Top Foreign Language Universities

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Foreign Languages & Linguistics is a popular major and United States is the most popular state for students studying it. 31,165 of the 31,165 Foreign Languages & Linguistics degrees awarded last year were given by schools in United States. With so many options it can be a daunting task finding the best fit for you. This year’s Best Colleges for Foreign Languages & Linguistics ranking analyzed 185 colleges and universities that offer a bachelor’s degree in foreign languages and linguistics. We look at over 20 factors to determine the top 15% of schools for Foreign Languages & Linguistics students.

Best Colleges for Foreign Language in the US

Yale University

Location: New Haven, Connecticut

Unlike its rival Harvard, Yale offers a mere 53 languages. But foreign language students at Yale aren’t left out in the cold. The Center for Language Study runs a thriving tutoring program and courses in special purpose languages like medical Chinese and medical Spanish.

Plus, if the language you’re interested in isn’t one of the 53, you can apply to receive up to four semesters of funding and support for outside study through the Directed Independent Language Study program.

All of these ten schools provide excellent environments for language learning, but each school has a slightly different emphasis, so you’ll want to do as much research as possible on the programs you’re interested in.

For example, all the schools have language centers, but some of the centers are more research-oriented, some offer tutoring, some hold events and workshops, etc. Likewise, all the schools have study abroad opportunities, but each school will have a slightly different catalogue of study abroad options.

University of California, Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, California

Besides taking courses and potentially majoring in one of almost 70 languages, students at UC-Berkeley can supplement their studies with a minor in Applied Languages to gain an understanding of how people learn languages and how languages interact with their broader cultural context.

Meanwhile, the Berkeley Language Center is a dynamic hub of learning and research. Some of the center’s activities include publishing a journal, putting on a series of workshops and curating a collection of foreign language film clips for students.

Stanford University

Location: Stanford, California

Stanford stresses that because their program is all about becoming proficient, it emphasizes “doing rather than knowing.” Much of this doing happens with the help of the Digital Language Lab, which administers spoken and written tests—including the Simulated Oral Proficiency Interviews students take to graduate.

Stanford students also have easy access to a rich array of study abroad opportunities, and 50 percent (!) of Stanford students have studied overseas by the time they graduate.

University of Pennsylvania

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Like other top language schools, University of Pennsylvania offers a competitive selection of languages.

More unique to the program is the Penn Language Center. Through the center, you can request a language tutor or become one yourself, and you can take proficiency assessments.

If you have an interest in sign language, business or medical professions, you can also sign up for specialized language courses in those areas.

Indiana University

Location: Bloomington, Indiana

Indiana teaches a dazzling array of foreign languages and has the Center for Language Technology, which puts together regular workshops, conversation hours and festivals for language learners.

The school also hosts more Language Flagship Programs than any other U.S. university—programs that combine one-on-one tutoring, group instruction, immersive environments and interdisciplinary work to help students reach ACTFL Superior proficiency within four years.

Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

It’s no Middlebury, but Harvard still isn’t too shabby. Case in point: It has courses in 80+ languages, more than any other U.S. college.

The school’s Language Resource Center has a space for watching international TV (armchairs included!), screening rooms and a computer center. And if these on-campus resources aren’t enough, you can also get a discounted Rosetta Stone subscription through the school.

Cornell University

Location: Ithaca, New York

Cornell offers classes in languages ranging from Akkadian to Zulu. Altogether, there are 52 languages offered, including 31 that can be taken for at least two years.

The school’s Language Resource Center is home to a media library as well as a language lab. It also hosts talks related to language learning, many with an interdisciplinary bent.

In the past, a distinguishing aspect of Cornell has been its immersion programs in Asian languages, most recently its summer Mandarin intensive. Although the future of these offerings is unclear, Cornell’s language program in general remains very strong.

University of Wisconsin–Madison

Location: Madison, Wisconsin

By the numbers alone, UW-Madison produces more language majors a year than any other U.S. university. During their time at the school, these students have access to an impressive collection of language learning resources, including classes in over 40 languages and study abroad programs with ties to over 60 countries.

UW-Madison boasts an impressive 26 conversation tables that meet regularly during the school year, so you can have casual conversations outside of class in a relaxed environment.

There’s also the Language Institute, a center for research, career advising, interdisciplinary studies and the federally funded Russian Flagship Program.

University of California, Los Angeles

Location: Los Angeles, California

UCLA isn’t just a big school in a major U.S. city. It’s also a language learning hub.

They offer a diverse array of languages that would make most language departments green with envy. Thought you couldn’t study Armenian, Quechua, Uzbek and Yoruba in college? Turns out you were wrong!

Their Center for World Languages provides a rich collection of language learning resources, including everything from an online database of learning material for 150+ “less commonly taught languages” to an Italian library and foreign language teaching workshops.

And because second language acquisition is one of the Center for World Languages’s research focuses, innovative language learning techniques are always making their way into UCLA’s classrooms.

Middlebury College

Location: Middlebury, Vermont

Middlebury is well-known among language learners for its Language Schools, which provide an intensely immersive summer language learning environment.

Based on that, you might expect Middlebury College proper to be a good place to learn a language, and the school doesn’t disappoint. Their first-rate program covers 11 languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

It also includes partnerships with the Monterey Institute of International Studies, where you can complete an accelerated Middlebury/Monterey BA/MA, and the Middlebury C.V. Star Schools Abroad, where you can take your language studies overseas.

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