Center for World Languages

Offering instruction in dozens of less-commonly-taught languages to all Five College students.


Each year the Center for World Languages helps hundreds of Five College students learn more than 40 less-commonly taught languages, from Amharic to Dutch to Vietnamese. Students direct their own learning in a supervised independent format, meeting weekly with native-speaking/fluent conversation partners, developing cultural competence, and preparing themselves for study, research and employment throughout the world—all while earning course credit.

 

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About the Center for World Languages

Meet the World on its Own Terms

The Five College Center for World Languages offers courses in less-commonly taught languages (LCTLs) to students from Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Over 30 years, we have helped more than 5,000 students study 60 languages from around the world.
The Center offers two programs: the Supervised Independent Language Program, launched in 1991, and the Mentored Language Program, launched in 2004. These programs promote communicative proficiency, intercultural competence, and self-directed learning skills.

Center for World Languages Offerings

Afrikaans is a West Germanic language related to Dutch that is spoken primarily in South Africa and Namibia, with about 9 million speakers. It is of particular relevance to anyone interested in the history of Apartheid. 


Learn more or apply now.

Albanian is an Indo-European language spoken by about 7.5 million people in Albania, Kosovo, and the Balkans. It also has co-official or minority status in North Macedonia, Croatia, Italy, Romania, and Serbia. There is an Albanian-speaking population of about 250,000 people in the United States. 

Albanian is offered by the Five College Center for World Languages.

American Sign Language (ASL) is one of the fastest growing languages in U.S. higher education and is now the third most-commonly studied language behind French and Spanish.
Learn more about Five College ASL.

The origins of the Amharic language can be traced back to the 1st millennium B.C. Today it is spoken by more than 17 million people and is one of Ethiopia's major languages. 

Learn more or apply now.

Egyptian Arabic is the spoken Arabic dialect of Egypt. While primarily a spoken language, it is sometimes used in plays, poems, comics, and popular songs. The Center’s Egyptian Arabic courses are open to students with the ability to read and write in Arabic and basic speaking ability in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA/fusha) or a spoken Arabic dialect.

To learn more, review our program FAQ <link to https://www.fivecolleges.edu/languages-faq>, read about our Arabic courses and placement.

Levantine Arabic is the Arabic dialect primarily spoken along the Levantine Sea, an area that includes Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Palestine, and Israel. The Center’s Levantine Arabic courses are open to students with the ability to read and write in Arabic and basic speaking ability in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA/fusha) or a spoken Arabic dialect. 

To learn more, review our program FAQ, read about our Arabic courses and placement, or apply now.

Moroccan Arabic is the spoken Arabic dialect of Morocco. Over its history, Moroccan Arabic has incorporated influences from Latin, French, Spanish, and Persian. The Center’s Moroccan Arabic courses are open to students with the ability to read and write in Arabic and basic speaking ability in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA/fusha) or a spoken Arabic dialect. 

To learn more, review our program FAQ, read about our Arabic courses and placement, or apply now.

Armenian is the official language of Armenia. It has two main variants, Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian. Written Armenian uses its own writing system, the Armenian alphabet, which dates back to the 5th century AD. The Armenian language is also widely used amongst the worldwide Armenian diaspora, with large populations in Russia, the United States, and France. 

Learn more or apply now.

Bengali/Bangla is spoken primarily in Bangladesh and the Indian States of West Bengal, Tripura, and the Barak Valley of Assam. There are also large Bengali-speaking communities in the United States, United Kingdom, Pakistan, and the Middle East. Bengali is the fifth most-spoken native language and seventh most spoken language in the world by total number of speakers.

Learn more or apply now.

Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian are mutually intelligible language varieties spoken by 21 million people across Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro.

Learn more or apply now.

Some 8-9 million people speak Bulgarian, the official language of Bulgaria and a minority language in many Eastern European countries. Bulgarian is the first Slavic language found recorded in writing. 

Learn more or apply now.

Burmese is the official language of Myanmar and is spoken by two thirds of the population, about 33 million people. The Burmese alphabet, a Brahmic script characterized by its circular letters, is used for standard Burmese as well as Pali, the liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism.  

Learn more or apply now.

The Center’s Cantonese for Mandarin Speakers courses are open to advanced and native speakers of Mandarin Chinese and heritage Cantonese speakers who have taken at least one year of college-level Mandarin Chinese or the equivalent.

Learn more or apply now.

Czech is spoken by almost 11 million people. There is also a sizeable Czech diaspora in the United States, where about 70,000 people speak it as a first language.

Learn more or apply now.

Danish is spoken by about 6 million people, primarily in Denmark. It is also widely spoken and understood in Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

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Dari, also known as Afghan Persian, is one of the two official languages of Afghanistan. Dari has a rich tradition of proverbs that are often used in daily conversation.

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Over 24 million people speak Dutch. Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands and one of Belgium’s three official languages. It also holds official status in Suriname, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten.

Learn more or apply now.

Filipino is a standardized variety of the Tagalog language, and the national language of the Philippines. It is the first language of about one third of the population, while many more people speak it as a second language.

Learn more or apply now.

Finnish is spoken mainly in Finland, with small populations of speakers in Norway and Sweden. Finnish is a member of the Uralic language family, which includes Hungarian, Estonian, and Sami.

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Georgian, the official language of Georgia, is a Kartvelian language spoken by almost 4 million people. Historical examples of its unique script date back to the 5th century AD.

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Modern Greek is spoken by 13 million people in Greece, Cyprus, and Albania. There are also about 300,000 Greek speakers in the United States, which has the largest population of people of Greek descent outside of Greece.

Learn more or apply now.

Haitian Creole is the world's most spoken creole language with about 12 million speakers worldwide. It is also widely spoken by Haitian communities in Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic. In the United States, there are large communities of Haitian Creole speakers in Miami, Orlando, New York, and Boston.

Learn more or apply now.

Hindi has been influenced by Sanskrit as well as by the hundreds of regional languages of the Indian subcontinent. Taken together, Hindi and Urdu are some of the most widely spoken languages in the world, with about 544 million total speakers.

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Hungarian, at 13 million speakers, is the most widely spoken of the Uralic language family. It is the official language of Hungary, and the language of Hungarian communities in Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia.

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Indonesian is the standardized version of Malay used in Indonesia. Indonesian is one of the most spoken languages in the world, with almost 200 million speakers who use it as a first or second language.

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Though English is the most common first language in Ireland, Irish is recognized as the national language and is still spoken by significant populations in the counties of Galway, Kerry, Cork, and Donegal. It is taught as a core subject in all public schools and in 4,000 Irish-language schools, or Gaelscoileanna, across Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Learn more or apply now.

 Lao is primarily spoken in Laos, where it serves as an important Lingua Franca among a population that speaks about 90 other languages. Spoken Lao is mutually intelligible with Thai even though it is written with a different script.

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For over half a millennium, Malay has been a major lingua franca of the Indonesian archipelago. It is widely spoken by almost 300 million people in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and parts of Thailand. Over time the vocabulary of Malay has expanded to include loanwords from Arabic, Sanskrit, Dutch, Chinese dialects, and English.

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Mongolian has about 5 million speakers across Mongolia and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China. It is commonly written in two scripts, Cyrillic and the traditional Mongolian script.

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Nepali is the official language of Nepal and has a significant number of speakers in India and Bhutan. It is the most widely spoken of the Pahari languages of the Himalayas and Northern India.

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Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken by 5.3 million people, mostly in Norway. Norwegian is part of a dialect continuum that includes its Scandinavian neighbors, Danish and Swedish.

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Persian is spoken by over 100 million people in Iran, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan. There is also a large population of Persian speakers in "Tehrangeles" in California. Persian for centuries was the lingua franca from Central Asia to India and Iran. It has strongly influenced Urdu and Turkic languages. 

Learn more or apply now.

Romanian is a Balkan Romance language native to Romania and Moldova. About 30 million people speak it as a first or second language.

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Sinhala is spoken by about 20 million people in Sri Lanka, where it is one of the two official languages. Historians believe Sinhala has been in use since as far back as 200 BC. 

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Swahili is the lingua franca of east and central Africa, widely used in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda and spoken by more than 50 million people. It belongs to the Bantu family of languages and has influenced and been influenced by a variety of other languages, including Arabic, Portuguese, and German.

Learn more or apply now.

 

Thai is the most spoken of the Tai languages of Southeast Asia. Over 40 million people speak Thai as a first or second language. Spoken Thai is similar to and mutually intelligible with Lao.

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Over 6 million people across Tibet, India, and Nepal speak a dialect of Modern Tibetan. The Tibetan language is of particular interest to anyone studying Buddhism.

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Turkish is the official language of Turkey and is also widely spoken in Bulgaria, Greece, North Macedonia, Albania, Northern Cyprus, and in the European Turkish diaspora. Turkish belongs to the Altay branch of the Ural-Altaic linguistic family. It is considered a critical language by the U.S. government. 

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Twi is widely spoken in Ghana. It is part of the Kwa subdivision of the NigerCongo group of African languages. Twi is relevant for students of anthropology, linguistics, and folklore.

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Ukrainian is spoken by about 35 million people in Ukraine. It is also spoken by over 1 million people in Russia, and 200,000 people in Canada. 

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Urdu is the national language of Pakistan and has been influenced by Persian and Arabic. Taken together, Hindi and Urdu are some of the most widely spoken languages in the world, with about 544 million total speakers. 

Learn more or apply now.

Vietnamese, the official language of Vietnam, is spoken natively by about 76 million people. Significant Vietnamese-speaking communities also exist in North America, Australia, and Europe, particularly in the Czech Republic, where Vietnamese has been officially recognized as a minority language.

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Wolof is the most widely spoken of Senegal's six national languages, and is an important language for local trade and arts. It is also spoken in the Gambia and Mauritania.

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Yoruba is spoken by more than 30 million people in West Africa in Nigeria, Togo, Benin, and Sierra Leone.

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Center for World Languages offices

Visit

Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday 9AM-4:30PM 
Contact Information:
Amherst College
79 South Pleasant St., Suite 100
Amherst, MA 01002
Phone: (413) 542-LANG (542-5264)
Fax: (413) 542-4063
Emailfclang@fivecolleges.edu
Campus mail: AC Box 2264

Fall 2021 update: Our office is open and staffed during regular business hours, but is currently accessible to the public by appointment only.