Professor's Gift Aids "Cultural Competence"

When you travel to a foreign country, you need to know more than the local language. To communicate with the people you meet, you must understand something about their values and social customs. Whether you're a tourist, a business executive, or a diplomat, learning a language won't serve you well if you don't also acquire cultural competence.

Howard Nostrand, professor emeritus of Romance Languages and Literature, and his wife, Frances, have made teaching language and culture their life's work. Now they are giving the UW $500,000 for an endowed professorship in the Department of Linguistics to continue that work.

This is an extraordinary gift, for which we are very grateful.

"We've been thinking about this gift for a long time," says Nostrand. "It has two purposes: to promote the growth of language and culture as a new discipline within language study, and to stimulate public awareness of the need for cultural competence. It's crucial to many activities, including international business, where misunderstanding can mean real economic losses."

Nostrand has been a pioneer in this field, and his work produced a national model for teaching French language and culture. That model is now being applied to other languages and cultures, including Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew and Persian. By establishing the Howard and Frances Nostrand Endowed Professorship in the Department of Linguistics, the gift will benefit all languages. Linguists study the universal properties of language, including its social and cultural context.

"This is an extraordinary gift, for which we are very grateful," says David Hodge, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "Cross-cultural understanding is one of the most important perspectives that students should gain from a liberal arts education."

Howard Nostrand came to the UW in 1939 as professor and chair of the Department of Romance Languages, a position he held for 25 years. Frances Nostrand taught French at the UW from 1962 to 1979. They are well known not only to generations of students but also to hundreds of people in the community who are interested in French culture. Colleagues, friends, and business people who share their commitment to teaching cultural competence are invited to contribute to this endowment. For information, contact Antoinette Wills (206) 616-6553.

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