International Languages & Cultures | University of Portland

International Languages & Cultures

Lora Looney Ph.D.

Ni Hao! Bonjour! ¡Hola! Und herzlich Willkommen an die Universität Portland! I am so happy to welcome you to the Department of International Languages and Cultures at UP, your passport to possibility. Here you will find four thriving languages programs in Chinese, French, German and Spanish, each one alive with dedicated faculty and energetic students. From guest speakers in the classroom to semesters abroad, from language-immersion volunteering in the greater Portland area to project-based learning on current events, you will find ILC to be your gateway to the wider world.

            You may be wondering: why study a language when so many people around the globe already speak English? At the heart of UP’s Holy Cross mission is to go out into the world with humility and an open mind, to serve, learn from, and respect other communities and peoples. Just as one would not go into another’s home and expect them to behave only to suit their guests, nor should we expect others to abandon their languages to suit our needs. Even the proficiency you can gain in an introductory language course communicates your respect for the target culture and your willingness to be vulnerable, genuine, and ready to grow.

            Isn’t one year of language study enough? Even one year of language class is a great start! In addition to learning how to navigate common situations we encounter when traveling, such as buying a bus ticket, ordering in a bar or café, or asking directions to the student dining hall, you will start to learn the nuances of interpersonal interactions and how they vary among cultures. How does one respectfully greet a stranger in Austria? What about in China? How does one behave in a restaurant in Spain? Does one tip in France? How much? And what does that say about salaries and work culture? How is that connected to the history of class and gender roles in that country? With each semester, you will dig deeper into the cultures of the peoples who speak the language you are studying. After all, language and culture are inextricably intertwined. In our department, it is impossible to learn about one and not the other.

           At a time when college is expensive and every semester counts, is there room in my course of study for language learning? Yes. Our faculty advisors are experts at figuring out how to combine your study of language with your other major(s) and minor(s), whether they be Nursing and Spanish, Engineering and German, Education and French, or Global Business and Chinese, among many possibilities. Speak to your professor or advisor to map out a plan that will enable you to study abroad and/or complete a major or minor in your target language without the cost of an additional semester.

           Isn’t there an app I could use instead? Nope! Apps don’t speak back. They don’t recognize patterns of your mistakes and help you adjust your pronunciation. They don’t help you find internships. They don’t help you get un-stuck with one-on-one conversation. They don’t help you connect your study of language to your other course of study. They don’t involve you in undergraduate research or take you to conferences. They don’t help you apply for—and get!— prestigious Fulbright fellowships. They don’t open doors for career paths that never occurred to you.

           But we do. Come talk to us in International Languages and Cultures about your wildest hopes and dreams and let us help you get there!

Lora Looney, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of International Languages and Cultures
Associate Professor of Spanish

Undergraduate Programs

View of tourists sitting in the park surrounding the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

French Studies

Why study the language of Moliere?  French is spoken by over 200 million people on five continents. It is the first or second official language in more than 40 countries around the world...

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The Mirabell Gardens with a  view of the Festung, Hohensalzburg, in Salzburg, Austria.

German Studies

The German studies major provides students with the opportunity to become proficient in German language while also becoming knowledgeable about social, historical, and political factors that shape and define German-speaking cultures...

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UP students stands in a walking-street in Granada, Spain.


The Spanish program seeks to prepare students for living and working with individuals from Spanish-speaking countries either overseas or within the borders of the United States...

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Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China.

Beginning Chinese

In our increasingly global economy and culture, learning Chinese opens doors to new opportunities in business, education, and the sciences, and helps us to understand the world we live in more deeply...

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