Foreign Language

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You can complete the Arts & Sciences language requirement in either of two ways:

Option 1 - Successfully complete one intermediate course of 3 or more credits at Cornell at the 2000 level or above.

Option 2 - Successfully complete at least 11 credits of study (2 or 3 semesters) in a single foreign language taken in the appropriate sequence at Cornell.

If you plan to continue in a previously studied language, you must take a placement test to determine the correct level for enrollment. Online placement tests in several commonly-taught languages are available online.

If an online placement test is not available, then consult the course descriptions to determine which course seems more appropriate for you. You may change your enrollment after taking a placement test during Orientation.

For a list of foreign languages and spring course offerings, please see here.

Please keep in mind the following:

  • If you plan to continue studying a language taken in high school, we recommend you do so in your freshman or sophomore year.
  • If you wish to start a new language at Cornell, be aware that the first course is usually only offered in the fall semester.
  • If you hope to study abroad in a non-English speaking country, additional language instruction beyond the intermediate level may be required. (Learn about the College's policy by attending the A&S study abroad information session at the start of the semester.)

Students Said...

[I took] Burmese... and it was AWESOME. Cornell is one of very few institutions that offers courses on speaking, reading, and writing this beautiful language. I was in class with 3-4 other students. The class size was small and this intimate setting allowed for greater dialogue and more engaged learning. I absolutely loved my experience and feel very special to have learned Burmese at Cornell.

- Angela Han, '16

I originally took Spanish freshman year to complete the language requirement, and then ended up taking Nepali junior and senior year for study abroad. Although I do not consider myself to have great language abilities, I think it is great to explore a new language, especially all of the less taught languages.

- Devon McMahon, '15

I chose to study Korean - I'm fluent in it but had no clue on how its orthography worked, and I seriously lacked lexical knowledge. So, I took the heritage class for a year and am now much more coherent in communicating through the language, and have signed up for another semester.

- Brian Park, '16

I studied French. It was a small class and my professor was a native teacher. It was the first language class I had ever taken that was truly taught completely in that language and I really enjoyed it, despite the fact that I am not a fan of languages and they generally don't come that easily to me. I was not looking forward to having to fulfill that distributional requirement but I ended up having a good experience.

- Samantha Briggs, '16

Frequently Asked Questions

I studied a foreign language in high school, but I'm not confident in my abilities, and I'd like to enroll in a lower-level course than I placed into. Is this all right?
No, it is not. Departments require that students enroll in the course indicated by their placement exams.

I am already fluent in another language. Can I be exempted from the language requirement?
Exemptions may be granted under the following circumstances:

1. Completion of secondary education at a foreign institution where the language of instruction was not English.
2. Native or near-native proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing a second language, as determined by examination.
If you are fluent in a language that is not offered for study at Cornell, it may be possible to arrange for testing in that language, but test availability is not guaranteed. Contact the Academic Advising Office for further information.
Can I use AP, IB or A-Level credits to fulfill the language requirement?
No. These scores may be used for placement into a higher-level course, but will not fulfill the requirement. 
After I fulfill the language requirement, can I still study another language at Cornell?
Absolutely!  Many Cornell students study more than one language, or continue in language study beyond the college requirement.