Language

Why Study a Foreign Language? Language study plays an important part in a liberal education. The study of languages is essential to understanding highly globalized world we live in. Studying another language provides unique insights into how people from different cultural traditions think, communicate, and organize their world. Such study combats the insularity of an ethnocentric cultural perspective. It also makes new areas accessible to you for research and exploration, opening opportunities for international internships and study abroad. Learning a foreign language will also deepen the human connections you make in college and beyond.

  • Harvard offers instruction, from beginning to advanced levels, in over 80 languages, including Arabic, Czech, Hebrew, Irish, Latin, Nepali, Swedish, Vietnamese, Zulu, and more. Learn more at the Academic Fair held during Opening Days.
  • The language requirement must be met by the beginning of your junior year.
  • Check out one of Harvard’s key language-learning resources, its state-of-the-art Language Resource Center.

How do I satisfy the language requirement?

There are several ways you can fulfill your language requirement (for the most comprehensive, accurate, and up-to-date description, see the Handbook for Students): by

  • passing one appropriate full-year course or two semester-long courses in one language at Harvard (must be taken for a letter grade);
  • earning a minimum score of 700 on an SAT II Test that includes a reading component, a 5 on a College Board Advanced Placement exam, or 7 on an International Baccalaureate Higher Level exam;
  • earning a passing score on a placement exam administered by certain language departments;
  • providing evidence from the official high school transcript showing that your high school education was conducted in a language other than English (please consult your Resident Dean of Freshmen or Allston Burr Assistant Dean for your House);
  • completing an exam in the relevant language (if your native language is not English but your high school education was in English);
  • passing a language course or courses at the appropriate level in programs abroad, approved by the appropriate language department, either term-time or during the summer (must be taken for a letter grade).

The language requirement must be met by the beginning of your junior year. To see whether you have satisfied the language requirement and to learn your placement recommendations, check your “Placement and Test Scores” report.  You will find this report in the “Reports & Documents” tab on your personal homepage at my.harvard.edu.

What is a foreign language citation?

If you proactively plan to do advanced language study or simply find, over time, that your elective interests gravitate in that direction, you may eventually qualify to earn a foreign language citation, highlighting your advanced fluency in a particular language. (Note that concentrators, including joint concentrators, whose concentration work is built on a particular language or set of languages, are not eligible for citations in those languages.)