"Speaking two or more languages is the natural way of life for three-quarters of the human race."
— David Crystal, How Language Works

Our Mission

The Global Languages Initiative is a campus-wide effort to promote the importance of multilingual and intercultural skills across all disciplines. To compete, lead, and serve in a rapidly changing and interconnected world, such knowledge is not a luxury, but a necessity for all of our students. The Global Languages Initiative is an unprecedented opportunity for Northwestern to showcase our commitment to international education and global engagement.


Global Languages Initiative

Penny Nichols
Spanish and Portuguese

Katrin Voelkner

Contact us:


Council on Language Instruction

Elisabeth Elliott

Denise Meuser

Contact us:

Don't forget to check out our People and Partners, too!

The Global Languages Initiative:

Preparing Global Leaders

NU Basketball team players in Rome, credit NU Athletics
NU student in Beijing, credit IPD
NU student next to a a statue of Lenin, in Cuba, , credit IPD
Just off the bus. NU student with local in Uganda, credit IPD
NU student watches a soccer match in Chile, credit IPD
Their hut! NU students in India, credit IPD
NU students having fun in France, credit IPD
Next to the national flag in Chile, credit IPD
NU students in Bolivia, , credit GESI
NU students taking pictures in Berlin, credit IPD


• Demonstrate the importance of languages as the core of multilingual and intercultural competence.

• Showcase Northwestern’s global curriculum and its contribution to experiential learning.

• Highlight the quality and breadth of foreign language and culture instruction at Northwestern as a crucial component of the university’s overall strategic plan.

• Increase collaboration among schools and campus organizations to expand the benefits of multilingual skills and cultural literacy.

• Involve undergraduates and alumni in showcasing the value of language and culture proficiency in their academic and professional endeavors.

• Seek campus-wide commitment to increase and enhance our global curriculum.


The Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (WCAS) Council on Language Instruction (CLI) was established in 1990 to “enhance the environment for second language instruction at Northwestern University by providing a forum for the discussion of a wide range of issues related to second language teaching and by promoting open dialogue among all language and literature faculty.”  Its main function was to share information across language programs in order to standardize the teaching of languages and oversee administration of language proficiency requirements for the university.

In its early years, the CLI focused its efforts on language proficiency, educational meetings for instructors, and technical support for language classes.  Subsequent years have seen the expansion of these efforts, reflecting the increased responsibilities and scope of the CLI.  Today, the CLI also works tirelessly for the professional development of language instructors and as an advocate for all aspects of language instruction at Northwestern.

The Global Languages Initiative is the first endeavor of the CLI Outreach Committee, formed to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of language instruction across all disciplines at Northwestern.  We are partnering with schools, departments, and organizations across the university to highlight the language and culture courses offered at NU and to promote greater participation of our students in global learning experiences as much as possible.   We have organized various activities, panels, and discussions on the importance and benefits of second language acquisition in all disciplines, and we seek the participation of students, faculty, and staff at our events.

Why Learn Languages?