Why Study Foreign Languages?

Gain Future Job Skills

Problem solving, critical thinking (including reading critically), honing oral and written communication skills, interviewing (a lot of our oral exams test in this format), attention to accuracy and being precise, a better knowledge of grammar, attention to detail, cross-cultural referencing (the idea that there is not just one way to do something or think about something), enhanced concentration, better listening skills, a deeper connection to other cultures and gain in perspective on one’s own culture.

People who speak more than one language also have improved memory, ability to multitask and they switch between competing tasks and monitor changes in their environment more easily than monolinguals, as well as display signs of greater creativity and flexibility. If that weren’t enough, as we age, being bilingual or multilingual also helps to stave off mental aging and cognitive decline!

Lead with languages website

Strengthen Decision Making

Studies show that decisions made in your second language are more reason-driven than those made in your native language.  Contrary to popular assumptions, when we deliberate in a second or third language, we actually distance ourselves from the emotional responses and biases deeply associated with our mother tongue. The result? Systematic and clear-headed decisions based on just the facts!

Lead with Languages website

Visit Great New Places

 ● Austria ●  Germany ●  Spain ●  Argentina ●  Chile ●  Colombia ●  Costa Rica ●  Ecuador ●  Peru ●  Puerto Rico ●  Dominican Republic ●  France ●  Canada ●  Japan ●  China ●  Francophone countries in Africa ● 

Students can study abroad from a selection of language immersion programs to improve their language skills or language enhancing programs (with some classes taught in English).

Study Abroad

Get a Job

You can be a
Foreign correspondent ●  Foreign service officer  ●  Intelligence specialist  ●   Interpreter / Translator ●  International banking officer  ●  International relations specialist  ●  Linguist  ●  Professor / Teacher of Languages   ● Government Agencies (State Dept, Dept of Agriculture, Central Intelligence Agency , etc.) ● Import/export companies  ●  United Nations ●  Magazines and newspapers  (writer, researcher) ● Etc.!

Government Jobs
For those seeking to enter the government workforce, language skills have become more than a resume-boosting asset. They are of vital importance to the safety and effectiveness of both the professionals themselves and the citizens they protect and serve. More good news: Not only will strong language skills help you secure an interview for your dream job, but many times agencies offer hiring bonuses for those proficient in other languages. (LEAD with Language website - Careers in Government)

Teaching Foreign Languages
Private/independent schools often have strong language programs including Spanish, French, Mandarin, German, and Latin/Classics. If there is a language that you are passionate about and you would like to spread the joy of learning a second language, you should consider teaching it at an independent school. (Southern Teachers website - Language Jobs)

More Options
American Association of French Teachers | American Translators Association | Institute of Translation and Interpreting | Linguistics Society | Modern Language Association of America | Society of Federal Linguistics | North American Language and Culture Assistants Program | Teaching Assistant Program in France


  • 9 out of 10 U.S. employers rely on employees with language skills other than English
  • 56% say their foreign language demand will increase in the next 5 years
  • 47% state a need for language skills exclusively for the domestic market
  • 1 in 3 language-dependent U.S. employers report a language skills gap
  • 1 in 4 U.S. employers lost business due to a lack of language skills
LEAD with Language website

Yes, you can do anything with a degree in modern languages...

Recent Graduates

Austin Gregory '18 majored in French and is currently teaching at a junior high school in South Boston, Virginia. He enjoys it so much that he is considering seeking a master's degree in French and then returning to the classroom.

Travis Stackow '18 majored in English, but studied Russian extensively. With a sense of adventure in his blood, he was accepted into the Peace Corps. His love of Eastern European cultures, philosophy, and language led him to serve in Moldova.

Kole Donaldson '18 attended The College of William & Mary School of Law.

Other Alumni

Christian Malot (French) taught law in English for a year in France before returning to the U.S. to practice law. He works for the Prosecutor’s Office in Farmville, VA.

Wes Proctor (Spanish) works in Asia in business

Justin Azar (Spanish) is a pediatrician

Alex Morrison (Spanish) manages a a dental chain

Adam Lees (French) works on democratic political campaigns

Beau Bryan (French) taught in two Richmond high schools before getting his master's degree in French at UVA.

More Alumni Stories


Phi Sigma Iota

Phi Sigma Iota, the international foreign language honor society, recognizes the "outstanding ability and attainments in the study and teaching of foreign languages" and stimulates "advanced pursuits and individual research in this discipline." Advisor: Dr. Jannette Amaral-Rodríguez

Phi Sigma Iota website

Global Education Office

The Modern Languages Department encourages foreign study courses overseas; they must be approved in advance by the department chair and be consonant with H-SC's curricular philosophy. The Office of Global Education can help you.

Global Education

Jack Thomas '25

Hampden-Sydney student Jack Thomas ’25 spent this past summer abroad in Bali, Indonesia, through the ROTC initiative Project Global Officer (GO).

Jack Thomas ’25

Modern Languages

Dr. Alfonso Varona, Chair 
Associate Professor of Modern Languages
Blake A, 200
Hampden-Sydney College | Hampden Sydney, VA 23943
(434) 223-6335

Modern Languages Department Professors
Information icon