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Dr. Seth Ehorn manuscript
Modern and Classical Languages
Wheaton College student Danielle Ely studying abroad in France
Modern and Classical Languages

Modern and Classical Languages

Why Study Modern and Classical Languages?

The essence of a Christian liberal arts education is to interact with all of God’s world from a Christian perspective. Modern and Classical Language study equips students to do so especially well by challenging them to master a language, to ask significant questions and seek answers, to develop original ideas, and to become intellectually self-motivated, life-long learners and servants of Christ. Many Modern and Classical Language students at Wheaton are double majors, combining a language with majors such as archaeology, biblical and theological studies, business/economics, communication, psychology, philosophy, applied health science, education, or international relations.

language courses
Dr. Jon Laansma, Prof. Becky Toly
Announcing New Department Leadership

The Department of Modern and Classical Languages is pleased to announce two new leaders.

You’ll learn the language, history, and culture of your chosen major, for sure. But as you are mentored by our engaged and discerning faculty and nurtured by our close-knit student community, you’ll also explore challenging questions regarding the ways your identity as a Christian is shaped by culture.

Pick from study abroad programs in Chinese, French, German and Spanish — all of which include home-stays, generous hospitality of host families, and the chance to build relationships with Christians from other cultural contexts. You’ll learn to translate your own faith and see God, yourself, and your culture through the eyes of others.

Courses in the Classical Languages section introduce students to the various cultures and civilizations of the Ancient Near East, from the Neolithic through the Koiné periods. Courses in ChineseFrenchGerman, and Spanish introduce students to the issues and lifestyles of contemporary society in these cultures.

French, German, and Spanish sections also introduce students to the literary, historical, artistic, and religious development of the language regions via study of representative works of various literary and textual genres and related art and cultural forms.

In today’s global context, knowing a second language and studying abroad are a plus to any employer. Through Wheaton’s liberal arts focus, you’ll become proficient in areas that will help you stand out from the crowd.

  • French: Wheaton in France, Wheaton in Quebec, Violet Bergquist Scholarship Award, Internships, French Table, LLC, Student Employment
  • German: Wheaton in Germany, Internships, Fulbright Scholar Program, Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Program, Stammtisch, LLC, Student Employment, Edith D Shaffer Memorial Scholarship Award
  • Mandarin Chinese: Chinese Language Culture Club, Wheaton in China, Chinese Program Monthly Newsletter, Mandarin Table, Asian Studies Track - Interdisciplinary Studies, Pui Tak Center, LLC, Student Employment
  • Spanish: Wheaton in Spain, Wheaton in Costa Rica, Pilgrimage to Santiago, Wheaton in Mexico, Spanish Table, Internships, Violet Bergquist Scholarship Award, LLC, Student Employment
  • Classical Languages: Class of ‘59 Hawthorne Scholarship Award, Student Employment, LLC

What Will I Learn?

  • Classical Languages: Beyond those fields that employ the languages directly, classical language study opens, trains, and equips the mind and the person for almost any future path of life, even if they do not directly “use” the language in their work. Time devoted to language will open new horizons. Students will glimpse the worlds from which our civilization derives, acquiring skills and disciplines that empower the intellect and sharpen the mind. Students may consider the new Certificate in Latin for Classical Christian Education, housed in the Classical Languages section.
  • French: In French courses, students at Wheaton increase their understanding and appreciation of, and empathy for, the peoples of the Francophone world through study of the historical, philosophical, religious, and artistic development of French and Francophone cultures. Knowledge of French opens the doors of companies in France and in other French-speaking parts of the world (Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, and North and sub-Saharan Africa). As the world’s fifth biggest economy and number-three destination for foreign investment, France is a key economic partner.
  • German: The German Studies major equips students for a myriad of diverse occupations, such as professions in business, international relations, politics, theology, philosophy, science, technology, engineering, music, literature, and media. Germany is the most populous member of the European Union and plays a key role in international trade, US employment, the G8, the G20, and NATO, and in the past decade has made major contributions to literature and film.
  • Mandarin Chinese:  Mandarin instruction at Wheaton offers students the chance to explore this fascinating culture and language under the guidance of instructors who are intimately familiar with the needs of North American foreign language learners. Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world and for students interested in majoring in business at Wheaton, developing conversational ability in Chinese significantly increases professional marketability.
  • Spanish: The Spanish program offers a rich array of courses at all levels on campus, as well as overseas, as part of study-abroad programs in Spain, Mexico, and Costa Rica. Students who choose to study Spanish increase their understanding of and appreciation and empathy for the peoples of Hispanic cultures through classroom instruction and personal interaction with native speakers of Spanish in the United States and abroad.

Students in any major can complete a minor by taking 20 hours of select courses listed 300-level and above. Minors are available for the following:

  • Classical Languages
  • French
  • German
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Spanish

The Certificate in Latin for Classical Christian Education provides students with a specialized interdisciplinary education for teaching Latin in a classical Christian environment. The program proceeds from the belief that the best preparation to be a teacher of Latin in a Christian school is the intensive reading and analyzing of the monumental works of Latin literature with an eye to how they communicate the great ideas of the past to us today. One unique feature of Wheaton’s program is that it seeks to integrate Christian faith and classical learning, to ask whether and how Christ and the Christian virtues might be found in the (pre-Christian) classical world. Upon completing this program, students will have a broad training to prepare them to be teachers of Latin and the classical tradition in primary and secondary schools.

Consult the course catalog for full listing of current courses available in this field.

Possible Careers for Modern and Classical Language Majors

A language degree offers a great amount of flexibility for career choices. The Center for Vocation and Career would be happy to partner with you to explore the variety of choices available to you.

Here are just a few of the possible career fields you might consider: 

  • Business (Domestic and International)
  • Entrepreneur
  • Diplomacy/Government Organizations
  • Education
  • Foreign Service
  • Humanitarian Aid/Non-Profit Organizations
  • Human Resources
  • International Law
  • Interpretation/Translation
  • Journalism/Writer
  • Medical/Healthcare
  • Ministry/Missions
  • Public Relations
  • Social Work
  • Software Engineering/IT
  • Veterinary Science

"I have used French in so many ways since Wheaton. After graduating, I worked as an interpreter for a while with asylum-seekers. In law school, I worked as a research assistant with a professor, translating constitutions from French to English (Gabon, Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire etc...). I have travelled to several international institutions where French is an official language. Even domestic employers have looked favorably at my candidacy for positions based on my language abilities."   - Angélique Salib '11

"I earned my Master's in Divinity from Yale Divinity School, where my facility with German was especially helpful in my study of church history and Biblical studies." Astrid, German major, '97


Being able to read Greek, Hebrew, and Latin with ease gave me a real leg up in my doctoral and post-doctoral work and expedited my studies in a variety of other modern languages. — Christopher Hays '02
Learning a language and using it in a real context abroad for the major is an incredible experience! You get to dive deep into another culture and open up opportunities that you might not have otherwise. Being bilingual has qualified me for jobs and internships (abroad and domestic) that I would never have been able to consider had I not learned another language. — Danielle Ely '18
The Spanish major has surprised and challenged me...I was expecting to solely improve my fluency in the language (which I did). However, more importantly, in my Spanish classes at Wheaton College, I learned about what it means to live justly, celebrate diversity, and work towards reconciliation of Christ’s Kingdom. — Christine Schlais '18