The Stanford Language Center was established in 1995 with a charge to strengthen the language requirement as part of efforts to enhance the undergraduate curriculum at Stanford University.
Elizabeth Bernhardt was appointed Director in July of 1995 and began her duties on September 1 that year. Professor Bernhardt, whose academic appointment is in German Studies, is an applied linguist who has conducted pioneering work in comprehension assessment.
The Language Center regularly offers fourteen languages and approximately thirty Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL) on demand. At present, there are sixty full-time lecturers, thirty part-time lecturers, and a small cadre of graduate students who teach each quarter. The Language Center has a quarterly enrollment of more than 1500 students. This figure indicates that, in the aggregate, the language programs constitute one of the largest sectors of the required undergraduate programs at Stanford.
For all languages at Stanford, proficiency objectives in each of the skill areas have been established for one year of study. For the most commonly taught languages, such as French, German, and Spanish), listening, speaking, reading, and writing objectives are set at the intermediate-mid level of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages-Foreign Service Institute (ACTFL-FSI) scale. In the non-cognate languages, the levels are generally set at novice high on the ACTFL-FSI scale.
Since 1996, Stanford has conducted its written placement testing online so that more time can be spent during orientation for oral assessments. In the Digital Language Laboratory, Stanford teachers are able to efficiently assess students’ oral performances in foreign language on a daily basis, if they choose. Performing oral assessments online and conducting Simulated Oral Proficiency Interviews (SOPIs) are critical uses of technology that bring about high performance among students and a high level of satisfaction among instructors.