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College of Arts and Sciences

Modern Languages and Cultures Department

The foreign language programs in Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Arabic recognize academic, cultural, and practical purposes.


Foreign language study aims at broadening the scope of the student's intellectual development by affording both a facility in foreign languages and knowledge of other cultures. This end is achieved through the major programs in foreign languages or double majors that couple a major or minor in a foreign language with a major in another field.


Learning about another culture and civilization—its history, geography, literature, and art—through the medium of its language leads to a better understanding of one's self and the world in which we live. To achieve this goal, all foreign languages are taught in their cultural context. Courses in Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish are taught in the vernacular.


Career opportunities involving foreign languages are expanding. For the university graduate with a specialization in a particular field and with proficiency in foreign languages, openings exist in the following fields: engineering, foreign trade, foreign service, international business, international law, librarianship, military, social work, teaching, tourism industry, and transportation. In addition, many graduate programs require proficiency in foreign language.

Degrees offered:

French: BA and minor

Spanish: BA and minor

Japanese: minor

Italian: minor

Chinese: minor

Arabic: Minor


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News and Events

By the time Paige Bowman graduated in 2015, she had studied in Mexico, worked in the U.S. Consulate in Panama, and completed majors in International Studies and Spanish. After finishing an evaluation of rural development efforts in Mexico, she began working with immigrants and refugees in Seattle. More here.

Congratulations to junior Olivia Smith on being awarded the prestigious Truman scholarship. The academic award, from the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, is given to undergraduates who are preparing for careers in public service. Smith, a junior political science and Spanish double major and Sullivan Scholar, is the only Washington college student to receive the award in 2015. More here.

Alumni Profile: Jenny Chott Hannibal: Conducting training in French for surgeons in Madagascar was not on her radar screen when Jenny Chott Hannibal '96 decided to major in French and Mathematics. Neither were women in Malawi, Madagascar, and Mauritania who can't afford the surgeries they need. Read the article here.

Three Interns, One Equal Heart: Spanish students and alumni Ella Youtsey, Sara Haugen, and Taylor Denton use their language skills, classroom learning, study-abroad and volunteer experiences to support families and communities of Tseltal Maya as interns at One Equal Heart.  Read the article and watch the video here.