Dr. Nicole Thesz interacts with German 201 Students Dr. Nicole Thesz interacts with German 201 Students

About the Department

German was the first GRAMELAC language. German has been taught at Miami University since at least 1833. At that time, the teaching of “modern” languages was revolutionary. University teaching in the US had previously focused on the classical language-Latin, Greek, biblical Hebrew, and others-with an emphasis on reading canonical secular and religious works. Miami did not simply offer modern languages to its students; then as now, language study was a degree requirement. German achieved the status of a department in approximately 1887. For over one hundred years, the teaching of German has survived and thrived at Miami.

Miami’s first offerings in Russian language can be dated to 1946. That date, the year after the end of World War II, demonstrates the link between language offerings at Miami and the needs of American society. It is likely that growing interest in the political situation in postwar Europe and US-Soviet relations prompted these first course offerings. In 1964, Russian joined the German Department, which then became the Department of German and Russian. The change, too, appears to be a response to world events. These were the launch of Sputnik in 1957 and the 1958 signing of the National Defense Education Act, which supported foreign language studies and area studies centers, and provided funding to college and university students.

1964 also saw the first language offerings of a new East Asian Languages and Literatures Department, which taught Chinese as well as Japanese. The teaching of Japanese at Miami, however, dates to 1942. It was originally a student initiative. The first Japanese courses at Miami were taught as non-credit courses by a Hawaiian student stranded in Oxford by the attack on Pearl Harbor. Chinese and Japanese joined German and Russian in 1972 during a period of academic streamlining. The result was the Department of German, Russian, and East Asian Languages (GREAL).

GREAL continued to respond to changing times and changing needs, as well as to changes in the student body in the years that followed. GREAL’s offerings in East Asian languages and literatures expanded to include Korean in 1988. Korean courses meet the needs of current students also reflect Miami University’s enduring ties with its Korean-speaking alumni. Later, in a curricular as well a chronological change, the teaching of Hebrew shifted from Biblical Hebrew to Modern Hebrew. Hebrew then joined GREAL in the mid-1990s.

GREAL language and literature offerings continue to grow and expand in new directions. Arabic joined the department in 2003. Students and faculty had long expressed their interest in the language and literatures of the Arabic-speaking world. Post-9/11 demand made this new offering possible.

In 2014 the department’s name was changed to German, Russian, Asian, and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures to more accurately reflect its offerings. As Miami students and faculty continue to find new prospects and options in the changing world, GRAMELAC will continue to respond.