New Students

Interested in studying a language during your time at UW-Madison?

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.).

Don’t see the language you’re looking for? Check out the language programs offered through Wisconsin Intensive Summer Language Institutes.

Language Programs

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What languages are offered at UW-Madison?

UW-Madison offers over 40 languages during the academic year. Additional language courses are offered during summer term through individual courses and Wisconsin Intensive Summer Language Institutes (WISLI). 

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.

How will language classes at UW-Madison be different than in high school?

You can expect UW-Madison language courses to emphasize communicative competence, with a strong focus on student participation in class (in the target language!), developing proficiency in speaking, reading, listening and writing.

Elementary language courses meet frequently–typically meet 4-6 times/week. Since students in the language classroom often speak about themselves, play games, sing songs, act out skits, and talk about various aspects of the target culture, they get to know each other (and their instructor) while deepening their understanding of the language and the people, traditions, and history.

Placement and Policies

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What is UW-Madison’s language requirement?

Graduation Requirement

The language requirement (languages other than English) 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 3 units of the same language

  • High school and college units can be combined
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 level of a single language

OR

  • Completion of second level of one language AND third level of a second language

BS

  • Completion of third 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:

None

  • Foreign language courses may count toward Humanities graduation requirement.

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

Placement testing 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. 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 (no registration necessary).

Current Students

  1. Find times for the French, German or Spanish placement test through UW-Madison Testing and Evaluation Services (no registration necessary).
    Learn more about content on French, German and Spanish placement tests.

For information about evaluation for other language programs (Arabic, Chinese, Latin, etc.):

Contact the language advisor to discuss how your prior experience will be evaluated. 

Language Advisor
Arabic Toni Landis, tllandis@wisc.edu
Chinese Complete background questionnaire.
Czech Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Danish Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Dutch Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Filipino Complete background questionnaire.
Finnish Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Greek (Ancient) Toni Landis, tllandis@wisc.edu
Hausa Toni Landis, tllandis@wisc.edu
Hebrew undergrad-adviser@cjs.wisc.edu (Modern)
Toni Landis, tllandis@wisc.edu (Biblical)
Hindi Complete background questionnaire.
Hmong Complete background questionnaire.
Icelandic Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Indonesian Complete background questionnaire.
Italian Laura Linde Turnes, llinde@wisc.edu
Japanese Complete background questionnaire.
Kazakh Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Khmer Complete background questionnaire.
Korean Complete background questionnaire.
Latin Toni Landis, tllandis@wisc.edu
Norwegian Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Ojibwe Rand Valentine, rand.valentine@wisc.edu
Persian Complete background questionnaire.
Polish Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Portuguese Karen Francis, karen.francis@wisc.edu
Quechua Sarah Ripp, skripp@wisc.edu
Russian Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Serbo-Crotian Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Swahili Toni Landis, tllandis@wisc.edu
Swedish Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Thai Complete background questionnaire.
Tibetan Complete background questionnaire.
Turkish Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Urdu Complete background questionnaire.
Vietnamese Complete background questionnaire.
Wolof Toni Landis, tllandis@wisc.edu
Yiddish Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Yoruba Toni Landis, tllandis@wisc.edu
Yucatec Maya Sarah Ripp, skripp@wisc.edu

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 language advisor to discuss how your prior experience will be evaluated.

Language Advisor
Arabic Toni Landis, tllandis@wisc.edu
Chinese Complete background questionnaire.
Czech Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Danish Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Dutch Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Filipino Complete background questionnaire.
Finnish Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Greek (Ancient) Toni Landis, tllandis@wisc.edu
Hausa Toni Landis, tllandis@wisc.edu
Hebrew undergrad-adviser@cjs.wisc.edu (Modern)
Toni Landis, tllandis@wisc.edu (Biblical)
Hindi Complete background questionnaire.
Hmong Complete background questionnaire.
Icelandic Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Indonesian Complete background questionnaire.
Italian Laura Linde Turnes, llinde@wisc.edu
Japanese Complete background questionnaire.
Kazakh Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Khmer Complete background questionnaire.
Korean Complete background questionnaire.
Latin Toni Landis, tllandis@wisc.edu
Norwegian Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Ojibwe Rand Valentine, rand.valentine@wisc.edu
Persian Complete background questionnaire.
Polish Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Portuguese Karen Francis, karen.francis@wisc.edu
Quechua Sarah Ripp, skripp@wisc.edu
Russian Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Serbo-Crotian Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Swahili Toni Landis, tllandis@wisc.edu
Swedish Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Thai Complete background questionnaire.
Tibetan Complete background questionnaire.
Turkish Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Urdu Complete background questionnaire.
Vietnamese Complete background questionnaire.
Wolof Toni Landis, tllandis@wisc.edu
Yiddish Joanna Schuth, jschuth@wisc.edu 
Yoruba Toni Landis, tllandis@wisc.edu
Yucatec Maya Sarah Ripp, skripp@wisc.edu

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 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 Enroll App or the CourseGuide through MyUW. 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?

Yes. Due to the variable nature of AP instruction, UW-Madison language departments require all students with prior experience in French, German, and Spanish take the placement test, even if they have done the AP/IB test. For prior experience in other languages, contact the language program advisor for course placement assistance. 

* In case of a discrepancy between the AP/IB score and the placement test score, students will be connected with the Language Consultant during their summer advising and registration.

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.

Opportunities

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What opportunities exist for language practice beyond the classroom?

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 International Directions Advisor, Kaitlin Koehler, 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.

More questions?  Email advisor@languageinstitute.wisc.edu