Calvin offers one of the most extensive foreign language programs among Christian colleges, with world-class opportunities to develop your language and cultural engagement skills.

At Calvin, you have many language options—and many ways to make the most of them. Whether you want to immerse yourself in a language and culture, bolster your career plans, or fulfill the graduation requirement, these options will broaden your perspective while they support your academic goals.

If you're wondering...

  • Do I need to take a language?
  • Will I have time for a language?
  • Which language should I take?
Find out

Chinese

In an increasingly global economy, a knowledge of Chinese language and culture connects you with over one-fifth of the world's population.

Calvin has the only comprehensive program in Chinese offered by a Christian college in North America. Studying Chinese at Calvin will give you a truly 360-degree view of Chinese culture through classes in Chinese philosophy, history, culture, religion, and more.

Works well with: Asian Studies | Computer Science | Engineering | International Development | International Relations | SPAUD | Teacher Education

Dutch

Calvin is proud to be one of only a handful of colleges and universities nationwide that offer a Dutch major and minor program.

Because Dutch is a Germanic language with close ties to English, most native speakers of English find the grammar and vocabulary very familiar. Learning Dutch makes good sense, regardless of your major, because Netherlandic culture richly touches so many areas, such as history, economics and finance, engineering and water management, art history, literature, religion, immigration and colonial studies, and much more.

Works well with: Engineering | International Development

French

Consider studying the beautiful French language, spoken by more than 125 million people worldwide.

Calvin's French programs will help you to go beyond just linguistic competence; you will improve your memory and self-discipline, enhance verbal and problem-solving skills, develop multicultural sensitivity, and, above all, learn what it means to live as a Christian in the Kingdom of God. Studying French also allows you to broaden your knowledge in other areas of study including history, anthropology, political science, literature, geography, linguistics, philosophy, and theology.

Works well with: Engineering | International Development | International Relations | Teacher Education

German

The German language and culture are yours to explore through Calvin’s German program.

Studying German at Calvin will build your knowledge of the language and offer you opportunities to be immersed in German culture. You will grow in your ability to speak and understand German while also learning to listen to and better understand our German neighbors. Through your studies, you will get a glimpse of the richness of God’s kingdom, seeing His truth as displayed in Germanic contributions to areas like philosophy, music, linguistics, literature, psychology, and theology.

Works well with: Engineering | International Development | Teacher Education

Greek

Greek language and culture has shaped scientific thought, political theory, and theological exploration for thousands of years. The Greek language continues to speak today to conversations about religion, citizenship, and science.

The Greek language program is particularly useful for anyone planning to attend seminary or pursue a career in Christian ministry, or who simply seek a deeper understanding of the language and literature of one of the world's most influential languages.

Works well with: Classics | Congregational and Ministry Studies | Religion

Japanese

Calvin College is one of just a few Christian colleges in the United States to offer a comprehensive program in Japanese.

In addition to a comprehensive program of language study, you'll find opportunities to explore Japanese culture through a study abroad semester or interim, weekly cultural activities, and local events organized by the Japanese community.

Works well with: Asian Studies | International Development

Korean

Calvin offers Korean language courses through the intermediate level as part of the Hubers Asian Studies Program.

Explore the Korean culture and language through courses, cultural activities, and study abroad opportunities.

Works well with: Asian Studies | Engineering | International Development | International Relations

Latin

Explore a language that has shaped and influenced science, literature, religion, philosophy, and scholarship for thousands of years—and that continues to impact our words and ideas today.

Latin has influenced nearly every discipline and field of study, making it a relevant pursuit no matter what your major or minor. Our Latin language program is also useful for those intending to teach the language at the secondary school level.

Works well with: Classics | History | Teacher Education

Spanish

Study a language spoken by over 500 million people worldwide—the most widely spoken language in the western hemisphere and the official language of 21 countries on four continents.

At Calvin, immerse yourself in the Spanish language and culture through classes and activities that take you from Spanish-speaking churches in Grand Rapids to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru, the Maya ruins of Copán in Honduras or the Arab Muslim ruins of Medina Azahara in Spain.

Works well with: Linguistics | Nursing | Premed | Social Work | Speech Pathology and Audiology

Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve taken some language in high school; was it enough?

Students who have taken at least four years of one foreign language (with a grade of C or better for each term) are exempt from Calvin’s language requirement. If you speak a second language fluently you may also be exempt.

If you’ve taken less than four years in high school, you should take a language placement test to determine how many semesters of college-level foreign language will be required. If you’ve already taken French, Spanish or German, complete the World Language Assessment before you come to PASSPORT orientation. If you've taken another language, you may take a placement test during PASSPORT.

Help! I’m not good at languages and want to complete my language requirement as quickly as possible.

Talk with your adviser about the language options that might work best for you. There are several ways to fulfill the requirement efficiently, from fast-tracking to taking a more leisurely pace. When you start classes, sign up for a free language tutor and you’ll get through it!

What language will best boost my résumé and career options?

Good question! There's no single answer that applies to everyone; your own academic and career plans will suggest certain languages as particularly useful. There are no majors that can't benefit from being paired with language study. Consider these ideas, and be sure to talk with your adviser during registration:

  • German and Chinese are good fits for an engineering major. The engineering department offers a summer program in Germany that fits well with German language studies.
  • Consider Chinese, Korean, or Japanese if you’re looking at a business major.
  • Greek and Latin are good choices for you if you're majoring in religion or planning to attend seminary.
  • History majors will find that, depending on their area of focus, languages like German, Latin, or French are very helpful in reading primary sources and scholarship.
  • Spanish and French are often good choices for careers in diplomacy or international development.
  • Undecided? Take a language that interests you!
With the major I’ve chosen, will I be able to take a language and still graduate in four years?

It's true that some academic programs at Calvin require careful planning to complete in four years, but with early consultation with your advisor, it's usually possible to take langauge courses without disrupting your four-year academic plan. Five of Calvin's programs—engineering, accounting, nursing, fine arts and recreation—have a modified language requirement to make this more practical. If you’ve taken at least two years of high school foreign language (with a grade of C or better), you'll be exempt from the language requirement in these five programs. If you're interested in one of those programs, speak to your advisor or get in touch with the department to find out what your language requirements will be.

I have a question that isn't answered here.

If you have a question about studying a specific language at Calvin, your best bet is to get in touch directly with that language department using the links above.

If you have a more general question about languages at Calvin and aren't sure who to contact, contact Renee De Vries, who serves as administrative assistant for several language departments, and she'll point you to the best person to contact.

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