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On college campuses, 'foreign' languages aren't so foreign anymore

Inside Higher Ed has a piece this morning on how around the United States, several colleges and universities are dropping the word "foreign" from their language departments.

West Virginia University, for example, has renamed its foreign languages department "world languages." In Southern California, Grossmont College in El Cajon has done the same. Brookhaven College, a community college in the Dallas area, puts the word "foreign" in quotes on its website when discussing languages that aren't English.

While the trend isn't universal, it's growing, the education journal reports. What gives? A couple of professors explain:

One reason cited by many of the programs that are switching names is that their most popular language -- Spanish -- is widely spoken in the United States. "Spanish is not a foreign language anymore," said Ángel T. Tuninetti, associate professor of Spanish and chair of world languages at West Virginia.

Many educators also do not like the way "foreign" suggests a division of the world into the United States and everyone else.

"There was a feeling that the word 'foreign' could imply different in a negative sense, and that the word 'international' for many reasons has a clearly positive connotation," said Laurie L. Corbin, associate professor of French and chair of the (renamed a few years ago) department of international language and culture studies at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne.