Tim Iles is a professor of Japanese literature, cinema, culture, and language and one of the main figures behind the Language and Cultural Proficiency Certificate. The certificate is available in all the languages offered for study at UVic; Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish, etc. It requires 10.5 units of language and culture courses from a single discipline and is designed to increase students’ understanding of the language and culture of a particular area.
“The idea was to create greater ties between other departments or faculties and the Humanities,” Iles said. “For example, in a Business degree, it is strongly recommended that you spend time abroad. So, to complement that, we thought those students should have a basic knowledge of the language and culture before they leave.” Knowing more than one language can be a great boon in today’s working world. The ability to co-operate and share ideas across cultures and language barriers is called for every day, and such skills are especially useful.
“Theresa Dawson from the Learning and Teaching Centre was instrumental in bringing us together to start our discussions,” said Iles. Dawson gathered representatives from the school of business as well as each section of the Humanities Faculty. The first meeting about the Language Proficiency Certificate was in late 2012. After that, the process to get the program accepted took only four months—a very short time for such a process.
“Final approval came in May. Even though we did little advertising between May and September, we’ve already seen a boost in many of our courses. For example, anecdotally, in one of my own classes, 10 to 15 per cent of the students came to it because of the certificate,” said Iles.
Although UVic alumni didn’t have the chance to obtain the certificate within their study period previous years, Iles said that they can still return just to get the certificate, without having to undergo another degree program.
“Education is constantly evolving,” Iles said. “There are more choices now than there ever were when I was in school, so I would hope alumni who didn’t have this chance won’t be bitter, but recognize the opportunity this certificate presents, and encourage students to pursue it.”
The difference between the certificate and a minor is one of flexibility. In the two upper years of a degree, there is usually a more rigid schedule, and working a language minor into that can be difficult. This certificate allows for a bit more plasticity. It is 10.5 credits and can be completed easily in two years, or stretched out over four depending on the student’s schedule.
“The main focus is on language,” said Iles, “but we wanted a range of culture courses to apply too.” The certificate requires about four core language courses and three complementing culture courses.
When asked how the certificate will help students when they leave school, Iles replied, “It will show they have been creative with their educational experience. I think it will give future employers the idea that the applicant is ready to approach challenges with a global perspective. Basically, they will be multi-millionaires in no time!”
In all seriousness though, this certificate may be considered years overdue. “I think it underlines the necessity of the Humanities,” said Iles. “The four chairs from the Humanities decided that the goals of the certificate would not be to make students fluent in the language, but to expose them to different ways of speaking, thinking and seeing the world.”
The certificate will help prepare students for an increasingly globalized world and encourage relationships, between themselves and other cultures, to grow.