At COA we believe the most effective and efficient way to learn a new language is through an immersive experience. Typically, a student will study a language for one term on campus, in a course or perhaps an independent study. At this point, it’s time to leave the classroom and immerse yourself in the language and culture, either via one of COA’s study abroad programs, independent study and travel, or a language program offered by another associated college or university.  Upon returning to campus, students continue to hone their language skills through independent study and conversation with native speakers, either on campus, in the community, or remotely.

Learning a language is about much more than gaining practical communication skills. It’s like being reborn, becoming a child in an adult body. It’s humbling. Learning another language is a window not only into another culture or community, but also into yourself.   

There are a number of options for those wishing to learn languages while at COA.  All of these opportunities can accommodate students who are absolute beginners as well as those who have considerable experience.


Every winter COA offers its Yucatán Program, a 14-week session based in the city of Mérida, Mexico.  Students begin with an intensive term of instruction in Spanish in the fall. While in Mérida students live with local families and carry out an independent, interdisciplinary research project on the culture of the Yucatán peninsula.


COA also offers a French Program. Students complete a term of French language study in winter and then travel in spring to Vichy, France, to take language classes at the CAVILAM Alliance Française.  Students may also take courses in various aspects of French and European politics, literature, or art. The focus shifts from year to year.

Other languages

Every spring faculty member Gray Cox teaches Learning a Language on Your Own, a course in which each student designs and implements a learning program for the language of her or his choice and level of experience.  This is often followed by intensive study off campus. This approach, a term of study on campus followed by travel and immersion, has been used successfully by students over the last several years to learn Arabic, Danish, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.


  • <div class="lw_blurbs_body"><p><strong>Reminder</strong>: ‘Areas of Study’ aren’t the only way to think about courses.  Browse and explore <a href="">here</a>.</p></div>
  • <div class="lw_blurbs_body"><p><strong>Reminder</strong>: Areas of Study at COA aren’t majors or formal concentrations. All COA students design their own <a href="/academics/human-ecology-degree/">major in human ecology</a> and are free to chart their own path. Your major is defined by you, not us.</p></div>


  • Karla Peña 
    Karla Peña
    Faculty, Spanish
  • Gray Cox 
    Gray Cox
    Faculty, Philosophy, Peace Studies, & Language Learning