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Our languages

We enhance your education

  • At Birkbeck, you can study the language, history, art and culture of French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish speaking language 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. 
  • 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 lively, cosmopolitan community of learners and educators are based in the heart of academic London in Bloomsbury. You will be taught by world-leading researchers and lecturers from across Birkbeck.

Explore our language areas

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 in a number of subjects, including:


  • 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.


  • 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.

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.
  • 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 Languages, Cultures and Applied Linguistics, 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.


  • 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 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.


  • Our course covers a number of Japanese topics, including:
  • society
  • history
  • culture
  • cinema
  • manga and anime
  • popular culture
  • language.
  • We run a Japanese Exchange Programme with universities in Japan. 
  • 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.