Thursday, November 15, 2012

Learning a Language As Part of an Interdisciplinary Education

John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinar...
John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Michael Zunenshine

Interdisciplinary studies are increasingly becoming one of the most popular ways to design one's education in order to plan for a successful career.

Perhaps this is because there is a strong emphasis on a student's independent capacity to shape their own academic focus.

Another reason might be that today, people do not want to lock themselves into a single area of interest but are leaning towards a more rounded education that lets them learn and experiment new subjects.

A final reason I would offer is that some careers do not have one focused subject that leads to getting a job, like medical school leads to being a doctor, but rather modern professionals need to have a diversified background and an ability to think outside their professional box. All of these reasons for choosing interdisciplinary studies are connected.

If there is one subject that is arguably an excellent slice of a larger interdisciplinary pie, it is learning a language. The English language is especially useful in today's world, whether it is international business or just surfing the internet.

Language learning consists of four major skill sets, all of which have uses in connection with other areas of education, and more importantly, with potential career paths. These four skills are: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. How can these four skills help one in interdisciplinary studies or community courses?


Reading is the foundation of studying for any subject. Reading isn't only about getting through a text. There are many other skills related to reading, like close-reading, skimming, summarizing, and using indexes. One also learns how to understand new vocabulary from context.


While most people can transcribe what they want to say onto paper, this is not always the same as academic and professional writing. One learns the difference between casual speech and formal grammar and punctuation, which is important in most professions. Writing courses also help with things like planning, outlining, and editing.


Learn about the many ways one can modify their speech depending on context and listeners is very practical. It is important to know the difference between speaking in front of groups for presentations, and practicing small talk with people one on one.

Speaking is also about finding a good balance between fluency - the ability to speak your mind at a regular pace, and accuracy - the ability to speak correctly, minimize grammatical errors, and use the most appropriate word for your intended meaning.


We hear all the time, but learning to listen better has many advantages. Whether attending meetings or lectures, listening to the radio or other pre-recorded material, or meeting new people, there are many ways we tune our ears when want to learn something or make new connections with people.

It doesn't matter if English is your first, second, or third language. Taking English language classes as part of a larger program of interdisciplinary courses can give you training that is applicable in all walks of life.

Visit Mohawk College for information on interdisciplinary studies and community courses.
Michael Zunenshine is a Copywriter at Higher Education Marketing, a leading Web marketing firm specializing in Google Analytics, Education Lead Generation, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Mobile SMS Alerts, Social Media Marketing and Pay Per Click Marketing, among other Web marketing services and tools.

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