Culture and Languages Across the Curriculum

How do I apply the Spanish I’ve been learning to my major? How are the concepts and issues in my discipline different in countries beyond the United States?

A new initiative, Culture and Languages Across the Curriculum (CLAC), aims to bridge language learning to the content of other courses students take at Duke.

CLAC courses come in two forms. One version is a half-credit tutorial, and the other is the discussion section of a large lecture course. Students improve their language proficiency by examining a variety of texts produced by the target culture. By exploring how other cultures approach issues from public policy to global health, students develop the critical thinking skills that help them question disciplinary assumptions.

The director of the program, Professor Deb Reisinger, explains that the initiative is a response to both the internationalization of the university and student demand. These courses offer students a way to maintain their language skills while contextualizing and personalizing their language learning.

hand-globeCLAC tutorials vary in content based on the culture and language being taught. For example, the Chinese tutorial in Global Health concentrated on how massive epidemics like SARS are dealt with in that country, while in the Spanish tutorial in Public Policy, students reached out to local migrant populations to analyze policy solutions. The emphasis in these courses is not on language acquisition, but rather communication and cross-cultural competencies.


In Spring 2016 there will be four CLAC courses in Global Health (Voices in Global Health, GLHLTH 270T), in Arabic, French, Hindi-Urbu and Mandarin. Also offered is Environmental Studies in Spanish (Voices in the Environment, ENVR 269T). Students who have completed four semesters of the language are encouraged to enroll in these pass/fail tutorials. In addition, the Soccer Politics course (ROMST 204) will offer discussion sections in French, Spanish, German, and Portuguese. Last spring, the students in the soccer politics course helped to build a multilingual guide to the Women’s World Cup.

For more information about future courses and how to get involved in the Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum Initiative, contact Professor Reisinger (

2 thoughts on “Culture and Languages Across the Curriculum

  1. Mônica Hiratsuka

    Excellent initiative because I can say about the reality in my country Brazil with “s” where a second language is seen almost exclusively as a spread for jobs , not the importance given in your program. I understand that it is preparing for the increasingly necessary reality of not just knowing another language , but the country and its peculiarities. Going back to my country, certainly many of the students discuss in Portuguese , unfortunately will have more knowledge than the students here .

  2. Sandy White

    It is so important for our higher educators to remember that students learn so differently based on the cultural backgrounds from which they come. For this reason, perhaps it would be prudent for universities to require all professors to undergo cross-cultural training.

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