Language Study

The Wellesley curriculum offers significant opportunities for studying language, well beyond the depth and breadth of language programs at most small liberal arts colleges. 

We offer courses in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi-Urdu, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swahili. We encourage all students to study language here, and we hope you will consider the many reasons and paths for language study as you identify the best options for you. 

This video explores the many benefits of language study at Wellesley:

 

 Why Study a Language?

Language study is one of the basic foundations of a liberal arts education. A person who has mastered a foreign language is likely to be more subtly perceptive, more keenly articulate, and more expansively communicative than one who has not. Language study allows you to explore new modes of communication.  It also gives you the opportunity to get inside a different culture, which is a deep intellectual pleasure in itself but is also a useful tool in the real world, because it develops your ability to see reality from the standpoint of others as well as from your own. 

In our globalized world this is a valuable skill—in diplomacy, business, politics, and of course in human relations. Although each of you has studied a language in secondary school, and some of you are fluent in two or more languages already, there are excellent reasons to devote some of your college years to the study of a language you already know, or to begin the study of a language new to you. Wellesley does require each student to have achieved a second-year college level expertise in at least one language other than English, as part of our degree requirements, and language study at Wellesley is one way to satisfy that requirement.

More than half of Wellesley students choose to study abroad at some point during their college career, and language instruction can be an essential element in making the most of that experience.  Our graduates report that an understanding of a range of cultures and languages is a definite asset when pursuing internship and career options.  And finally, language study is often a first-rate educational experience: the classes tend to be small and highly interactive, and our language instructors are among our most talented and beloved faculty members.

Getting Started with Languages at Wellesley

Will you continue studying a language you are familiar with or try a new one? That’s a personal choice, and you should consider it in light of some of your other goals. If you’re eager to explore other cultures and try new things, taking a course in a new language can be a great starting point. If your study of language will likely be limited to what’s required for graduation, then continuing in a language you already have might be wiser. 

If you already have an idea about where you might want to study abroad, getting some experience in that language beforehand is a requirement that you will want to start on early, so that you can make the most of your time outside the United States. If you are continuing in a language you have studied before, it’s important to take the appropriate placement test, so the department has good information about your current level of expertise. (You can sign up for placement tests by using the link on the Checklist in MyWellesley.)

When planning your language study, you should note that for most of the modern, but not ancient, languages we have at Wellesley, instruction in the first two years of study is offered in paired courses, meaning that you need to take both the fall and spring semesters of a year in order to get credit for either one (we do make exceptions for students whose placement tests indicate that starting mid-year is best, and Russian is the one modern language that does not require your courses to be paired).

In some languages there are options for more intensive study, which can be appropriate for students with prior experience in the language. Other languages offer intensive beginning courses on campus in Wintersession. You may also have the opportunity to take a language course in one of the countries where that language is spoken during Wintersession off campus. There are upper-level courses offering the study of literatures and cultures in their original languages, and many departments offer a chance to study these materials in translation as well, for those who choose not to go on in language study as such. Finally, language study is often a part of interdisciplinary work in “area studies” programs such as Classical Studies, Latin American Studies, East Asian Studies, South Asia Studies, and International Relations.