Document Actions

Our language areas

At Birkbeck, you can study the language, history, art and culture of French-, German-, Italian-, Japanese-, Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking areas, at undergraduate, postgraduate and MPhil/PhD level, under the guidance of world-leading researchers and teachers.

We have a long history of teaching languages to busy working Londoners who are balancing their studies with work, family and other personal commitments. Language classes are taught in small groups with intensive conversation practice.

As a student at Birkbeck, you will deepen and broaden your language skills - although you can work exclusively in English on some of our courses - enabling you to communicate to a high level.

You will also explore your chosen language and language-speaking area comparatively, via a range of critical, historical and philosophical frameworks and in relation to developments in other fields of study, such as film and the visual arts.

Our is a lively, cosmopolitan community of learners and dedicated teachers, based in the heart of academic London in Bloomsbury.

Find out more about our short courses and certificates of higher education, our undergraduate and postgraduate courses, and our MPhil/PhD research degrees.


  • French Studies at Birkbeck range widely in terms of:
    • time: from the Renaissance to the present day and the extrême contemporain
    • space: colonialism and decolonisation in Asia and Africa, and Japan's relationship with French culture and literature
    • genre: poetry, drama, text and image, photography, travel narratives, official discourse, philosophical works, polemical writing, and novels
    • emotions: the humour of Noël du Fail and Louis-Ferdinand Céline, tears and sensibility
    • moral concerns: evil and ethics
  • These diverse concerns feed into the Birkbeck Research in Aesthetics of Kinship and Community (BRAKC), which was co-founded, and is directed by, an academic in French studies. This innovative research centre focuses on kinship and community in the arts and humanities, generating international conferences, screenings and symposia and forging links with scholars and researchers in France, Denmark, Malta, Portugal, Switzerland and Turkey.
  • Also co-founded and co-convened by an academic in French studies, the Birkbeck Eighteenth-Century Research Group is a dynamic, interdisciplinary forum, which brings together scholars from across the arts and humanities at Birkbeck. French interests are strongly represented in the group’s activities, which include reading groups (termly), seminars, public lectures, conferences and workshops.
  • In all areas of research, French studies at Birkbeck demonstrate a commitment to transcultural and interdisciplinary issues and acute historical, theoretical and ethical awareness.
  • Academic staff in French


  • German studies at Birkbeck range widely, encompassing the following strands:
    • devotional literature of the seventeenth century
    • feminist approaches to women’s writing of the eighteenth century
    • philosophy
    • the history of ideas
    • rhetoric
    • theology
    • women’s writing from the eighteenth century to the present
    • critical theory, especially psychoanalysis and gender
    • cultural studies
    • nineteenth- and twentieth-century drama
    • the novel in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including the representation of significant social issues in the contemporary German novel, including migration, social exclusion and Islamophobia,
    • animals and animal rights in contemporary women's writing
    • German and Austrian modernism
    • Weimar culture;
    • twentieth-century military and diplomatic German history
    • Franco-German cultural and political relations
    • film studies, with special emphasis on gender and sexuality in New German Cinema of the 1970s, as well as more recent cinematic developments.
  • We have a lively, student-run German Society which organises social events as well as visits to concerts, films and theatre performances throughout the year.
  • Academic staff in German

Iberian and Latin American Studies (Portuguese and Spanish)

  • A distinctive feature of our provision is our interdisciplinary approach to Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, covering different periods from the fifteenth century to the present day.
  • At undergraduate level, we offer modules in literature, film, history, cultural history, art history, geography, cartography, photography, film and linguistics.
  • At postgraduate and research level, students are exposed to advanced study in the histories of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American cultures in the light of contemporary theoretical developments in the fields of literature, linguistics, cultural studies, cultural geography, film, urban studies and the history of art and media. Students are also introduced to key questions in cultural theory and criticism, interdisciplinary approaches to cultural forms and media (particularly literature, painting, film, photography and urban spaces), intercultural communication and contemporary cultural politics, with a particular emphasis on state-forms.
  • You will be taught by academics who are conducting cutting-edge research in these areas and who bring the latest ideas and techniques into the classroom and into their teaching.
  • Our Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies (CILAVS) provides a unique environment for collaborative and interdisciplinary work in visual culture. As a student in the Department of Cultures and Languages, you will be able to take advantage of the wide range of activities and events organised by the Centre, such as film screenings, seminars, conferences and lectures by guest speakers.
  • We have a dynamic and diverse student community and a lively, student-run Spanish and Portuguese Speaking Society which organises social events and cultural outings.
  • Academic staff in Portuguese and Spanish


  • Italian language and culture are a celebration of beauty, passion and the love of life. If you love Venice and Rome and Italian film, literature, art and history, come and study Italian with us!
  • At Birkbeck, you will learn the Italian language, journey through Dante’s Inferno, experience the censored kisses in Cinema Paradiso, and explore Fellini’s Rome with us.
  • You will be taught by world-leading researchers and lecturers from across Birkbeck, including the Department of Cultures and Languages, the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, and the Department of History of Art.
  • Italian at Birkbeck ranges widely and you can study topics including:
    • contemporary Italian culture
    • critical theory (particularly psychoanalysis, gender and sexuality)
    • Dante
    • Italian art in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance
    • Italian fascism
    • Italian film from neorealism to contemporary Italian filmmakers
    • Italy in the world
    • medicine in medieval, Renaissance and early modern Italy
    • migration and displacement in the Mediterranean
    • nineteenth-century realist literature
    • Petrarch and Italian Renaissance literature
    • Pirandello and the Theatre of the Absurd
    • Renaissance Florence
    • Renaissance Italy and Europe
    • twentieth-century literature
    • Venice, its culture and history
  • Come and experience everything that Birkbeck has to offer with two free screenings of Italian films in the Birkbeck Cinema:
    • La Vita è Bella [Life is Beautiful] (1997) on Wednesday 9 January 2019 at 6pm
    • Pane e Tulipani [Bread and Tulips] (2000) on Thursday 24 April 2019 at 6pm - book your place.
  • We have a lively Italian Society that organises parties and social events.
  • For any enquiries about studying Italian at Birkbeck, please email Dr Nicolette David
  • We offer the following Italian courses:
  • Academic staff in Italian


  • Japanese Studies at Birkbeck covers a wide range of topics including Japanese:
    • society
    • history
    • culture
    • cinema
    • manga and anime
    • popular culture
    • language.
  • Alongside our modules, we regularly organise film screenings, conferences, workshops and talks by internationally renowned scholars, artists, film-makers, art curators, professionals in creative industries, cultural entrepreneurs and cultural/educational policymakers.
  • Thanks to our central London location, we liaise with world-famous institutions to organise Japan-related exhibits and talks. Our partners have included the Japan Foundation, the Japan Society, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Bertha DocHouse, Sainsbury Institute, Daiwa Foundation, and the Barbican Centre.
  • Academic staff in Japanese