Second Language

Second languages are a foundation of liberal education. Having a liberal education means being: 

  • globally aware
  • culturally sensitive
  • an informed and knowledgeable world citizen
  • an articulate oral and written communicator

Only 9% of US citizens speak both their native language and another language fluently. Compare this with 50% of Europeans and a large percentage of Latin Americans who are fully bilingual. As a student at the University of Minnesota, you have the unique opportunity to stand out as you step into a world of 7 billion global neighbors, even at home in Minnesota—over 90 different languages are spoken by students in Minneapolis and Saint Paul public schools alone.

Knowledge of a second language makes you more competitive when looking for jobs or applying to graduate schools. And with 1 in 6 US jobs being tied to international trade, the demand for language skills and international expertise in the arts, social services, sciences, business, education, military, law, and government is increasing. Studying a language increases communication skills and intercultural competency—how you are able to work effectively with people of different cultures.

Contact with other languages and cultures lets you participate in a global conversation, step outside your familiar scope of existence, and view your culture's customs, traditions, and norms as well as your own value system through the eyes of others. And you’ll actually be able to participate in the conversation!

Why does CLA require students pursuing a BA or BIS degree to study the equivalent of 2 years of a foreign language?

Studying a second language allows you to:

  • connect with family history, traditions, and cultural heritage
  • understand your first language more deeply
  • improve your writing/communication
  • develop new perspectives on your studies
  • appreciate what it takes to learn a language with attuned cultural sensitivity
  • pave the path to learning new languages
  • open doors to learning abroad or traveling overseas



Visit the Language Testing Program website for information on placement and proficiency testing.

Browse our frequently asked questions and learn about scholarships and other resources for language study.

Languages offered

We offer courses in a wide variety of languages.

Don't see a language you're interested in? Check out the languages offered through the CourseShare program.