Choosing a Language

The Department of Modern and Classical Languages offers courses in classical languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Latin) and modern languages (French, German, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish). 

We encourage you to think outside the box and be willing to take risks! Selecting a new language that you did not study in high school may be a fantastic match for your interests, career, dreams, and goals in life.

Classical Languages

  • Learning to read and interpret original Hebrew, Greek, or Latin texts makes your mind flexible, attentive to distinctions, and able to understand others, to problem solve, and to think creatively.
  • Language skills demonstrate self-discipline, perseverance, openness, teachability, cooperation to graduate schools and employers alike.
  • Engaging classical languages at a serious level offers direct experience with problems and questions encountered in literature, history, philosophy, theology, linguistics, semantics.


  • In French courses, you will increase your understanding and appreciation of the Francophone world by studying its history, philosophy, religions, and art.
  • More than 200 million people speak French across five continents -- it is the second most widely studied foreign language!
  • Knowing French opens doors to employment in France, Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, and North and sub-Saharan Africa. As the world’s sixth biggest economy, France is a key economic partner.
  • French is the international language of cooking, fashion, theatre, the visual arts, dance and architecture. A knowledge of French offers access to literature, film, and songs, including those by Montaigne and Derrida, Weil and Descartes.
  • French students at Wheaton who wish to deepen their linguistic and intercultural skills often spend a summer or semester studying abroad in France, Quebec, or Senegal.

German Studies

  • Business: Germany is the world’s second largest export nation and has the fourth largest overall economy. Nearly 2,000 German companies have a significant U.S. presence—more than 300 in the Chicago area alone. German- and Swiss-owned companies employ around one million people in the U.S., making them the most significant foreign employers in America.
  • International Relations: Germany is the most populous member of the European Union and plays a key role in the G8, the G20, and NATO. More people in Europe speak German as a first language than any other.
  • Theology/Biblical Studies/Archaeology: Speakers of German can read the original works of figures like Martin Luther, Karl Barth, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Many theologians, biblical scholars, and archaeologists affirm that after Greek or Hebrew, German is the most important foreign language for their fields of study.
  • Science and Technology: In addition to pursuing research opportunities and grants, a scientist who speaks German can read current research on Germany’s significant contributions in physics, math, chemistry and engineering (only 5% of the 80,000 book titles that appear each year in German are translated into English).
  • Music/Literature/Media: Classical music is almost unthinkable without German composers—Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. Meanwhile, a German or Austrian author has won the Nobel Prize for literature three times in the past twenty years. And four German-language movies were among the Oscar nominees for Best International Film in the past decade.


  • China occupies a unique status in the 21st century as the center of an ancient civilization that is also an increasingly dominant power in global economics and politics.
  • If you are interested in studying business, developing conversational ability in Chinese will increase your professional marketability. With over one billion speakers, Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world.
  • Mandarin instruction at Wheaton offers you the chance to explore a fascinating culture and language under the guidance of instructors who are familiar with the needs of beginning language learners.
  • Involvement in ministry and service in the Chinese community in the Chicagoland area and participation in on- and off-campus academic programs will help you develop linguistic and intercultural skills.
  • Many Spanish students at Wheaton participate in study abroad programs in Spain, Mexico, and throughout Latin America.
  • Students who study Spanish increase their understanding, appreciation, and empathy for the peoples of Hispanic cultures through classroom instruction, and through interaction with speakers of Spanish in the U.S. and abroad.

Where do I start?

Take a 101-level course in any of our languages. Check the catalog to see when they are offered.

If you’ve had one of these languages before and hope to continue taking classes, start by taking a language placement test. You’ll get results quickly and will learn what to register for.

Contact a professor! We’d love to talk to you: