Language Courses in Boston, MA with Program Overviews

Feb 21, 2019

Boston Schools Offering Language Courses and Degrees

Students interested in studying foreign languages have many options in the Boston area. This article looks at three schools that are within 15 minutes of downtown and at the varied language programs they offer. There is also a table of information about the schools that could be useful to individuals who are deciding which school is best for them. Facts here include each school's enrollment, tuition, graduation rate and acceptance rate. At the end of the article is a listing of a few other Boston-area schools that offer language courses.

  • About four miles from downtown, Boston University offers a wide variety of stand-alone courses, minors and bachelor's degree programs in multiple languages, as well as master's and doctoral (PhD) degree programs. Programs include African languages, Chinese, Hebrew, Russian, German, French and Hispanic languages.
  • Northeastern University, just three miles from the city center, emphasizes culture and language in its stand-alone courses, minors and bachelor's degree programs, which are available in numerous languages. Arabic, Italian, Spanish and American Sign Language are among the study options.
  • The University of Massachusetts - Boston is one of the few public universities in the area that offers language courses and degree programs. Students can select from stand-alone courses, minors and bachelor's degree programs in several languages, including Chinese, Japanese, classical languages and Spanish. The university is a little more than five miles from the city center.

Comparison of Schools

The following table presents important facts about each school in a format that makes it simple to compare them.

Boston University Northeastern University University of Massachusetts - Boston
School Type 4-year, private not-for-profit 4-year, private not-for-profit 4-year, public
Total Enrollment (2017) 33,355* 21,489* 16,415*
Campus Setting Large City Large City Large City
Undergraduate Tuition and Fees (2017-18) $52,082* $49,497* $13,828 in-state, $32,985 out-of-state*
% of First-Year Students Receiving Some Form of Aid (2016-17) 55%* 75%* 81%*
Acceptance Rate 25% (2017)* 27% (2017)* 75% (2017)*
Retention Rate (2016-2017) 93% full-time, 50% part-time* 97% full-time* 78% full-time, 63% part-time*
Undergraduate Graduation Rate (students who began in 2011) 87%* 87%* 48% (31% transfer-out)*

Source: *NCES College Navigator

Boston University

Boston University offers a wide variety of language programs and courses, a selection of which are included below. Minors are the options most commonly pursued, but individual courses and bachelor's, master's and PhD degree programs are also available. Study abroad opportunities can help students master their language skills, with options for travel to Denmark, Japan, Italy, China, Argentina and France.

African Language Courses

Courses are available in seven different African languages - Amharic, Arabic, Hausa, Swahili, Wolof, Xhosa and Zulu - at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students can select the language they're interested in and develop oral, writing, reading and listening skills. Classes are arranged based on students' schedules and they can supplement their learning with a summer program that's available on campus or in an African nation.

Minor in Chinese

Through the minor in Chinese, students study the Chinese writing system, structures and basic oral practices for the first three semesters of the program. In the fourth semester, they begin conversational Chinese and Chinese writing. They read Chinese literary classics that have been translated into English, learn about the Chinese culture and explore topics in Chinese literature. Study abroad courses completed in Shanghai, China, can also go toward the minor requirements.

Minor in Hebrew

The minor in Hebrew includes introductory courses in speaking, reading and writing in the Hebrew language. Students study the grammar and language structure and watch clips of films and television shows in Hebrew. They explore contemporary culture though texts, songs and films; learn about Orthodox practices; and can complete a course in biblical Hebrew. They supplement the minor with relevant courses from the departments of religion, political science or history.

Minor in Russian

Through the minor in Russian, students explore introductory Russian grammar, syntax and Russian theatre. They read Russian literature that's been translated into English and, later, learn to read unabridged Russian prose and poetry. To flesh out the minor, they also complete comparative literature courses that emphasize the differences in literary styles from around the world.

Bachelor of Arts in German

To complete the bachelor's degree program in German, participants start by completing the German minor, which includes courses in conversation, German literature and culture. Then, students may complete part of their education through studies or an internship at BU's program in Dresden, Germany. Upon return, they can finish off the degree program requirements by taking courses in comparative literature, such as Western literature, South Asian literature, the Holocaust and religious literature.

Master of Arts in French Language and Literature

This degree program is designed to familiarize learners with the history of France and French literature, prepare them to conduct research in French literature and train them to speak fluent French. Language courses explore phonetics, diction, syntax and a directed study in French language and literature. Literature courses address 18th century literature, Romanticism, modern French literature, Versailles, Medieval lyric and French cinema; there is also a seminar in French literature. To graduate, learners must pass a comprehensive exam that's based on the reading list. A doctoral degree program in French language and literature is also available.

Doctor of Philosophy in Hispanic Language and Literature

The PhD program strives to familiarize students with the Spanish and Spanish-American languages, literatures and cultures. Students must be able to speak fluent Spanish and at least one other foreign language to be accepted as a PhD candidate. To graduate, they must complete a year-long residency, pass a qualifying exam and write and defend a dissertation. Course topics include Spanish language history, linguistics in Spanish, modern Spanish-American literature, Spanish Civil War literature, Don Quixote, Hispanic film, Spanish Romanticism and the Golden Age of Spanish drama. A master's degree program in Hispanic language and literature is also available.

Northeastern University

At Northeastern University, many language programs and courses are available. Students are encouraged to explore language within a culture, recognizing that culture shapes language and vice versa. Students can further their studies through a Dialogue of Civilizations program, which allows them to interact with someone living in their target language area and culture, or through a study abroad program in Ireland, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Italy or Costa Rica. Through the World Languages Center, students can meet other people who are learning to speak their target language at scheduled and ongoing events.

Instructional Classes in Portuguese

Portuguese courses are stand-alone and include elementary and intermediate courses in reading, speaking, writing and listening. Students learn to read Portuguese literature and hold conversations. They can join the Portuguese Culture Club to learn more about the Portuguese culture and interact with individuals from Brazil, Portugal and other nations where Portuguese is spoken. Instructional courses are also available in German, Greek, Hebrew, Russian, Swahili, Japanese, Arabic, Italian, Spanish and American Sign Language (ASL).

Minor in Japanese

Through the minor in Japanese, students complete core courses that address the culture of East Asia, as well as introductory and intermediate language courses in Japanese that cover grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, reading, writing and communication. Students also explore Japanese pop culture and take an elective in Japanese film, literature and culture, advanced Japanese or Japan since 1850.

Minor in Arabic

Students earning the minor in Arabic complete beginning and intermediate courses in the Arabic language. These courses cover reading, writing, real-world vocabulary, grammar, listening skills and pronunciation. Students also take a culture course that provides insight into the Arabic culture. The elective requirement can be fulfilled with a course in advanced Arabic, the modern Middle East, Muslim writers and the Qur'an or studies of the Middle East.

Minor in Italian

Through the minor in Italian, participants explore elementary and intermediate Italian, learning about the vocabulary, grammar and cultural situations in which the vocabulary is used. An introductory course in Italian culture is required, and students also learn to read and write in Italian. Students select an elective in advanced Italian, Medieval Italian culture, Dante's Inferno or Italian cinema.

Bachelor of Arts in Spanish

To earn the bachelor's degree in Spanish, students must take core courses in intermediate and advanced Spanish, language and linguistics, introductory Spanish culture, introductory Latin American culture, international perspectives and Latin American film. Literature courses, such as 18th-20th century Spanish literature, 12th-17th century Spanish literature, Latin American literature and Cervantes, are also required. Students must complete a Spanish seminar, a capstone project in Spanish and a study abroad experience.

Bachelor of Science in American Sign Language

In this bachelor's degree program, students take beginning, intermediate and advanced courses in ASL. They explore deaf history and culture, learn about deaf people and society and become familiar with linguistics. Students prepare for positions in interpreting sign language by completing five courses in interpreting, participating in an interpreting practicum and learning to make ethical decisions in interpretation.

University of Massachusetts - Boston

The University of Massachusetts - Boston's foreign language programs are available through the College of Liberal Arts, which hosts the programs chosen by more than 50% of the student body. Students can join clubs, such as the French Club, which help them apply their linguistic studies and interact with other students who share their passion. The college also has several centers, including the Spanish Resource Center, the Center for World Languages and Cultures and the Center for Portuguese Language, where students can explore and promote the language and culture of their interest, participate in conferences and conduct research.

Stand-Alone Arabic Courses

In the two elementary Arabic courses, students develop communication skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening, including the vocabulary to describe themselves, family members and basic abstract concepts. They also explore Arabic culture. Other stand-alone courses are available in Italian, Portuguese, French and Latin.

Spanish/English Translation Certificate

Through this online certificate program, students learn about the history, principles and practices of written and oral translation. They explore methods for translating literary, medical, legal and technical documents and learn to identify reference materials. Courses cover vocabulary, style and methods for making decisions in translation. The 2-semester program is designed for individuals who already speak both Spanish and English and want to improve their skills.

Minor in Chinese

The minor in Chinese emphasizes the Chinese language, literature and culture. Students take intermediate and advanced language courses and a course in Chinese culture, such as cinema, traditional culture or translations of Chinese fiction. They also read classical Chinese literature, 20th century literature or contemporary short stories.

Minor in Japanese

The 7-course minor in Japanese includes studies in language, literature and culture. Language courses are available in intermediate and advanced Japanese. Culture courses cover popular Japanese culture, pre-modern Japanese culture, postwar Japanese cinema and Japanese theatre. Students can also complete an independent study course or a course in reading and research. Other courses that count towards the minor include Japanese architecture, media literacy in Asian America, modern Japan and Asian religions.

Bachelor of Arts in Classical Languages

To earn the bachelor's degree in classical languages, students must complete 10 courses in Greek or Latin, attend a senior seminar on the Classics and write a capstone paper. Available courses include the life and times of Julius Caesar, paganism and Christianity, Greek and Roman civilization, Greek and Roman mythology, women in Greek society or women in Roman society. Other courses explore Greek and Roman tragedy, Greek and Roman comedy, Roman archaeology, Greek archaeology, elementary or intermediate Greek, the Golden Age of Rome and the Golden Age of Athens.

Bachelor of Arts in Latin American and Iberian Studies

This bachelor's degree program introduces learners to the language, history and culture of people in Spain and Spanish America. Students can select the language track, which explores advanced grammar, semantics and linguistic structure, or the literature track, which examines some of the literary treasures of the Spanish-speaking world. For the language track, students complete five advanced language courses, as well as courses in Spanish and Spanish-American literature or civilization. The literature track consists of both Spanish and Spanish-American literature studies, plus three electives in literature. Course topics include women in Spanish literature, Spanish civilization, Hispanic literature and civilization, 20th century Spanish literature and Medieval Iberia.

Other Schools

Other schools that students can attend for language courses include Suffolk University, Bunker Hill Community College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, all of which are less than 3 miles from downtown Boston. Within about a 5-mile drive are Emmanuel College, Simmons College, Harvard University and Tufts University. Boston College is about 8.5 miles from downtown.

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