The Department of Modern Languages and Literatures has grown over the years to include eight different languages:Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and Arabic. The MLL department has two separate yet related goals: to provide the most effective and up-to-date language instruction from the beginning to the advanced level on the one hand, and to provide students the opportunity to study world literature in the original language, to learn about language and culture by taking courses in the fields of area studies, cinema, and linguistics on the other.
The best way to understand our mission is in the context of the liberal arts tradition that Kenyon College exemplifies in all aspects of its curriculum. The study of language is not merely a practical skill that allows one to do research using non-English sources, or to live and work abroad. It is an intellectual discipline in its own right, training one to think and to interpret the world in a completely new way. Just as a student who reads Dante, Goethe, Molière, Pushkin or Cervantes in the original gains insights into the text that are beyond the reach of one who reads it in English translation, a person who is fluent in another language gains insights into the world in which we live that a single-language speaker does not. Language study therefore allows us better to understand the meaning of terms such as cultural diversity and "otherness", and also to understand the phenomenon of language itself.
Spanish professor and literary translator Kate Hedeen contemplates the difficulties of capturing meaning—the literal and the literary.