American University offers students an inquiry-based liberal arts education through the AU Core Curriculum. World Language courses can be used to fulfill many areas of AU Core. In these courses, WLC faculty draw from their expertise in language, linguistics, literature, and cultural studies to offer interdisciplinary explorations of engaging global issues. These courses help students foster the agile thinking that prepares them to engage in a complex, constantly changing world.  Students can select among courses taught either in English or the target languages. See below for a selection of AU Core courses developed and taught by WLC faculty.

Complex Problems

Will be offered spring 2023!

Now that every smart phone has a translation app, and English is increasingly used around the world, why should anyone bother to learn another language? What inherent value does multilingualism hold? This course critically examines those central questions from a variety of disciplinary viewpoints. Students learn to critically examine multiple perspectives on language, multilingualism, and communication, thereby developing the ability to think critically about complex issues from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. The seminar prepares students for their work across the AU Core and their majors by helping them better understand diverse academic disciplines, implicit norms within academia, and the value of viewing issues from multiple perspectives.  

Habits of Mind: Creative-Aesthetic

Will be offered Spring 2023!

This course explores the strange, dreamlike world of the writer Franz Kafka within a broad, international context of creative activity. The course is structured by the stories, parables, and novels of Kafka, but also branches out in different directions to examine writers, artists, and filmmakers whose works lends themselves to thought-provoking juxtapositions. With an awareness of how cultural context informs creative activity, students compare Kafka's work to that of writers such as E. T. A. Hoffmann, Dostoevsky, Borges, Flannery O'Connor, and Yoko Towada; the art movements Expressionism, Dadaism, and Surrealism; and films such as The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, Un Chien Andalou, and Mulholland Drive, among others. Language of Instruction: English.

Habits of Mind: Cultural Inquiry

Will be offered Spring 2023!

GERM-230: Studies the development of the modernist movement in Europe in the first third of the twentieth century, with special emphasis on the German Weimar republic, 1918-1933. The course examines primary works of literature, visual art, music, and film (in English translation) in the context of political history. Language of Instruction: English.

GERM-340: This course explores key moments in the history and culture of Germanic Europe from medieval times to reunified Germany through a survey of literature, art, intellectual history, and cinema, using Goethe's Faust as a way to focus on key questions of knowledge, passion, transformation, violence, and tragedy. The course introduces students to the innovative and often provocative activity in literature, the arts, and intellectual history during different eras from the Middle Ages, Northern European Renaissance and Reformation Europe to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and provides a model of cultural analysis. Students acquire conceptual tools to analyze power relations within a cultural landscape where writers, artists, and thinkers are both informed by structures of power and, as is often the case, push back against them. The course examines the construction of gender roles, religious and philosophical conflict, the persecution of outsiders, fascism and genocide, political oppression under authoritarian governments, and the marginal position of minority groups. Language of Instruction: English.

ITAL-120: A study of the Italian American experience. The coursework utilizes fictional, non-fictional, and visual texts to describe migration and change. Key topics include transcontinental voyage, labor exploitation, discriminatory practices, political emergence, gender roles, religious affiliation, crime (and the mafia) as stereotype, family bonds, and gastronomy as a cultural heritage. Language of Instruction: English.

Will be offered Spring 2023!

ITAL-230:  A study of the arts, food, history, and writings of Italy from its diverse origins to the present, with a special emphasis on twenty-first century Italian society. The course examines primary works of literature, visual art, music, and film (in English translation) in the context of contemporary culture. AU Core Habits of Mind: Cultural Inquiry. Usually Offered: spring. Language of Instruction: English.

Will be offered Spring 2023!

SPAN-210: Latin America's history through literary texts, films and documentaries, and other artistic representations. Analysis of how the Latin, African, and indigenous cultural heritages have combined to produce a unique culture. AU Core Habits of Mind: Cultural Inquiry. Language of Instruction: n Spanish OR English.

Will be offered Fall 2023!

CHIN-210: Language of Instruction: English.

Diversity & Equity

SPAN-465: Explores the different and diverse indigenous cultures of Latin America including Aymara, Quechua, Mayan, Mapuche, Guarani, and Nahuatl from an historical perspective. Since colonial times, the indigenous peoples of Latin America have been discriminated and suffered oppression. Nineteenth century independence did not bring about substantial changes but rather a continuity in political, social, and economic structures of power. Resistance has also shaped most of the indigenous communities and the way they have advanced in their societies. This course seeks to understand the historical development of these processes. Language of Instruction: Spanish.

Will be offered Fall 2023!

TESL-220: Language is a central aspect of identity, culture, and society, but it also contributes to structural inequalities that limit access to power and privilege. The course explores: the nature of language; its impact on society and identity; the role of multilingualism in the human experience; legacies of linguistic oppression and monolingual ideology and policies; and how language contributes to structural inequalities that shape participation in education and society. To explore these topics, students examine the experiences and contemporary realities of linguistic groups that have experienced marginalization, particularly in educational contexts. This interactive course engages students in exploration of issues related to language, education, and equity through reading, reflection, discussion, group and individual research, and examinations of the impact of language on current events.

Gender and sexuality shape and are shaped by politics and the distribution of power. As such, the roles that gender, sex, and sexuality play in any given society are fluid and constantly contested and redefined. This course explores the construction, the experience, and the deconstruction of gender and sexuality in the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) as inscribed in a variety of cultural productions including fiction, testimony, film, and visual arts. Using an interdisciplinary critical apparatus that draws on historical, sociological, and anthropological research as well as literary, film, and art criticism, the course not only discusses processes of becoming gendered, sexed, or sexual subjects, it also uses gender and sexuality as a lens to examine important moments in history, phenomena, and concepts such as colonialism, national liberation and national identity, political and social violence, democratization, individual freedom, and diversity. Language of Instruction: English.

Written Communication & Information Literacy II

SPAN-331: Heritage speakers are those students who have been raised in homes where Spanish was spoken and whose schooling has for the most part been in English in the United States. In this course heritage speakers of Spanish leverage their bilingualism and intercultural competence to master academic writing in Spanish. The course is theoretically framed by students' engagement in a structured comparative analysis of rhetorical strategies across multiple genres. Language of Instruction: Spanish.

SPAN-464: his course provides a broad panorama of Latin America cinema as a means to approaching and understanding Latin American societies and cultures. The course explores Latin American cinema from the silent period up to the present through the writing conventions of the discipline. Students navigate the field´s information landscape as well as how to create and communicate knowledge as they study and write about films within their historical, cultural, social, and political contexts. Secondary readings play a fundamental role in providing a variety of critical approaches to the field and contributing to the social, political, cultural, and historical context in which the films were produced. Language of Instruction: Spanish.


ARAB-488: Recent offerings have included-

  • Modern Arabic Literature: An introduction to the prose and poetry of significant modern Arab creators. Aside from the works themselves and their critical reception, the course focuses on major literary developments and trends in the modern Arab world and their relation to broader cultural and political developments.
  • Intellectuals and Society in the Arab World: In this seminar students are introduced to important intellectuals and creators of the modern and pre-modern Arab world. The class explores their views of identity, longing, and belonging, in addition to their criticism of society and the place of the individual in it. All this is done through reading, writing, listening, and speaking in Arabic. Offered Spring 2023!

CHIN-488: Recent offerings have included-

  • Newspaper Chinese and China in Newspapers: Designed for students who have taken at least three years of college Chinese or equivalent, this course introduces the styles and conventions of Chinese newspaper language. The focus is on vocabulary expansion, forms and structures of formal Chinese writing that differ from spoken Chinese, and tactics and skills for fast reading. Through reading and discussing Chinese newspapers of different types and from different Chinese-speaking regions, students examine newspapers as sites of contending ideologies and values.
  • Chinese Media and Political Translation: This course introduces the styles and conventions of media Chinese, focusing on reading and translating of sociopolitical texts from current periodical publications, including content from social media. Students learn useful idioms, terms, and syntactic patterns as well as some fundamental methods and techniques related to Chinese media and political translation. Offered Spring 2023!

FREN-488: Recent offerings have included-

  • Francais de la Diplomatie: This course emphasizes the vocabulary, cultural knowledge, and linguistic skills needed to work and succeed in a French-speaking environment. Emphasis is on oral and written skills. Students learn to comprehend texts related to advertising, banking, insurance, etc. and to write business letters and reports in French.
  • French Translation: Concepts and Practice: An introduction to the methods, techniques, and problems involved in translating from French into English. Emphasis is on the practice of translating general material with some consideration of the translation of specialized material. Introduction to the field of translation as a profession. 
  • French Phonetics: This course is designed for students who wish to acquire an ease and fluidity in speaking French for better integration into francophone environments and to improve their oral comprehension. Students familiarize themselves with the various sounds and patterns of French and learn the correspondence between French pronunciation and French spelling. Offered Spring 2023!
  • French Translation Workshop: This course is offered in tandem with FREN-434. Less emphasis is placed on theory and more time is given to systematic translation practice. Texts are selected from a wide variety of sources that offer examples of journalistic and literary language, as well as the more specialized terminology of commerce, technology, and law. Offered Spring 2023!

GERM-488: Recent offerings have included-

  • Studies in German Film: Introduction to the history, theory, and critical analysis of the German cinema arts. Weekly film screenings provide a framework for the study and criticism of German film, from its beginnings through the New German Cinema.
  • German Multiculturalism: This course focuses on the multicultural experience in the German-speaking world, with special emphasis on various immigrant experiences from 1945 to the present. Students discuss and analyze different media types (literature, film, memoirs, journalism, music) as way of exploring the diversity of experience and representation. Offered Spring 2023!

RUSS-488: Recent offerings have included-

  • Russian Media and Political Translation: Reading and translating selected sociopolitical texts and current periodical publications. Vocabulary expansion through study of word formation. Study of idioms, terms, and syntactic patterns.
  • Russian Business Translation: Development of business translation skills and an understanding of the socio-economic and political aspects of the business world. Study of language, terminology, syntactic constructions and related cross-cultural issues. Translation from Russian to English. Emphasis on translation methods, techniques and problems. Course covers areas such as finance, marketing, banking, taxation, trade and agriculture. Offered Spring 2023!

SPAN-488: SPRING 2023 offerings include-

  • Almodovar's Cinematic Labyrinths of Desire: Almodovar has become the leading representative of Spanish cinema. His work spans the crucial decades of the turn of the century and as such, he bequeaths to us a valuable testimony of turbulent, critical, and arduous times, but also exciting and changing times; in short, an intense era filled with profound human experiences. This course delves deeply into his work, analyzing its constants, revealing the structure of his films, and exploring the profound relationships between his aesthetic, his ideology, and his take on life.
  • Popular Culture in Latin America: This course introduces critical approaches in the study of popular culture in Latin America. Students explore the relationship of structures of power, resistance against oppression, and the creative spirit of the pueblo. Informed by contested categories that are shaped by and reshaped in popular culture such as race and class, the course analyzes the production, circulation and consumption of cultural practices and productions such as telenovelas, crafts, advertising, political messages delivered through music, cartoons, and religion.
  • Gender and Sexuality in Latin America: This course is an overview of how gender and sexuality (including gender and sexual diversity) have been theorized and actualized in Latin America in the last thirty years. The course explores key concepts of Latin American feminisms, gender, and LGBT studies to analyze a varied corpus that includes landmark court rulings and legislative reforms, academic articles, films, literary texts, and social media. It pays special attention to how these theoretical constructions impact the daily lives, including our own, of millions of people by shaping physical and national bodies. Subjects covered include decolonial and indigenous feminisms, reproductive rights, gender-based violence, criminalization and decriminalization of homosexuality, equal marriage, trans rights, movements and theory, and beyond the binary: intersex and gender-expansive rights. A key component of the course is understanding the intersectional nature of gender and sexuality with other social categories including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and class.
  • Narco Tales: This course examines the cultural production that deals with narco violence. It looks at the ways in which this violence has been represented by local artists, writers, or filmmakers and it reflects on the aesthetic, ethic, historic, cultural, political and even economic consequences of such representations. 
  • Language and Society in the Spanish-Speaking World: This course addresses language as a contextualized social practice, which is both influenced by society and has the power to transform it, through the lens of Spanish as a minority and majority language in different world contexts. The course focuses on socialization, identity, ideology, and power dynamics. Topics include race, gender, identity, language rights, bilingualism, education, migration, and nationalism, providing critical insight into different aspects of the reciprocal relationship between language and society with implications for social justice in pluralistic societies. Additionally, students develop hands-on linguistic research skills. The seminar-style course comprises a combination of lectures, class discussion, groupwork, and fieldwork. Course materials are academic texts, videos, audio recordings, current events, and students' original research.
  • Language Learning Videogames: This course introduces students to the design, development, implementation, and evaluation of digital games for additional language learning purposes, including apps, video games (vernacular, serious, and purpose-shifting), ultra-realities (virtual, augmented, and mixed), and robotics. Bridging together game and second language acquisition theories, the course promotes collaborative work between students from both backgrounds toward the design and development of narrative and non-narrative games. Note: No programming skills required. Language of Instruction: English.
  • Raciolinguistic Perspectives: Language is an essential part of identity and prejudice, from language-based stereotypes to cultural narratives about the "self" and the "other." Our words perpetuate but can also transform social hegemony. This course presents an introduction to raciolinguistic perspectives, a cutting-edge topic that sits at the intersection of linguistics, anthropology, critical race theory, and education. It explores language's role in race and ethnicity construction in the United States and related topics such as power, representation, and xenophobia. The course centers Latinx issues and draws comparisons with African American English and other minoritized groups such as Asian and Arab Americans. Note: Language of Instruction: English.

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Academic Advising

Tara Pylate

Core FacultyWith Courses Taught