Frequently Asked Questions

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What languages are offered at UW-Madison?

UW-Madison regularly offers over 50 modern languages during the academic year and intensive instruction in over 30 languages in the summer!

What are UW-Madison's language requirements?

The language requirement for graduation from UW-Madison varies by School or College.

A unit of language is defined as:

  • One semester of college OR
  • One year of high school OR
  • Two years of middle school
School or College BA & BS Language Requirement
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences None
School of Business None
School of Education None

  • Language courses may be used to fulfill Humanities requirement for certain majors.
  • Language Teaching Certification requires additional language coursework
College of Engineering None

  • Language courses can be used to fulfill 6 credits of Humanities required of all Engineering students.
School of Human Ecology None

  • Language courses can satisfy the additional Humanities requirement for certain majors.
College of Letters and Science Students may combine high school and college work to meet the L&S Language Requirement. Students with prior language experience  take a placement exam to determine appropriate course placement.


  • Completion of fourth unit (level) of a single language


  • Completion of second unit (level) of one language AND third unit (level) of a second language


  • Completion of third unit (level) of a single language
School of Nursing None

  • Knowledge of another language is considered beneficial when applying to the professional program.
  • Foreign language courses may count toward Humanities requirement.
School of Pharmacy BS Pharmacology & Toxicology:


  • Foreign language courses may count toward Humanities graduation requirement.

Which languages can be used to fulfill the College of Letters & Science language requirement?

If you did not complete your College of Letters & Science language requirement with high school coursework alone and need additional language coursework to reach the 3rd or 4th semester level at UW-Madison, know that not all language courses have offerings through the 3rd or 4th semester level. Before beginning or continuing a language to complete your L&S language requirement, refer to the list below and check with your academic advisor to ensure you will be able to use the language to complete the necessary units needed.

Languages offered through at least the 4th semester at UW-Madison (as of Spring 2024)

*Includes courses regularly offered through the fourth semester during the regular (Fall-Spring) academic terms only.

Greek (Ancient)
Hebrew (Modern)

Can I get retroactive credits? How?

Please refer to the College of Letters & Science Undergraduate Guide to view the Credit By Course Examination/Retroactive Credit Policy (Credits —> Credit By Course Examination/Retroactive Credits).

How do I determine the number of retroactive credits I will receive?

There are two considerations you should make when determining the number of retro credits you will receive upon earning a B or better in your first language course at UW-Madison:

  1. What language course did you place into?
  2. What are the prior UW-Madison courses (first semester, second semester, third semester, etc.) in the course sequence for that language, and how many credits are those courses worth?

Remember: Retrocredits can only be earned for the first four semesters/terms of a language sequence.  Please note: Native speakers of a language are not eligible to earn retroactive credits in the language.

For Example:

Language Course Completed Previous Course(s) in the Sequence Retrocredits Earned
African 323

(Third Semester Arabic)

African 321: First Semester Arabic (5 credits)

African 322: Second Semester Arabic (5 credits)

10 retrocredits

(Second Semester Chinese)

ASIALANG 101 (First Semester Chinese), 4 cr. 4 retrocredits
French 204

(Fourth Semester French)

French 101 (First Semester French), 4 cr.

French 102 (Second Semester French), 4 cr.

French 103 (Third Semester French), 4 cr.

12 retrocredits
German 102

(Second Semester German)

German 101 (First Semester German), 4 cr. 4 retrocredits
Spanish 203

(Third Semester Spanish)

Spanish 101 (First Semester Spanish), 4 cr.

Spanish 102 (Second Semester Spanish), 4 cr.

8 retrocredits
Spanish 226

(Fifth Semester Spanish)

Spanish 101 (First Semester Spanish), 4 cr.

Spanish 102 (Second Semester Spanish), 4 cr.

Spanish 203 (Third Semester Spanish), 4 cr.

Spanish 204 (Fourth Semester Spanish), 4 cr.

16 retrocredits

How do I find out what the prior courses are for the course that I place into?

To find prior coursework in the course sequence, admitted and current students can conduct a search through the Course Search and Enroll App through MyUW. Prospective students should refer to the Public Class Search.

If you have further questions regarding retroactive credits, please contact

When is the best time to start a new language?

For most languages, you can only take the odd-numbered courses (i.e. first semester, third semester, etc.) in the fall, and the even-numbered courses (i.e. second semester, fourth semester, etc.) in the spring. This means that if you want to start a new language, you usually have to start in the fall semester.

Do I need to take a language placement test? How do I register?

Placement testing and evaluation is required for students who have prior experience in a language. *Students entering with AP language credit or other college credit are still required to take the placement test to ensure accurate course placement.

If you want to start learning a new language, you do not need to take a placement test/evaluation. Go ahead and enroll!

French, German and Spanish Test Registration:

New Freshmen & Transfer Students

    1. Pre-Orientation (Spring/Early Summer): Register for the French, German or Spanish placement test through regional placement tests (in or near WI) or computer-based testing.
    2. Post-Orientation (During Academic Year): Find times for the French, German or Spanish placement test through UW-Madison Testing and Evaluation Services.

Current Students

    1. Find times for the French, German or Spanish placement test through UW-Madison Testing and Evaluation Services .
      Learn more about content on French, German and Spanish placement tests.

All other language programs (Arabic, Chinese, Latin, etc.):

Contact the language advisor/follow the link to learn how your prior experience will be evaluated. 

Language Advising
Arabic Andrew Bartsch,
Chinese Placement information
Czech Joanna Schuth,
Dakota Denise Wiyaka,
Danish Joanna Schuth,
Dutch Joanna Schuth,
Filipino Placement information
Finnish Joanna Schuth,
French Mandi Schoville,
German Joanna Schuth,
Greek (Ancient) Andrew Bartsch,
Hausa Andrew Bartsch,
Hebrew (Modern) Gwen Walker,
Hindi Placement information
Hmong Placement information
Ho-Chunk Denise Wiyaka,
Icelandic Joanna Schuth,
Indonesian Placement information
Italian Mandi Schoville,
Japanese Placement information
Kazakh Joanna Schuth,
Khmer Placement information
Korean Placement information
Latin Vanessa Schmitz-Siebertz,
Menominee Denise Wiyaka,
Norwegian Joanna Schuth,
Oneida Denise Wiyaka,
Ojibwe Denise Wiyaka,
Pashto Placement information
Persian Placement information
Polish Joanna Schuth,
Portuguese Karen Francis,
Quechua Sarah Ripp,
Russian Joanna Schuth,
Sanskrit Placement information
Spanish Karen Francis,
Swahili Andrew Bartsch,
Swedish Joanna Schuth,
Tamil Placement information
Thai Placement information
Tibetan Placement information
Turkish Joanna Schuth,
Ukrainian Joanna Schuth,
Urdu Placement information
Vietnamese Placement information
Wolof Andrew Bartsch,
Yiddish Sunny Yudkoff,
Yoruba Andrew Bartsch,
Yucatec Maya Sarah Ripp,
Zulu Andrew Bartsch,


Email with additional questions. 

How will my college credit earned in high school transfer to UW-Madison?

There are many ways that you can earn college credit for language study while still in high school:

  • Advanced Placement (AP) tests
  • International Baccalaureate (IB) tests
  • Dual enrollment programs (UW-Oshkosh CAPP, UM College in the Schools, etc.)
  • A language course taken at a college or university while still in high school

It is important to verify how your credit will transfer prior to your arrival. To transfer the credit, you should request that transcripts or test scores be sent from the credit-granting institution to UW-Madison Office of Admissions and Recruitment as soon as possible.

Direct further questions to:

I was awarded the Seal of Biliteracy in high school. Can I earn UW-Madison credit for this?

UW-Madison does not award credit for the Seal of Biliteracy. However, students can earn retroactive credits for prior language study; please see the question above for additional information.

We highly value the Seal of Biliteracy and encourage students who have earned it to continue their language study at UW-Madison! Make an appointment with the Language Directions Specialist to learn more.

Are there scholarships for language study?

Yes, our scholarships page will tell you about specific opportunities on and off campus.

Where can I get career and academic advising?

Schedule an appointment with Language Directions Specialist, Lydia Odegard, to discuss academic programs and campus resources that fit students’ international and language interests as well as professional opportunities (full-time jobs and internships) that draw on these experiences. Don’t forget to check out the many other career resources on campus too.

Whom can I contact with questions?

For general questions, email