Why Study a Foreign Language at UW-Madison
Regardless of your major, learning another language could be one of the most rewarding and enriching academic experiences you have.
Learning a language…
- gives you a richer understanding of other cultures
- makes study abroad and travel more meaningful and enjoyable
- presents opportunities to connect with people from around the world
- opens doors to a world of professional and personal opportunities
- is correlated with higher scores on standardized tests such as the SAT, GRE, MCAT and LSAT, as well as higher grades in English and math
- helps you to stand out when applying for jobs or for graduate or professional school
- makes you competitive when applying for a wide range of government, non-profit and private-sector jobs that require language expertise, or that offer better positions and higher salaries to applicants with such expertise
Susan Brantly, Professor of Scandinavian Studies, explains that studying a foreign language can make students distinctive and provide them with valuable skills.
Watch a short video clip of Professor Brantly's presentation (QuickTime player and high-speed Internet connection required).
What languages can I take at UW-Madison?
Over 60 languages are offered at the UW-Madison, some every year, others less frequently or just during the summer.
Consider learning a language that’s part of your heritage. Continue studying a language that you took in high school. Or, take something completely new and different. You just might find that it turns into a passion!
At the UW, language classes are small, interactive and emphasize communicative competence. Outside of the classroom, you’ll find opportunities to watch films in that language, participate in conversation tables, attend cultural events, meet international students, go on study abroad or live in an international learning community.
Have questions about language majors, language courses, advance placement and more?
Learn More >
When should I start?
The time to start is NOW! Give yourself time to become really proficient by starting now, or by continuing to study a language that you already started in high school.
Keep going after you complete your language requirement!
If you want to be able to use another language in your career, you need to plan on studying it for as many semesters as possible. If you start as a senior, you won’t get very far.
How does studying a language fit with other majors?
Language study can be combined with just about any other discipline. Many alumni are using a language they learned at the UW in exciting careers in just about every field you can imagine. A couple of examples from alumni are:
Anthony Shadid, a Journalism major who also studied Arabic at the UW and in Cairo, Egypt. Anthony, now a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 2004. He credits his knowledge of Arabic learned at UW for enabling him to do the kind of work that was recognized with this prestigious award.
Karina Shook, an Aerospace Technologist with NASA who studied Engineering and Russian at the UW. Karina now trains American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and in Moscow, Russia.
Should I plan on studying abroad?
Of course you can benefit from language classes without studying abroad, but if you study abroad in a country where the language is spoken, your language skills will improve and you’ll learn first-hand about the culture. Visit International Academic Programs to investigate the possibilities.
UW Departments & Programs Offering Languages