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Culture and Language (French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish) (Certificate of Higher Education)

This part-time introductory course enables you to study a language - French, German, Italian, Japanese or Spanish - to intermediate or advanced level, while also exploring the culture, history and society of the countries associated with it. 

If you work in an international or multicultural setting, by the end of our Culture and Language Certificate of Higher Education you will feel much more confident about your linguistic ability and your understanding of the cultures associated with the language of your choice. 

Each of the languages has three pathways, so you can start at beginner, intermediate or upper intermediate level, depending on your existing knowledge and experience. 


  • Arts and humanities at Birkbeck are ranked fifth best in London, 18th in the UK and 87th globally in the 2019 Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject.
  • In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF), Modern Languages and Linguistics achieved 100% for a research environment conducive to producing research of the highest quality, while 73% of our research was recognised as world-leading or internationally excellent.
  • Our Department of Cultures and Languages brings together research and teaching in French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish, and institutionalises long-standing links between these disciplines. 
  • Birkbeck is at the heart of a multicultural city and you will join students from around the globe to study under world-class researchers. 
  • You will be studying close to some of the world’s most renowned museums and galleries, and we also have our own state-of-the-art cinema and exhibition spaces, all housed in a historic building that was a former home to key members of the Bloomsbury Group, including the author Virginia Woolf and the artist Vanessa Bell.
  • Ours is a community of scholars with shared interests in interdisciplinary topics and cross-cultural research. Our affiliated research centres, Birkbeck Research in Aesthetics of Kinship and Community (BRAKC) and the Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies (CILAVS), provide an important platform for this exchange. We also co-convene, with other departments, the Birkbeck Eighteenth-Century Research Group.

Progression to degrees at Birkbeck

The credits gained on this course can be counted towards the following undergraduate degrees at Birkbeck: 

  • BA French Studies 
  • BA German
  • BA Japanese Studies
  • BA Modern Languages 
  • BA Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies
  • a combined Languages degree. 

Course structure

To gain the Certificate of Higher Education, you must successfully complete modules worth 120 credit points, comprising:

  • two compulsory language modules: either Stage 1 (Beginner) and Stage 2 (Intermediate), or Stage 2 (Intermediate) and Stage 3 (Upper Intermediate), or Stage 3 (Upper Intermediate) and Stage 4 (Advanced)
  • two culture modules (please contact us if a Level 5 culture module is required).

Please note that to gain this Certificate of Higher Education, the 120 credits must come from within the same language pathway. Programme structures for each language pathway are as follows:

Module groups

French pathway

German pathway

Italian pathway

Japanese pathway

Spanish pathway

  • Entry Requirements

    Entry requirements

    No prior knowledge of the target language or culture is required.

    Students under 21 require a minimum of two A-levels or equivalent. All other students may be admitted as mature students on the basis of other indicators such as employment criteria, skills required or relevant experience.

    Students may enter the programme with skills in their target language from beginners to upper intermediate. With the exception of complete beginners, all students are asked to complete a language placement exercise.

    Visa requirements

    If you are not from the European Economic Area (EEA) and/or Switzerland and you are coming to study in the UK, you may need to apply for a visa.

    The visa you apply for varies according to the length of your course:

    • Courses of more than six months' duration.
    • Courses of less than six months' duration.
    • Pre-sessional English language courses.

    International students who require a Tier 4 visa should apply for our full-time courses (with the exception of modular enrolment certificates of higher education and graduate certificates), as these qualify for Tier 4 sponsorship. If you are living in the UK on a Tier 4 visa, you will not be eligible to enrol as a student on Birkbeck's part-time courses (with the exception of some modules).

    For full information, read our visa information for international students page.

  • Fees


    Fees are payable per module and vary depending on the course. Please view the Course Structure and then click on the title of individual modules to see the fees for each module. The overall cost of the certificate will depend on the modules you choose. 

    Please note: if you intend to study this certificate part-time and fund your studies via a student loan, this may affect your entitlement for future full-time funding. Find out more about funding your studies with a student loan.

  • Teaching and assessment


    For French, German, Italian and Spanish pathways, a combination of lectures, individual and group work, open discussion and presentations.

    For the Japanese pathway, task-driven language activities including individual, pair and group work, and study of historical and cultural texts in various media; seminar presentations and essay writing; and group work.


    French, German, Italian and Spanish modules are assessed via in-class tests, oral presentations, essays and other written tasks.

    Japanese modules are assessed via coursework, a final examination and attendance.

  • Careers and employability

    Careers and employability

    Graduates can pursue careers in international organisations and businesses, education, research or editing. This certificate may also be useful in becoming a translator, magazine/newspaper journalist, editorial assistant or primary/secondary school teacher.

    We offer a comprehensive Careers Service to help you advance your career, while our in-house, professional recruitment consultancy, Birkbeck Talent, works with London’s top employers to help you gain work experience that fits in with your evening studies.

  • How to apply

    How to apply

    This is a modular enrolment certificate, so you will need to enrol onto individual modules (rather than onto the entire programme of study). Please view the Course Structure and then click on the title of individual modules to see class dates and times and to enrol.