Learn World Languages

“Different languages protect and nourish the growth of different cultures, where different pathways of human knowledge can be discovered. They certainly make life richer for those who know more than one of them.”
(Nicholas Ostler, Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World)

“Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages.” (Dave Barry)

World Languages at Macalester

Today, when the words of others from halfway around the globe can reach us in a heartbeat, only those who know other languages can take full advantage of the vast opportunities—for learning, collaborating, improving the lives of others—made possible by new communication technologies.

A command of another language gives you access to another culture from the inside out, which increases cross-cultural competence and enhances job prospects in an increasingly interconnected world. Several of the languages taught at Macalester College have been classified by the U. S. government as strategically important, which translates into scholarships to support their study and career opportunities after graduation.

Learning a language has many other bonuses: it sharpens your cognitive skills, gives you a better understanding of your native language and culture, and improves your ability to analyze and think critically. Language study is your chance to try on a new identity, to see the world through a different set of eyes, and to enrich your appreciation of human diversity.

At Macalester we take seriously the importance of being multilingual. We offer eleven different languages, at all levels. This allows globally-aware students to become meaningfully proficient and able to use their newly acquired languages in study, work, and travel.

Macalester requires its graduates to demonstrate four semesters' worth of proficiency in a language other than English. However, many students exceed that minimum, recognizing the intellectual, intercultural, and practical benefits of being multilingual.

Choosing Languages

Students choose which language – or languages – to study for many different reasons:

  • Some want to learn a language spoken in a region of the world where they might like to work or study
  • Some are drawn to the language of a region whose history, politics, economy, or geography they find fascinating
  • Others are passionate about the literature or films of a particular culture and want to learn more about the context in which these works were created
  • Some students hope to reach out to members of their own communities whose primary language is not English

Many students begin a new language when they arrive at Macalester; others choose to continue with a language that they took in high school. Students who want assistance in deciding which languages to pursue should do the following:

  • Explore these links for the languages Macalester offers (Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Ancient Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish) to get a brief description and guidance on placement.
  • Visit the website of the department which offers the language to learn where it is spoken, what fields of study or work it is associated with, and what the future holds for graduates who are proficient in its use.
  • During Orientation you may consult with faculty who teach these languages at our World Languages Fair (Saturday, August 29). Adjustments to your fall schedule will be possible during Orientation if you discover you’d like to switch to a new language or take more than one.