987 with the help of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It originally served as the research and development center for Five College foreign language and literature faculty members. As technology support for faculty members on the individual campuses expanded, the Center turned its attention to creating the Supervised Independent Language Program (FCSILP) in order to offer the least commonly taught languages to interested students. A paucity of available materials in the least commonly taught languages led the Center to begin its own curricular and materials development projects. Efforts to expand LCTL language offerings across the Five Colleges and to include reading and writing skills led to the formation of the Mentored Language Program in 2004-2005.
In Fall 2013, the Center moved to new quarters at Amherst College, in downtown Amherst. The new facility contains program offices and instructional rooms for small group conversation sessions and individual tutorials.