Santa Clara University

Modern Languages and Literatures department

Foreign Language Study at SCU

About us

Mastering a foreign language can be one of the most satisfying and rewarding experiences of an education. As the primary form of human communication, language is the key to understanding other cultures, whether those of ancient Greece and Rome, which survive mainly in their written documents, or cultures that are flourishing today. Knowledge of another language imparts a sensitivity to the differences that make each culture unique, as well as those experiences that bind us all together as members of the human family.

“Mastering a foreign language can be one of the most satisfying and rewarding experiences of an education.”
—Departmental Philosophy

Language Instruction

Modern language study at Santa Clara provides intensive instruction in all language skills: understanding, speaking, reading, and writing. At the same time, it seeks to develop a sympathetic appreciation for the culture represented by the language. Particular emphasis is given to the ability to speak each language fluently. As early as possible, classes are conducted completely in the language being studied.

All modern language instructors are fully competent professionals with native-level fluency. The department boasts the most culturally diverse faculty in the University. Many are natives of countries whose languages they teach. All have extensive travel and residence experience abroad.

Plan of Study and Placement

Language offerings involve a sequence of elementary, intermediate, and advanced courses, followed by specialized work in conversation, composition, civilization and culture, literature, linguistics, cinema, and special topics.

“A particular advantage of language study is that students can steadily improve their language skills while exploring their interests in other fields.”

The department is highly flexible in the placement of students continuing study of a language they already know or have studied. After individual consultation with a member of the faculty, students are placed at the appropriate-and comfortable-level. An entering freshman could place as high the advanced level. Many prospective language majors begin their Santa Clara course work at the intermediate level and may be in advanced courses by the end of their freshman year. On the other hand, a student with no previous experience in a language still has time to graduate as a language major.

A particular advantage of language study is that students can steadily improve their language skills while exploring their interests in other fields. There is no pressure to make an early decision. There is even time to develop a full second major in another field, or one or more minors.

The Learning Environment

Personal contact between students and faculty is strongly encouraged. Santa Clara language classes are limited in size. There are rarely more than 25 students per class--usually fewer. Advanced classes in particular offer many opportunities for student/faculty interaction. Individual attention is always available, and faulty are easily accessible.

Students find it easy to get to know and learn from one another. Casa Italiana, a residence hall, provides a setting for students to immerse themselves in Italian culture and language. Students in intermediate and advanced classes meet in small groups for informal conversation under the direction of a native speaker or an advanced student. Language clubs provide for cultural exchange, films, colloquia, speakers, and social activities. Santa Clara is home to Beta Delta Chapter of Phi Sigma Iota, the international foreign language honor society. The society honors outstanding achievement by junior and senior language majors and minors, and offers local, national, and international scholarships and awards.

Study Abroad

For many students, the high point of their college career is the time spent in study abroad. The opportunity to live surrounded by the culture of another country 24 hours a day is almost certain to have a profound impact on the way a student sees the world. Santa Clara offers many opportunities for study in other countries. Students can spend a summer, a term, or their junior year on any continent except Antartica. To obtain further information on studying abroad, please contact International Programs.


Career opportunities for modern language specialists are widely varied. Translators and interpreters are needed at international and national levels, as well as in the court and social service system. Teachers are needed at every level, from pre-school to university.

“Those who know another language are uniquely equipped to help change the world for the better.”

Extensive language training is a highly desirable qualification for most professions, particularly law, medicine, and business. The travel industry, banking and financial services, credit bureaus, and marketing and advertising fields all need people who are multilingual. A military career can be enhanced by language training, as can technical and scientific specializations. Whether a student chooses a language major or language in combination with another field, the possibilities are almost endless.

Service to others is another area very popular with language majors. The Peace Corps, Jesuit Volunteers, and exchange programs are all richly rewarding activities in which language students have engaged both during and following their undergraduate education. Those who know another language are uniquely equipped to help change the world for the better.

Campus Visits

Prospective students are always welcome to visit classes whenever the University is in session.

Studying Abroad

The Modern Languages Department encourages every student to take advantage of the numerous opportunities to study in other countries. Here's a condensed list of those exciting places: Beijing, China, Guadalajara, Mexico, Lund, Sweden, Manila, Philippines, Tokyo, Japan, British Columbia, Canada, and more... 

SCU Summer Abroad

Burkina Faso

Casa de la Solidaridad

International ProgramsGo

Printer-friendly format