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FAQs about Foreign Languages at Stanford

Part 1:
Part 2:
Language Offerings
Part 3:
Language Learning
Which languages are offered regularly?
Spanish, Portuguese, and Catalan; French and Italian; German; Russian; Chinese, Japanese, Korean; Arabic, Hebrew, Swahili, Modern Greek; Latin, Ancient Greek; Heritage sequences in Spanish and Chinese.
Any others?
Polish, Tibetan, Ukrainian; Persian, Vietnamese, Tagalog; Hindi, Serbo-Croatian, Punjabi, Quechua; Thai, Turkish; Zulu, Xhosa, Shona, Albanian, Bulgarian, Czech, Hungarian, Kazakh. Check Courses and Degrees for a complete listing.
Which language should I choose?
This is probably the most difficult question to answer. Two related questions are critical. First, which one have you already studied? Second, which academic area are you going to study?
If you are entering Stanford with strong language skills in a particular language, we urge you to think about continuing. You have made a lot of progress and put a lot of effort into language learning and you shouldn't let that knowledge dissipate. On the other hand, you might want to begin a new language that fits your academic interests better than your high school language. For example, you might be interested in the environment and want to do fieldwork in Latin America. In this instance, Portuguese might be a wise choice for you. Or if you are thinking about practicing medicine, particularly in the local Bay Area, Russian, Vietnamese, or Korean might be excellent choices.
Are there lots of students studying language at Stanford?
The language programs constitute the largest undergraduate sector of around 2000 students per quarter. Spanish has the most students, followed by Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, Arabic, Russian, German, and Hebrew. Each class that you enter will have between 10 and 15 students.
If I cannot get into a class in Fall Quarter, will I have priority for the next quarter?
Yes, as long as you have fulfilled any course prerequisites. Check with the language coordinator for priority status.
May I take two languages at the same time?
Yes, but you should do this judiciously. Continuing with a language you already know quite well and studying in an upper-level course (French, for example) while beginning a new language (Italian, for instance) is perfectly alright. Trying to learn Beginning Chinese and Beginning Arabic simultaneously is not a good choice.
May I take two levels of the same language at the same time?
Absolutely not! Our courses are carefully sequenced and you may not take two levels at once. Besides this, we comb through class lists carefully. We will find you and ask you to drop an inappropriate course.
If I cannot fit a language course into my schedule in a particular quarter, is there some way I can maintain my skills?
Theme houses such as HausMitt, the French House, SlavDom, and Yost House may hold one-unit activity courses that enable students to practice various foreign languages. Check with the individual house schedule to see what is offered. Several language programs (e.g. Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese) also offer oral communication courses for 2 or 3 units. While these courses do not meet any requirements, they are extremely useful for language maintenance. Another idea is to visit Bechtel International Center. Bechtel hosts many international visitors who are eager to interact with students. This is a great source for language partners.
What is the tutorial policy for languages? Can I use a CTL tutor as a way to maintain my language skills?
The Center for Teaching and Learning offers free peer tutoring as conversational support for students enrolled in specified language classes. These generally correspond to the first- and second-year sequences, although other classes sometimes qualify. Check the CTL website for the most updated list and for further information. Tutoring is designed to help students work on their oral proficiency in order to reach the objectives of the language courses they are enrolled in.
Which languages have tutors?
Currently, CTL peer tutors are available in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish.