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Why Choose SOAS?

Embrace Colourful Language

SOAS Campaign - Colourful Language
Language skills are your key to the world, wherever you are and whatever you go on to do in your personal and professional life. SOAS places great value on language learning. It enriches degree programmes across all SOAS disciplines, bringing you closer to the people behind the politics, law, cultures and societies of our regions.

Learn languages at SOAS

At SOAS you can learn most of the major languages of Africa, the Middle East, East Asia, South Asia and South East Asia, some of which are not available at any other university in the UK. In addition, regardless of your department or degree registration, during your studies you can register for one language course for free.

For example, you could: 

  • open the door to the East Asian economic and cultural powerhouse

with our BA Japanese. The programme aims to give students top skills in the written and spoken language, underpinned by sound linguistics, while exploring Japanese culture through literature, history and religion.  All students spend their third year at a university in Japan. 

  • learn the mother-tongue of the east coast of Africa

through a BA combining Swahili with another programme from an unparalleled range across SOAS disciplines. As well as developing robust language skills, your course options include philosophy and culture, oral and written literature, drama and film, linguistics and other related languages. Students also experience life and work in Tanzania and Zanzibar.

  • develop your established Chinese language skills even further 

while studying the country which the whole world is watching. In the BA Chinese Studies, you can explore multiple facets of this extraordinary nation, led by SOAS experts in SOAS history, anthropology, politics, law, art and archaeology, religion and music.

  • take the unique opportunity to live and learn in South Asia

with a year’s intensive language study in India, Nepal or Bangladesh as part of your BA South Asian Studies. Throughout the programme, you will develop solid language skills and be able to follow your interests in cultures, societies, laws and politics of the region.  

Explore other courses in languages and cultures

Listen to SOAS students speaking Mandarin, Japanese and Swahili. Anna Fay Brunner is also the Grand Prize winner of the Chinese Bridge Competition 2013, a prestigious international contest in Chinese language and culture proficiency for non-native speakers. For the last four years, a SOAS student has taken first or second prize in the UK final of the competition, demonstrating SOAS' leading position in the teaching of Chinese language and culture.

Sound bites

The importance of learning Mandarin was dramatically highlighted by Boris Johnson on his recent visit to China.  The Mayor of London said all British children should learn the language. For graduates looking to work for any big corporations - whether in banking, international law, accountancy, construction or IT - learning the language of one of the fastest growing economies is vital. Professor Michel Hockx, Director of the SOAS China Institute, agrees in his article, 'Boris is right, it's time for us to learn Chinese.'

Meet the world at SOAS

Join us on an Undergraduate Open Day or Postgraduate Open Evening to find out more

How learning a language can benefit you

Learning a language can open many doors for you. To demonstrate, Professor Michael Hutt (Languages and Cultures of South Asia), who from the early 1990s publicised the plight of tens of thousands of ethnic Nepalis who had fled or been expelled from Bhutan. His fluency in Nepali meant he could conduct recorded interviews with refugees, documenting oral accounts of their families’ migration to and life in Bhutan. 

Professor Anne Pauwels: Languages for an interconnected world

Protecting endangered languages

The Endangered Languages Academic Programme (ELAP) at SOAS aims to develop the skills of those currently engaged in endangered language documentation and to train the next generation of language documenters. Each year SOAS highlights endangered languages through ‘Endangered Languages Week – Celebrating our Sounds, Signs and Songs’. At this event it showcases the special archive collection to share the many records of endangered languages. 

At SOAS, students can explore our extensive archive collections and use them as a resource. For example, Lieutenant William Dawes notebooks, which are a major source of information about the Aboriginal language of Sydney can be found in the SOAS Library. They contain information of significance to Aboriginal communities of New South Wales, to linguists, historians and residents of Sydney.

William Dawes notebooks

William Dawes' notebooks at the SOAS Library Special Collections archive.