New Students

 

Welcome! You’ll find a world of language learning opportunities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Stop by the Languages at UW-Madison table at the SOAR Resource Fair to learn more!

Complete the language interest form to receive information about specific language programs, scholarships, and opportunities related to language learning (study abroad, internships, language tables, etc.).

Language Programs

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What languages are offered at UW-Madison?

UW-Madison offers courses in over 50 languages during the academic year. Additional language courses are offered during the summer term through the Wisconsin Intensive Summer Language Institutes and in L&S departments. 

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.

Placement and Policies

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What is UW-Madison’s language requirement?

Language requirements for graduation depend on which school or college a student is earning a degree in.

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 requirement. Students with prior language experience (formal/informal) may take a placement exam to begin in higher level coursework.

BA

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

OR

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

BS

  • 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.
  • Language courses may count toward Humanities requirement.
School of Pharmacy BS Pharmacology & Toxicology:

None

  • Language courses may count toward Humanities graduation requirement.

Which languages can be used to fulfill the College of Letters & Science Language Requirement?

If you are completing the College of Letters & Science Language Requirement with language coursework at UW-Madison, know that not all languages 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 consult 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 Fall 2024)

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

Arabic
Chinese
Danish
Dutch
Filipino
French
German
Greek (Ancient)
Hebrew (Modern)
Hindi
Hmong
Indonesian
Italian
Japanese
Korean
Latin
Norwegian
Persian
Polish
Portuguese
Quechua
Russian
Spanish
Swahili
Swedish
Thai
Tibetan
Turkish
Urdu
Vietnamese
Yoruba

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

Students planning to enroll in a language they have prior experience in should complete a language placement test/evaluation prior to enrolling. Students who are entering with AP language credit are encouraged to take a 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:

Register for a placement test through Testing & Evaluation Services.

Learn more about content on French, German and Spanish placement tests.

All other language programs:

Contact the language advisor on this page to learn how your prior experience will be evaluated. 

Email advisor@languageinstitute.wisc.edu with additional questions. 

I have experience in another language that's not French, German, or Spanish. How do I know which course to start with?

When a student has prior experience in a language for which there is no placement test, the student should contact the language program advisor to discuss how their prior experience will be evaluated. 

Contact the appropriate language advisor on this page to learn how your prior experience will be evaluated.

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). Retroactive credits can be awarded to students regardless of how they started learning a language – whether through academic coursework, using a language at home, or independent study.

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: Retro credits 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 cr.

African 322 (Second Semester Arabic), 5 cr.

10 retrocredits
 ASIALANG 102

(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 & Enroll App. Prospective students should refer to the Public Class Search.

If you have further questions regarding retroactive credits, please contact advisor@languageinstitute.wisc.edu.

I took an AP/IB language exam. Do I still need to take a placement test?

Due to the variable nature of AP instruction, it is recommended that students take a placement test even if they are coming in with prior credit. Current-year AP scores are not released until the middle of the summer, so taking a placement test will allow you to have a course to enroll in during advising and registration at Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR) while you wait for your AP exam scores.

Students with prior experience in French, German, and/or Spanish can register for a placement test through Testing & Evaluation Services. For experience in other languages, contact the appropriate language program advisor for course placement assistance. 

* In case of a discrepancy between the AP/IB score and the placement test score, students should have a conversation with their advisor during summer advising and registration at SOAR.

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 advisor@languageinstitute.wisc.edu.

I was awarded the Seal of Biliteracy in high school. Will 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.

Students who earned the Seal of Biliteracy in high school are encouraged to continue their language study at UW-Madison if there are appropriate courses available based on their level, or to study a new language.

To discuss how you can market the skills gained through earning your Seal of Biliteracy, make an appointment with the Language Directions Specialist.

Opportunities

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What opportunities exist for language practice beyond the classroom?

Are there scholarships for language study?

Yes! Our scholarships page has information about specific opportunities on and off campus.

Where can I get career advising?

Students looking for internship and career advising related to languages can schedule an appointment with the Language Directions Specialist at the Language Institute. Additional information about general career advising at UW-Madison can be found here