About the Language Center

The Stanford Language Center was established in 1995 with a charge to strengthen the language requirement as part of efforts to enhance the undergraduate curriculum at Stanford University.

Elizabeth Bernhardt was appointed Director in July of 1995 and began her duties on September 1 that year. Professor Bernhardt, whose academic appointment is in German Studies, is an applied linguist who has conducted pioneering work in comprehension assessment.


Language Center Mission

  • Encourage excellence in language teaching
  • Establish and maintain performance standards
  • Provide professional enhancement activities for the teaching staff
  • Develop a research program about language teaching and learning

Teaching Staff and Students

The Language Center regularly offers at least 40 languages from around the world. At present, there are sixty full-time lecturers, thirty part-time lecturers, and a small cadre of graduate students who teach each quarter. The Language Center has a quarterly enrollment of more than 1500 students. This figure indicates that, in the aggregate, the language programs constitute one of the largest sectors of the required undergraduate programs at Stanford.

Proficiency Objectives

For all languages at Stanford, proficiency objectives in each of the skill areas have been established for one year of study. For the most commonly taught languages, such as French, German, and Spanish), listening, speaking, reading, and writing objectives are set at the intermediate-mid level on the ACTFL proficiency scale. In the non-cognate languages, the levels are generally set at novice high on the ACTFL scale.


Since 1996, Stanford has conducted its written placement testing online so that more time can be spent during orientation for oral assessments. In the Digital Language Laboratory, Stanford teachers are able to efficiently assess students’ oral performances in language on a daily basis, if they choose. Performing oral assessments online and conducting Simulated Oral Proficiency Interviews (SOPIs) are critical uses of technology that bring about high performance among students and a high level of satisfaction among instructors.