Origins of the Department of Modern Languages
 
Vidyalankara Higher Educational Centre was established in 1875 by the initiative of the most venerable Sri Dharmaloka Thero and upgraded as the Vidyalankara University in 1959. Today, the former Faculties of the Pirivena, the Faculty of Languages, the Faculty of Buddhism and the Faculty of Arts come under the aegis of the Faculty of Humanities. The Department of Modern Languages, one of the oldest departments in the university.
 
The Department of Modern Languages was established in 1970. The Degree courses currently offered by the Department were introduced to the Faculty of Humanities in the following order: 
French Language: 1963/1964 
Chinese Language:  1965
Russian Language:  1970
German Language:  1976
Japanese Language: 1978
Korean Language:   2002
Spanish Language:  2020
 
Today the Department of Modern Languages offers Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree (BA Honours) programmes in French, German, Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. The courses for Bachelor of Arts General Degree (BA) and the six Special Degree programmes offered provide extensive knowledge of the related language, its literature and culture. Additionally, French, German, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Italian, Arabic and Spanish are offered for the two-year certificate course (internal students only). With an academic staff dedicated to the profession, a considerable student population, research undertakings, national consultancies, and international collaborations, the Department has firmly established its position as the centre for excellence in foreign language teaching and learning. 

The Academic Programmes of the Department

By 1976, the Department, a member of the Faculty of Arts, under the headship of Prof. S. Weerathunga offered six foreign languages: Hindi, Chinese, Russian, German, French and Portuguese. The languages offered by the Department have varied throughout the history due to various reasons. For instance, Hindi which was part of the Department separated in 1995 to form its own independent department within in the Faculty of Humanities. 
The Department of Modern Languages these six languages were first taught for the BA programmes. It was in the new millennium that the Department started to introduce the Honours degree programmes providing the students the opportunity to specialize in their choice of language. The submission of an undergraduate dissertation is mandatory for the completion of the degree. Year of introduction of the BA Honours degree programmes:
French Language:    2002 
German Language:  2002
Russian Language:  2011
Chinese Language:  2013
Japanese Language: 2014
Korean Language:   2018
 
The Certificate Courses were first offered by the Department back in the 1970s. They remain popular among students, with more than thousand students registering to follow the courses every year. The Department constantly attempts to introduce more foreign languages and at the same time to upgrade the language programmes currently available at Certificate course level.
The postgraduate degrees offered by the Department, include Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy in several languages. Further, the Department in coordination with the University’s Centre for Distance and Continuing Education (CDCE) extends its services by providing the opportunity for the external students to study foreign languages for BA degree programmes. In addition to these academic programmes, the Department has introduced fee levying short term languages courses to the general public. Taking into consideration the country’s high demand to learn foreign languages, these courses are aimed to meet various expectations including career development, professional qualification, higher education, and emigration.  

Significant Developments

The construction of the multimedia language laboratory in 1987 funded by the Japanese government, fulfilled a fundamental requirement in language learning and teaching. The laboratory was upgraded with the financial assistance from Japan in 2013. The laboratory which has a seating capacity of 48, is equipped to practice modern teaching methods. 
The new millennium ushered in several significant developments. The establishment of the Confucius Institute in May, 2007 within the Faculty of Humanities attached to the Department of Modern Languages marks a landmark in the teaching and learning of foreign languages at University of Kelaniya (University of Kelaniya, 2019d). Named after the great Chinese philosopher, the Confucius Institute affiliated to the Ministry of Education, People’s Republic of China is “committed to providing Chinese language and cultural teaching resources and services worldwide, meeting the demands of foreign Chinese learners and contributing to the development of multiculturalism and the building of a harmonious world (Confucius Institute Headquarters, 2014). Since 2011, the institute collaborates with Chongqing Normal University, China to promote learning of Chinese language in Sri Lanka. The Confucius Institute language laboratory constructed in 2016 on the ground floor of the Department building adds more laboratory space to accommodate the increasing the number of students learning foreign languages.
Other language learning facilities of the Department include several centres dedicated to the advancement of language studies with the cooperation and financial assistance of foreign donor agencies. Established in October 2013, Deutsche Lernwerkstatt or the Interactive Learning Centre for German Studies by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is a valuable addition that provides resources and space for interactive lectures and discussions and as well as for self study for both the undergraduates and the academic staff. In September 2015, the Centre for Korean Studies was established, dedicated to the promotion of the Korean language, culture and collaborative research. The project was funded by the Overseas Korean Studies Promotion Programme of the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS). Established in February 2016, the Centre for Chinese Studies (CCS) functions as a collaborative interdisciplinary research centre devoted to the study of Chinese studies focusing mostly on history, politics, social sciences, and culture.  The Research Centre for Japanese Studies (RCJS) was inaugurated in February 2016 with the objective of promoting interdisciplinary research, and disseminating knowledge. Further, it organizes seminars, workshops and produce printed study material to improve and expand the knowledge and skills particularly of the school teachers, and the O/L and A/L students. These centres affiliated to the Department are dedicated to promote research in these language studies and develop research collaborations with academic institutes both local and international.

Location

The location of the Department which changed several times in the past. At the inception, the Department was situated in the Science building along with the other departments of the Faculty (present day known as B1) sharing the space with the Faculty of Science. Later the department moved to the first floor of the Faculty of Humanities (K2 122). The relocation of the Department in 2015 to a five storey building adjacent to the Faculty of Humanities (K2) marks a milestone in its continuous journey towards progress. The new building (K 16) provides adequate space for the study of the six languages that constitute the Department of Modern Languages. Each language study section (Chinese Studies, French Studies, German Studies, Japanese Studies, Korean Studies and Russian Studies) apart from housing the necessary office space for the academic staff, offer valuable resources in the form of mini libraries for students. Most of the resources, books, journals, films, documentaries and other material were donated by respective embassies, donor agencies and foreign universities on different occasions. 

Responsibilities of the Department

Over the years, the Department has built strong relations with many donor agencies, embassies and governments. They extend their continuous support in the form of providing teaching staff (native speakers), teaching material, numerous scholarships, training opportunities and exchange programmes for the staff and the students. Further, the Department has many corporation agreements with international organizations including the Confucius Institute, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Japan Foundation, Korea Foundation, Korea International Corporation Agency (KOICA), Japan Silver Volunteers Organization, Silver Nippon Skilled Volunteers Association (NISVA) and European Union under ERASMUS MUNDUS Projects. It is expected that these agreements and memoranda of understanding will enable more opportunities for the staff and the students to enhance their knowledge and skills while helping the department to constantly upgrade its language programmes.
The greatest strength of the Department is indeed its highly qualified academic staff. It is noteworthy that many ‘firsts’ in foreign languages have been achieved by the academic staff of the Department including the first Professors in French, Russian, German, Chinese of the country. With the expertise and experience of the academic staff, the Department additionally functions as a resource Centre for Department of Examinations of Ministry of Education, National Institute of Education (NIE), Ministry of External Affairs, Sri Lanka Tourism, public and private universities and the private sector assisting them in curriculum development, paper setting, moderating and evaluating examinations, translation and interpretation services, conducting training sessions, workshops, and providing competent graduates for employment.  

Towards the future

The Department presently under the headship of Dr. Dilrukshi Rathnayaka continually strives to progress in the field of foreign language learning, teaching and research. The mission of the Department is to impart a thorough knowledge in the relevant field to the undergraduates and equip them with practical skills necessary for the working environment. The exceptionally high percentage of employability after graduation is a tremendous achievement. The Department of Modern Languages of University of Kelaniya has already come a long way since its modest beginnings in the 1970s. It has noticeably achieved high standards setting an example in the field and inspiring other universities. 
In a country long dominated by the use of English, there is an increased demand for foreign languages in urban and rural areas. Learning a foreign language enhances prospects for employment both locally and internationally. It also broadens students’ horizons and the way of thinking while assisting in developing and improving communication skills, and enhancing socio–cultural understanding which makes them more tolerant, adaptable and advantageously equipped to face the today’s job market. The Department aspires to continue to promote and expand the study of foreign languages in the country opening more avenues and producing competent graduates capable of contributing to the country’s development. 
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