Hoping to become highly proficient in a foreign language but aren’t ready to venture off too far from home just yet? Studying a foreign language in college is a great place to start. Having a strong knowledge of a foreign language can prepare you for exciting careers in academia, international relations, translation, interpretation, publishing and editing, airline services, hotel management, and government. It can also open up more opportunities for you in the corporate and nonprofit worlds alike. Proficiency in a foreign language also increases your chances of getting jobs in different parts of the world and gives you greater cultural understanding—an increasingly valuable asset. If you want foreign language study to be part of your college experience, take a look at these colleges with innovative and prestigious foreign language programs.
1. Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT:
One of Middlebury’s claims to fame is its Language Schools, which offer intense, immersive summer programs in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. At the start of the program, students take a pledge that they will exclusive use the language that they’re studying for the duration of the program. Middlebury also has partnerships with Monterey Institute of International Studies, where you can pursue an accelerated Middlebury/Monterey BA/MA, and is home to the Middlebury CV Starr Schools Abroad program, which allows you to take your foreign language studies abroad to any of 40 universities across South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
2. University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA:
At UCLA’s Center for World Languages, you can find everything and anything related to foreign languages, including an Italian library, foreign language teaching workshops, and an online database of learning material for 150+ languages. Some of the foreign language classes you’ll find at UCLA that you might not find at other colleges include Armenian, Quechua, Uzbek, and Yoruba. One of the Center for World Languages’ research foci is second language acquisition, which ensures that the most innovative language learning techniques make their ways into the classroom.
3. University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI:
Out of all US colleges and universities, UW-Madison produces the most foreign language majors a year. The university has 26 language “conversation tables” that meet regularly throughout the school year, allowing students to have casual conversations in a relaxed environment. UW’s impressive Language Institute is a hub on campus for research, academic and career advising, and cultural outreach. The Language Institute also hosts the federally funded Russian Flagship Program.
4. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY:
There are 52 languages offered at Cornell, ranging from Akkadian to Zulu. One of its claims to fame is FALCON—an intensive summer program offered through the Asian Studies Department. Students in FALCON work for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week completely immersed in Chinese or Japanese. As demanding as it is, it is one of the few programs in the country that allows students to become nearly fluent in Chinese or Japanese in such a short amount of time. Cornell’s Language Resource Center has a media library and language lab and hosts talks on language learning. The Center also helps students find multilingual housing.
5. Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, IN:
Indiana University offers 46 languages that can be taken up to the intermediate level. The many Language Flagship programs at IU combine one-on-one tutoring, group instruction, immersive environments, and interdisciplinary work to help students reach proficiency. The Center for Language Technology (CeLT) uses a range of digital resources to help students with their language learning. The school hosts numerous foreign language fairs and events, including the annual World Language Festival, which features language and cultural lessons, performances, arts and crafts, and public exhibitions.
6. Stanford University, Stanford, CA:
Stanford currently offers 14 common modern languages and 30 less commonly taught languages, including Basque, Hawaiian, Lakota, Uzbek, Vietnamese, and Swahili. Stanford places emphasis on “learning by doing.” Therefore, there are ample opportunities for students to immerse themselves in foreign languages. Much of this takes place in the Digital Learning Lab, which administers written and spoken tests, including Simulated Oral Proficiency Interviews that students take to graduate.
7. Yale University, New Haven, CT:
Yale offers 53 languages. Foreign language students take advantage of the Yale Center for Language Study (CLS), which runs a renowned tutoring program, administers placement tests, and offers language learning resources such as TV shows, movies, audio recordings, and books. Yale also offers special purpose language courses, such as medical Spanish and medical Chinese. If you’re interested in learning a language that isn’t one of the 53 the school offers, you can apply to receive up to 4 semesters of funding for outside study through the Directed Independent Language Study program.
8. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA:
More than 50 languages are offered at Penn, including Arabic, Chinese, Swahili, French, Sanskrit, Punjabi, and American Sign Language. At the Penn Language Center, you can request or become a language tutor, take proficiency exams, and take advantage of the numerous language learning resources offered. Penn offers specialized language courses, including medical American Sign Language and business Chinese. Students have the option of earning a dual degree in two of three Romance languages: French, Spanish, or Italian.
9. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA:
Harvard offers over 80 foreign languages—more than any college or university in the country. At Harvard, you can take Celtic languages, Slavic languages, Romance languages, South Asian languages, and more. The Language Resource Center has a space for watching international TV, screening rooms, and a computer center. Students can get a discounted Rosetta Stone subscription through the school. No more than 15 students are enrolled in introductory classes at a time, and all introductory classes are taught only by native speakers.
If you’re interested in learning more about these colleges, you can connect with students and alumni on Konversai—the world’s greatest database of personal knowledge that allows you to connect with anyone, anywhere, about anything. Konversai’s platform brings together providers of knowledge with seekers of knowledge via live video. Any and all knowledge, skills, and experiences have a place on Konversai, whether it be college life, traveling in Europe, Middle Eastern cooking, vegan baking, managing a budget, or playing guitar. The only limit is your imagination. Konversai is also a fantastic resource for learning and teaching languages at any level of proficiency. Currently the platform has providers and seekers for more than 22 languages, and more are being added every day. Users are encouraged to be both providers and seekers of knowledge, and providers are encouraged to charge for their time. They also have the option of holding sessions for free or donating their earnings to a charity of their choice. Meet new people, broaden your horizons, and make money all at your own convenience and from the comfort of your own home by joining Konversai.
- Evans, Jasmine. (2013). 6 Most Popular Colleges for Foreign Language Majors. Campus Explorer.
- Niels. Middlebury, LA, Madison and More: 10 of the Best American Colleges for Learning Foreign Languages. FluentU.
- The Best Colleges. 10 Most Innovative Colleges for Foreign Language Study.