New Center to Promote Foreign Language Study

A new, first-of-its-kind language center will help develop standards and benchmarks for teaching foreign languages at The University of Texas at Austin and serve as a resource for faculty and departments.

The Texas Language Center (TLC) opened Sept. 1. University Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor Thomas L. Garza, a Russian scholar and former chair of the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies, is the center's director.

"There is no other model like this in the country," Garza said. "We hope to raise awareness with students that studying a foreign language is not just a requirement--it's essential to succeed and excel in today's world."

The center will work with the individual language departments to support first- and second-year courses across the university, develop a set of  "best practices" for language instruction and offer courses on language pedagogy for graduate students and assistant instructors.

"The Texas Language Center is at the heart of our efforts to teach language in more innovative ways while impressing on students the vital need to understand foreign languages and cultures," said Randy L. Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. "Tom Garza's scholarship and experience make him the perfect choice to lead this new endeavor. I look forward to his collaboration with the foreign language chairs and faculty."

The new center will also promote study abroad programs that offer rigorous language programs and will conduct community outreach to encourage younger students in Texas to learn foreign languages.

"In 2007, the Modern Language Association's Ad Hoc Committee on foreign languages recommended that institutions of higher education establish language centers as 'a forum for the exchange of ideas and expertise among language instructors from all departments,'" said Associate Dean and Middle Eastern Studies Professor Esther Raizen. "I am excited by the opportunities for innovation and excellence that the TLC offers, and look forward to the new synergies that it will create within our language instructors' community."

The University of Texas at Austin offers instruction in 33 languages to about 15,000 students each year.