Romance Languages and Literatures

Language Study

Placement Exam
Competency Exam
Proficiency Exam
Study Abroad

In the Romance Languages Program at The University of Chicago, we strive to engage students in the study of the target language and culture through a highly interactive communicative framework with a strong emphasis on authentic materials, and an equal importance given to the development of each student’s speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills and grammatical and lexical foundation.

What Can I Do With One Year of Basque, Catalan, French, Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish? 

By the end of the first-year sequence, you are a “linguistic survivor!” You can hold a conversation with a native speaker on familiar topics, recount a basic narrative, and handle uncomplicated situations and transactions. If your goal is to study abroad, you can get by in the target language with one year of study.  

What Can I Do With Two Years of Catalan, French, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish? 

In the second-year sequence, you will learn to recount well-developed narrations and descriptions of events and experiences in all major time frames, hold your own in a discussion (give and justify your opinion, offer persuasive arguments, etc.), and handle more complicated situations and transactions. If your goal is to pursue year-long or intensive study abroad, you will qualify for these programs with two years of study.


"Learning Italian has been a wonderful experience. Being able to spend my time abroad in Milan with a substantial background in the language was undoubtedly a valuable tool. This allowed me to better explore Italian culture and form new friendships." (Marco) 

"Gaining the ability to work with literary and philosophical sources in the original French language has enriched my research enormously, and helped me to see linguistic patterns and nuances that simply weren't possible to see in translation. Studying French at UChicago helped me get there." (Joel) 

"It kicked open doors that would otherwise have remained closed - working in Brazil, working on projects with teams in Brazil, helping create translation infrastructure for my company and leading teams as they try to understand the needs of consumers in Brazil and Latin America." (Patrick) 

"Studying Catalan gave me greater access to amazing authors, artists, and activists, and it made my study abroad experience in Barcelona more intimate and meaningful." (Karen) 

"Studying Spanish at UChicago exposed me to many unique opportunities; I was able to justify an unorthodox research experience, working on cosmology with collaborators in Spain, that provided a unique perspective on international collaboration in science."  (Amanda) 

"This summer I worked at a Latin American trade group in DC. Each day, representatives from countries across the region would come into our office for events and meetings. My study of Romance Languages allowed me to easily maneuver between welcoming guests in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Saying ‘tudo bem’ to the Brazilian Ambassador was definitely a highlight of my summer! My language skills also enabled me to attend meetings at Embassies and Development Banks that were conducted completely in Spanish or Portuguese. Not only was my boss appreciative of my ability to take minutes at these meetings, but I also got an incredible front row view of how diplomacy is conducted at the highest level." (Chase)  

"I would say that it's made me more confident when it comes to pursuing different interests or career options. I would also say that it's enriched my personal life in that picking up another language has expanded my ability to interact with people from different backgrounds." (Ryan) 

"Most of my mother's family lives in Italy, though I never had any Italian to communicate with them. I started taking Italian in my 4th year at UChicago and it's made such a difference in my relationship with my family. I'm a far cry from fluent, but having some basic vocab has let me message my aunts and read some of the books my cousins enjoyed as kids: Il Piccolo Principe and Harry Potter e la Pietra Filosofale, so far!" (Maia) 

"Catalan is not only useful for living in Barcelona, but also essential for understanding the culture of Catalonia as well as the experience of minority language speakers." (Connor) 

"Not only have I loved the classes I've taken, but also they have been very useful in my "career". This summer I interned at Senator Gillibrand's New York Office. I could communicate with Spanish-speaking constituents. My courses exposed me to different accents, which was especially useful. I am eager to continue to take to rich Spanish classes the university has to offer." (Carolyn) 

"I became fluent in French, which allowed me to live in a francophone country, and has expanded the sources available to me in my academic pursuits." (Cecilia) 

"Learning Spanish and Portuguese at the University opened many avenues into cultural exploration that were closed off to me before. Speaking Spanish also proved crucial to my summer internship, which involved significant immigration casework." (Apoorva)  

"Studying Catalan has opened my eyes to an entirely new culture and perspective. It's given me a different lens to view the world, including history and current politics. This has created more authentic traveling experiences and has given me better social and cultural awareness which is critical in any career field." (Shane) 

"Learning a romance language at the University of Chicago has expanded my world by allowing me to connect with other people and cultures. From being able to talk to locals while travelling to reading my favorite books untranslated, learning a romance language has enriched my academic experience at UChicago and my life beyond the classroom. One of the greatest strengths of the romance language program at UChicago is its holistic approach. By including reading, writing, verbal, and listening exercises in every lesson, I was able to develop a strong set of communication skills in a short period of time. I hope that my future career takes me beyond the United States, so I am confident that my foundation in French will be an asset for years to come."  (Sarah) 

"Learning Spanish at UChicago prepared me for my Fulbright grant in Argentina; I was able to teach, live, and work in a city where hardly any English was spoken. At UChicago, I not only learned grammar but strong speaking and cultural understandings related to the language. All of these teachings were the reason I was successful in my work while living abroad." (Alana) 

"Studying Italian at UChicago has contributed to my physics career. I studied in Rome with a FLAG, then applied language skills doing research in Ferrara. I've developed strong ties with scientists in Italy, and a personal connection to the country." (Ariel) 

"Learning a Romance language has enriched my ability to communicate with people across different cultures in a fulfilling way. Studying Catalan opened my mind to the history and culture of a region of the world to which I had no experience but fell in love with." (Matthew) 

"Speaking Spanish and Portuguese fluently opens many doors both professionally and personally. While working as a management consultant, this constellation of language skills enabled me to build relationships with partners and clients who were native speakers of these languages. It also gave me a huge competitive advantage when I pursued projects and other work opportunities in both Iberia and Latin America." (Anna)  

"I was one of three Italian speakers at my old firm and was often called on to help on projects I would not have been a part of otherwise. In addition, I currently cover the Latin America practice at my firm, largely due to my fluency in both Portuguese and Spanish! But ultimately, it’s just fun to be able to interact with locals when traveling!" (Debora) 

"Speaking Catalan in Barcelona has made my time here more colorful. People appreciate my attempts to learn their native language." (Alan) 

"Learning Spanish has enriched my life. After taking Spanish, I studied abroad in Toledo and Oaxaca to improve my conversational skills. In college, I was a mentor to middle-school girls in Little Village. Over five years later, I remain in touch with my mentees and their families, who are an important part of my Chicago community. Spanish has opened up a whole world for me and enabled me to form meaningful connections with people I otherwise would not have met." (Anna) 


Language placement tests are required of students who plan to continue in languages studied prior to entrance in the College. Language placement tests determine where a student begins language study; results do not confer credit or satisfy the language competency requirement.

Online placement tests in some languages may be taken the summer before arrival on campus. Students will be given instructions in early July on how to access more information. For placement in languages without an online exam, students meet with a coordinator in the language during Orientation Week.

More information is available here: University of Chicago Language Center.

If you are interested in taking the Placement Exam, contact the appropriate examiner listed below for language-specific information. 


Students in the College are expected to demonstrate competence in a language other than English. The language competence requirement must be met by demonstrating reading, writing, and (where appropriate) listening and speaking skills equivalent to one year of college-level study. Students are expected to complete the language competence requirement in their first two years in the College.

For more Information please consult the College Catalog.

If you are interested in taking the Language Competency Exam, contact the appropriate examiner listed below for language-specific information. 


Students with a certain proficiency in certain Romance languages may take assessment exams and earn a certificate.

Practical Language Proficiency Assessment & Certification

For students who have two years of formal language study at the college level (or equivalent) in Catalan, French, and Italian, the College has instituted a Practical Language Proficiency Assessment. This certification documents what they can do with the language in a meaningful and impactful way and how their language abilities--listening, reading, spearking, and writing--will serve them in their professional and academic careers. This assessment is administered once in the Autumn quarter and once in the Spring quarter. Registration is mandatory. Click here for more information and to register.


Advanced Language Proficiency Assessment & Certification

For students who have completed three years of formal language study at the college level (or equivalent) in French or Spanish AND who have significant experience using this language on a daily basis for an extensive period of time (whether having studied abroad or by virtue of being a heritage language learner), the College also has an Advanced Foreign Language Certificate program. Students who successfully pass a University of Chicago proficiency test (assessing speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills) will receive a certificate of advanced proficiency in a foreign language and will have this proficiency noted on their transcripts. Although the certificate will note the precise passing grade received on the test (Pass - High Pass – High Pass with Honors), the transcript will note only that the student has attained advanced proficiency in a specific language. (If the student takes the exam but fails to pass it, the transcript will NOT indicate this.) 

Students who do not meet these qualifications but feel that their background deserves special consideration are invited to petition their case to the appropriate language tester. 

 Ineligible: Students schooled in the target language through high school are ineligible, inasmuch as a high school diploma would assume that the student is linguistically proficient in that language. 

Please be aware that a civilization course in the target country, in which you speak very little in the target language, might not prepare you adequately for this test.   

If you are interested in obtaining the Advanced Language Proficiency Certificate, contact the proficiency examiner listed below for language-specific information.