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History of the Language Center

The Language Center

In the early 1990s, Stanford University appointed a Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) that was charged with conducting a thorough analysis of the strengths and weaknesses in the undergraduate curriculum. The committee completed its work in 1994. Among several of the recommendations that went forward from the committee to the University Senate was the strengthening of the language requirement.

The committee argued that high school language experience alone was insufficient preparation for Stanford undergraduates. The Senate, therefore, legislated a strengthened language requirement, permitting one year of university-level language study, and in some cases Advanced Placement scores, to count toward the fulfillment of the requirement. The Stanford Senate also acknowledged that in order to insure that Stanford offers access to the highest quality language programs in the United States, new structures needed to be established to monitor and assess language teaching and student performances within the language departments.

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.

Building 30

The Stanford Language Center is located in Building 30 in Stanford's Main Quad. The building has undergone historic renovation in light of the incredible damage sustained during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Its restoration provides the best example of early California architecture and furnishings on the Stanford campus.

The administrative offices of the Center reflect turn-of-the-century Stanford with original woodworking, light fixtures, and furnishings. The office furniture of the first President of Stanford University, David Starr Jordan, is used by the Director. The Director's conference room is also furnished with original Stanford pieces, including a display case from the Stanford museum, a blackboard from Old Chemistry, and high back chairs.

The classrooms also reflect turn-of-the-century Stanford — the 21st century, that is. These rooms are equipped with state-of-the-art multimedia technology. The building also houses language teaching materials, recording equipment for live language broadcasts, and computer workstations for the use of our teaching staff.