History and today

Kingston Hall in 1916
Kingston Hall ca. 1916
Source: Queen's Archives

Undergraduate courses in German were offered at Queen's as early as 1870 and were taught on a regular basis after 1888 by John Macgillivray, who founded the Department of German in 1902. In 1950, the Department became the first academic unit at the university, apart from the School of Nursing, to be led by a woman, when Hilda Laird, a former dean of women and long-time German professor, was appointed Department Head.

The Department offered a comprehensive range of undergraduate courses in German language and literature and, in conjunction with the Departments of Art, History, Philosophy, and Political Studies, also offered an interdisciplinary degree program in German Studies. It had engaged in research in a variety of fields and had a lively graduate program, offering both MA and PhD degrees that prospered for 40 years.

The Department was also home to the Russian program until 2001.

Courses in Japanese have been offered since 1988 and Chinese since 1995. The Program in Linguistics joined the Department of German in 2009.

Spanish and Italian have been taught at Queen's since 1896 in the old Department of Romance Languages. The Department of Spanish and Italian was formed in 1920 under the guidance of Professor J.H. Brovedani, who remained Head of the Department until 1949. The program expanded in the late 1960s, when Ontario universities increased their intake of students. Aside from providing elective courses for undergraduate and graduate students from other disciplines, the Department offered Minor, Medial and Major concentrations in Spanish. In the mid-1970s a Medial concentration in Italian was added as well as an interdisciplinary special field concentration entitled Spanish and Latin American Studies. From 1968 to 2009, the Department had an M.A. program in Spanish, which produced high-quality graduates.

The Department of German and the Department of Spanish and Italian had certain similarities: each already consisted of more than one discipline, each offered concentrations and courses in languages other than English, and each had a similar number of faculty. These were the reasons why, in 2009, the two departments began discussions regarding the potential of joining forces to create a new unit. Other factors, both external and internal, were also taken into a consideration. Quality and sustainability of programs were at the forefront of the concerns. The new department would also facilitate interdisciplinary programs, such as the Minor in World Language Studies, introduced in 2010.

The creation of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures was approved on December 17, 2010 at a meeting of the Committee of Departments in the Faculty of Arts and Science, at the Faculty Board meeting on January 14, 2011, and finally, on March 24, 2011, the Senate approved the proposal for the new department with an implementation date of July 1, 2011.

Administrative structures have been fully integrated, but each of the six disciplines in the new department (Chinese, German, Italian, Japanese, Linguistics, and Spanish) maintain their respective disciplinary integrity, and existing Plans continue. In 2012, the Department began offering courses in Indigenous languages and cultures: Inuktitut and Mohawk. Since 2013/14, students have also had the opportunity to take Portuguese language and culture courses. 

Kingston Hall, Queen's University, Kingston
Kingston Hall, home to the Department of
Languages, Literatures
and Cultures.
Photo by Ryszard Pietka


Today, the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures is a multidisciplinary unit that offers students the opportunity to learn languages, develop an understanding of literary and cultural traditions, and pursue studies in the field of Linguistics. The Department offers language courses in Anishinaabe, Arabic, Chinese, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Mohawk, Oneida, Portuguese and Spanish, and Degree Plans in German; Hispanic Studies; Indigenous Studies; Italian; Linguistics; Languages, Literatures and Cultures; Spanish and Latin American Studies; and World Language Studies. Students can opt for a Certificate in Indigenous Languages and Cultures as well as a Certificate of Intermediate Competence in either Chinese, German, Italian, or Spanish.

The study of foreign languages and literatures introduces students to the most important cultures of the modern world; cultures that have produced, and continue to produce, writers, artists, scientists, and thinkers who have collectively influenced the way we experience the world. The study of linguistics introduces students to thinking analytically and creatively about language and developing innovative methodologies to linguistic analyses. Students gain a solid grounding, appropriate to their particular needs, in the various skills necessary to understand, speak, read, and write in the target language with an introduction to the literatures and cultures of the target regions. Students are provided with an educated understanding of theoretical linguistics and are encouraged to participate in scientific discourse in the linguistics community.

Students also develop and acquire a global perspective, giving them an appreciation of how to use their foreign language and linguistics skills in a variety of careers as well as furthering their critical understanding of world culture in its complexity and diversity.

The Department fully endorses and strongly contributes to the internationalization of the educational experience offered to the students of Queen's University. Short-term and long-term exchange and study-abroad programs in target regions are offered and encouraged at the undergraduate level.

The Department provides all its students, whether concentrators or non-concentrators, with the continuing challenge to interrogate their own language and culture more intensely as a result of their experience of the multiple and complex differences between individual languages and cultures.

Our vibrant and diverse unit has over 30 full-time faculty members. Faculty members and students are supported by 2 dedicated staff members.

You can find us in Kingston Hall. Our main office is on the fourth floor.

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