Language Policy for Study Abroad 

One of the most meaningful and responsible ways to engage with another culture is through language acquisition. For this reason, Wesleyan requires students to have foreign language experience to study abroad in many parts of the world. Exceptions to this policy are made only for certain monothematic programs. If you haven't studied a language previously, there are still many program options available to you.

Study Abroad in a Foreign Language

We strongly encourage you to study one of the many languages taught at Wesleyan, and to study abroad in a country where that language is spoken. Wesleyan alumni who have studied abroad through the medium of a foreign language overwhelmingly identify the knowledge, skills, and self-confidence achieved thereby as their greatest sources of satisfaction regarding their university experience! 
  • For which countries does Wesleyan require prior language study?

    You will need prior language experience if you plan to study abroad for a semester or year in a country whose primary language is one of the following: 

    • Arabic 
    • Chinese 
    • French 
    • German 
    • Hebrew 
    • Italian 
    • Japanese 
    • Korean 
    • Portuguese
    • Russian 
    • Spanish 


    Exceptions to this policy are made only for certain monothematic programs—see the 
    programs page for more information about specific programs. 

    We strongly encourage you to enroll in a language course each semester before studying abroad, especially the last semester before you go. Research shows that not using your language for extended periods of time leads to a significant loss of proficiency.

  • What language level do I need to meet before I go abroad?

    If you plan to study abroad for a semester or year in a French, German, Italian, Russian, or Spanish-speaking country, you will be required to take most or all of your courses abroad through the medium of the target language. Therefore, you will be expected to reach the following level by the program start date: 

    Language Must complete this course by program start date 
    French FREN 215 or equivalent 
    German GRST 211 or GRST 214* or equivalent 
    Italian ITAL 102 or ITAL 111* or equivalent 
    Russian RUSS 202 or equivalent 
    Spanish SPAN 221 or advanced SPAN seminar* or equivalent

    * Pre-requisite depends on program or semester. See eligibility requirements on ViaTRM program pages for details.

    If you plan to study abroad for a semester or year in an Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, or Portuguese-speaking country, you are encouraged to take all courses in the target language as your language level and program permit, but English-taught classes are permissible.  

    Language Must complete this course by program start date 
    Arabic ARAB 102 or equivalent 
    Chinese CHIN 104, CHIN 206, or CHIN 218* or equivalent 
    Hebrew HEBR 201 or equivalent 
    Japanese JAPN 104 or 206* or equivalent
    Korean KREA 154 or equivalent
    Portuguese PORT 156 or equivalent

    * Pre-requisite depends on program or semester. See eligibility requirements on ViaTRM program pages for details.

    You are expected to enroll in a course in the target language the semester before studying abroad. You’re also strongly urged to continue to take courses in the target language after returning to Wesleyan in order to build on the skills and knowledge acquired abroad. 

  • What are the language pre-requisites for Wesleyan’s programs in France, Italy, and Spain?
    Students interested in studying on the Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris or Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Madrid are expected to have completed the equivalent of 5 semesters of university-level instruction (French 215 or Spanish 221) with a grade of B or higher recently. Applicants are expected to take a formal course in the language the term before they go abroad no matter what their level. Students applying to the Madrid program who have skipped more than two semesters of coursework in Spanish are likely to be asked to take a seminar and apply the following term. Highly qualified students with 4 semesters of college French or Spanish (French 112, Spanish 112) may be considered under special circumstances. Ordinarily, such students will have taken French or Spanish continually since their first term, will have completed only four semesters of college French or Spanish before going abroad, and will be able to document why they cannot study abroad in a different semester (e.g., major requirements, athletic schedule or theatrical production).    

    Students planning to study on the Eastern College Consortium Program in Bologna are expected to complete Italian 102 for fall or full year, Italian 111 for spring. Students who have completed only two semesters of Italian prior the fall semester are required to attend the Lecce program. 

  • What are the benefits of studying abroad in another language?

    Here are 8 reasons why we recommend studying abroad in another language: 

    1. Alumni who have studied abroad through the medium of a foreign language overwhelmingly identify the knowledge, skills, and self-confidence achieved thereby as their greatest sources of satisfaction regarding their university experience.  
    2. Deep study of another culture through its language brings home how much of value will never be made available in English.   
    3. Language learning teaches you to think more clearly and sharpens your brain's ability to make sense of the world.  
    4. You will never know your own language and culture more deeply than by studying another--by looking at it from the outside. Learning to thrive with the unfamiliar is often linked to creativity in many intellectual and professional contexts.  
    5. Many employers, professional schools, fellowships, and graduate schools see serious study of a second language (potentially, a double-major) as evidence that you can (a) put yourself more easily in others' (colleagues', clients') shoes and (b) communicate more effectively even in English. 
    6. Puzzling out another language and culture will help you understand and empathize with the difficulties of non-anglophone immigrants, colleagues, clients, and travelers in the U.S., even if you never leave American shores. 
    7. Learning another language well makes it easier to learn any language in the future. Even if you never need this, the experience--especially if you study abroad--will make you far more confident in your ability to face any intellectual or professional challenge.   
    8. Foreign-language courses fit easily into study plans: offered on highly varied schedules, they provide a stimulating break from problem-set driven, heavy-reading or arts courses. Language courses tend to be fun and offer a great way to diversify any program of study. 
  • I’m anxious about taking my classes in the target language. Will I be ready?

    It's very normal to feel nervous about speaking, listening, and taking classes in a language that is not your first. We applaud your willingness to step outside your comfort zone because that’s where intercultural understanding is developed.  

    Most of all, remember that you’re not alone! Here are some things to keep in mind: 

    • Wesleyan’s language departments are exceptional and prepare their students very well for language immersion and study abroad. If you have concerns about your language proficiency, meet with your language professor during student hours for guidance and support. 
    • Alumni who have studied abroad through the medium of a foreign language overwhelmingly identify the knowledge, skills, and self-confidence achieved thereby as their greatest sources of satisfaction regarding their university experience. Reach out to a study abroad peer leader to learn about their experience. 
    • Make sure you’re enrolled in a course in the target language the semester before studying abroad. This will keep the language fresh in your mind. 

Study Abroad in English

There are many study abroad options where prior language study is not required, such as English-speaking countries and countries whose primary language is not taught at Wesleyan. 

If you plan to study abroad in a country where English is not the primary language (and the language is not taught at Wes), you will take all your courses in English. In that case, Wesleyan also requires that you take at least one course focused on the language of the host country or region each semester you’re abroad. For example, if you attend a program in Hungary, one of the courses you’ll take is Introductory Hungarian. 

  • If I study abroad in an English-speaking country, will I need to take a foreign language class?

    No, you will not be required to take a foreign language class if you study abroad in a country where the primary language is English. 

    If you plan to study abroad in a country where English is not the primary language (and the language is not taught at Wes), you will need to take at least one course focused on the language of the host country or region each semester you’re abroad. For example, if you attend a program in Hungary, one of the courses you’ll take is Introductory Hungarian.