Mellon Foundation Awards $1.3 Million to Yale For Language Instruction

A $1.3 million grant has been given to Yale by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to strengthen the teaching of foreign languages throughout the University.

Yale President Richard C. Levin, in thanking the Foundation, commented: “The command of foreign languages is essential for many fields of study and, indeed, for full citizenship in the modern world. This generous award will provide crucial support to a central educational area. With the Mellon Foundation’s assistance, Yale will be able to build on its traditional leadership in foreign language instruction, strengthening existing programs while facing the new challenges of the multilingual modern world. While addressing Yale’s specific needs, we hope to provide a model for the revitalization and management of language instruction that also can be used by other universities.”

Under the terms of the five-year grant, Yale will establish a Center for Language Study as a resource for all instructors teaching foreign languages. The Center will be headed by a director of foreign language instruction with expertise in language pedagogy and wide knowledge of current practices in the field.

Under the director’s leadership, the center will provide a place where language instructors can be drawn together across linguistic and departmental lines, discovering shared pedagogical problems and working out new solutions. Workshops and colloquia in the center will help create a community of professional inquiry for language teachers. The center will support instructors’ efforts to devise new methods of teaching and learning. The center will also integrate the existing Yale Language Laboratory into its operation and create a special lab for the preparation of innovative teaching materials staffed by a specialist in language-instruction technology.

In addition to working closely with teachers, the director of foreign language instruction will be the University’s principal advisor on language-instruction issues across the several schools, working closely with the Provost’s Office, the deans, and departmental and program chairs to provide advice on the allocation of resources, program quality review and alternative formats for language instruction. In consultation with the Faculty Advisory Committee on Foreign Language Instruction, the director will develop a comprehensive sense of language-acquisition needs throughout the University and will help determine how these needs can be most effectively met.

Richard H. Brodhead, dean of Yale College and the leader of the team that developed the proposal, emphasized the role of the Center as a complement to existing programs. “Yale does not believe in breaking elementary language instruction off from the higher uses that such instruction leads toward. On the other hand, confining the management of language study to the many separate literature departments has disadvantages as well, since it builds linguistic barriers among teachers who face common problems. The new approach will improve our ability to address common issues of language study while also strengthening preparation for more advanced programs. I’ve found the chairs of Yale’s literature departments and faculty at large to be eager for the assistance the Center will provide.”

The grant from the Mellon Foundation provides two-thirds of the funding for the start-up and first five years of the Center’s operation. The remainder of the costs will come from existing Yale funds directed toward foreign language instruction. The director of language instruction will be appointed by the Provost on the advice of the Faculty Advisory Committee, which is serving as the search committee to fill the new position.

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