Language Requirement

Degree candidates must meet a foreign language requirement in a language with a written component that is taught at Harvard or for which an appropriate examination with a written component can be given. The requirement can be satisfied in one of the following ways:

In addition, students who have earned scores on language examinations that would normally count toward advanced standing (for example, a minimum score of 5 on a College Board Advanced Placement Examination or a minimum score of 7 on an International Baccalaureate Higher Level Examination) will be deemed to have satisfied the language requirement, regardless of whether they have a sufficient number of such scores to qualify for advanced standing and whether they choose to accept advanced standing.

Any student who has not met the language requirement upon entrance ordinarily is required to enroll in and complete with a passing letter grade an appropriate full-year language course or two half-year language courses in a single language before the start of the junior year. (An appropriate course is one for which a student qualifies by previous instruction or placement test.) Most introductory courses in all languages taught at Harvard may count towards fulfillment of the language requirement; exceptions are noted in the course listings in Courses of Instruction.

Exceptions to the ordinary means of satisfying the requirement, or to the timing of the requirement, can be granted only by the Administrative Board upon recommendation of the Dean of Freshmen or upon the recommendation of the student’s Allston Burr Resident Dean. Students who fail to meet the requirement by the beginning of the junior year, or in the timeframe specified by the Administrative Board, are subject to disciplinary action.

Placement exams in a few languages will be available online to entering students over the summer before they arrive at Harvard; students looking to place into courses in these languages, or who plan to satisfy the language requirement in these languages, are strongly encouraged to take the exam over the summer before the start of their freshman year. A student whose score on the online exam indicates sufficient mastery of the language to satisfy the requirement will need to take a brief, proctored follow-up exam after arriving on campus and before study cards are due. Placement exams in these languages, as well as many others, will also be administered to freshmen at a designated time during Opening Days. Upperclassmen interested in taking a language placement exam should be in touch with the relevant department prior to the start of the term.

Students wishing to fulfill the language requirement in a language for which the College does not provide a standard placement exam will need to consult with the Freshman Dean’s Office as soon as possible upon admission to the College. Students may request to take a special examination in any language in which an appropriate examination, including a written component, can be given by a member of the Faculty familiar with the standards of the language requirement; such students should apply to the Freshman Dean’s Office as soon as possible upon admission to the College. Special language examinations will ordinarily be scheduled by the day that study cards are due, but students should plan to take either a placement examination in another language if possible or a first year course in another language to maximize their options pending the result of the special examination. Students who plan to fulfill the language requirement by special examination should consult with their Resident Dean of Freshmen or their Allston Burr Resident Dean prior to the filing of study cards.

Students who plan to continue language study beyond the requirement level may wish to qualify for a citation in that language (see Citations in Foreign Language.)