Christina Frei

Director of Language Instruction

Executive Director of Language Instruction for the School of Arts & Sciences; Academic Director, Penn Language Center; Adjunct Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education

714 Williams Hall
Wednesdays 3:30 - 4:30 pm & by appointment
(215) 898-5573
CV (file):


Ph.D., University of California at Davis

Teaching represents the most immediate and rewarding venue of combining Christina Frei’s research projects, application of technology and language education. She received the 2010 SAS Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching by Affiliated Faculty describing her dynamic classroom presence as mesmerizing. "The intensity of her presence and strategic appeal of her pedagogy engulf the students in a world of German language and culture, in which they feel fortified and challenged."

Recently, Frei was appointed to Executive Director of Language Instruction for the School of Arts & Sciences. The newly established position of Executive Director of Language Instruction recognizes her deep commitment to the university and the language education community across SAS, Wharton, LPS, The Graduate School of Education and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. She is also a member of the Online Learning Faculty Advisory Committee.

Frei currently is co-authoring a textbook for introductory/intermediate German language and culture: Augenblicke, German through Film, Media and Texts. As a content-based textbook firmly situated in the National Standards, Augenblicke responds to several recent changes in language education. First, Augenblicke’s systematic and contextualized language, culture, and grammar progression is structured around six themes essential to the 21st-century learner: national identity, multilingualism, technologies, citizenship, environmentalism, and artistic representations. This theme-based curriculum piques learner interest by encouraging students to reflect and build upon their background knowledge. Second, authentic media and literary materials serve as the logical context choice to guide language instruction. News reports, podcasts, television clips, feature-length film excerpts, literary excerpts, internet sites, and graphs prompt students’ interest and motivate them to meaningfully engage with their own language acquisition and production. Third, Augenblicke focuses on the three modes of communication (interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational), which places the audience at the center of all communication and encourages learners to make thoughtful choices regarding their language production.  Lastly, Augenblicke’s process-based grammar and vocabulary progression encourages students to develop a fine eye and ear for grammatical paradigms while bolstering their communicative and symbolic competencies. These core features of Augenblicke embed language learning within genre-specific, authentic, and culturally relevant contexts and foster students’ language education with the ultimate goal in mind: effective communication. Augenblicke’s thoughtfully designed and tested strategies result in an introductory German textbook unlike any currently on the market.

Since 2009, Frei chairs the Penn Language Center, home of many less commonly taught languages at Penn. In her role as educational leader she secured several grants: STARTALK and Fulbright. With the support of the Department of Education and the Institute for International Education (IIE), Frei conceptualizes and directs the summer leadership institute and the Fulbright pre-semester orientation for foreign language teaching assistants.

This summer, she is the lead faculty to design and offer the CIBER/Santander Summer Institute in collaboration with the Lauder Institute. To meet the demand for second-language educators who can thoughtfully incorporate business content into language education, the University of Pennsylvania’s Lauder Institute, Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) and Santander Universities train educators in curriculum and lesson planning oriented toward professional content and contexts. The Summer Institute, Learning a Second Language for Business Communication, demonstrates how language instructors with little business knowledge, can incorporate business concepts into their language courses. 

Frei designed and implemented the curriculum of the language program at the Freie Universität Berlin international Summer and Winter University (FUBiS), the department's summer study-abroad venue. 

In addition, Frei regularly offers courses in Second Language Acquisition (GRMN 516), Teaching and Learning with Technology (GRMN 517), and directs all courses in the two-year language program. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California at Davis with a Special Emphasis in Second Language Acquisition. She specializes in new approaches to the teaching of German and diverse applications of technology in the foreign-language classroom.

Projects also include the expansion of the Homo.Cyber site:  and research in the development of students' discourse competence within online language course models. See her article here:

Research Interests

Second language acquisition, curriculum design, blended learning