Carnegie Mellon University
March 25, 2024

Department Renaming Reflects Study of Languages, Cultures & Applied Linguistics

By Stefanie Johndrow

Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Modern Languages has been renamed the Department of Languages, Cultures & Applied Linguistics (LCAL).

“This new name really captures the diversity and complexity of our academic mission, and the rich and varied teaching and scholarship that our department encompasses,” said Anne Lambright, department head and Paul Mellon Distinguished Professor of Hispanic Studies.

The department has been a part of CMU for more than 100 years. Language remains an integral part of the department’s mission, although there is now a large representation of courses and research activities devoted to the study of literature, film, media, history and modern cultures; translation, interpretation and intercultural communication; and sociolinguistics, applied linguistics and psycholinguistics. 

“The department has experienced many wonderful changes in recent years — expanding our study abroad programs, diversifying our course offerings, developing graduate programs, adding new faculty. We're on an exciting trajectory, and I can't wait to see what the future holds,” Lambright said.

LCAL’s faculty are award-winning researchers who are leaders in their fields and intentional, impactful teachers. The department has offerings in nine language and culture areas, including eight majors, nine minors and three graduate programs. Students who graduate from LCAL go on to careers in just about every possible industry, including medicine, law, engineering, finance, performing arts, nonprofit and government.

In addition, the department serves over 1,100 students per semester. More than 50 percent of CMU undergraduate students take at least one course in the department, despite there being no institutional language requirement. 

LCAL’s Ph.D. program in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition involves a small but highly successful cohort of faculty and students. Students develop a strong interdisciplinary approach to the investigation of the development, use and maintenance of second languages, along with the knowledge and skills needed to conduct high-quality empirical investigations. They learn to critically integrate old and new knowledge to produce real-world applications in the areas of language teaching, language learning, language policy and language maintenance.

During the last several years, the department has launched initiatives like the Askwith Kenner Global Languages and Cultures Room, a flexible learning space to develop an active curriculum using technology to facilitate student projects that utilize digital tools and creative media; the Center for Black European Studies and the Atlantic (CBESA), a premier research center dedicated to the collection, production, restoration, dissemination and promotion of scholarship on people of African descent in Europe; and online language education programs that provide adult learners everywhere with affordable and high-quality language education through CMU’s Open Learning Initiative.