Language Requirement

In History & Literature, we believe that learning to read in another language makes you a better reader in any language. For that reason, students are encouraged to work toward reading proficiency in a second language by the end of the junior year.

Concentrators are not expected to achieve fluency, and each student’s path is unique. Students come to History & Literature with a range of language abilities, and they work with faculty advisers to incorporate language study in their plans of concentration. 

The language requirement can be fulfilled in a number of ways:

  • Students may satisfy the requirement with a single course at Harvard that focuses on reading in the target language. Students may petition a course taken pass/fail to satisfy the language requirement. Sample courses are listed below, by department.
  • Concentrators who elect to complete language citations (which generally require four courses above the introductory level) use the final course in the citation sequence to fulfill this requirement.
  • Concentrators who are taking tutorial-based language classes will be able to fulfill the requirement with one of their tutorials. The appropriate level is determined by the department offering the tutorial in conjunction with the Director of Studies.
  • Students can take a course taught in English and read the required texts in the target language. In these cases, students will ask their instructors to email the Director of Studies to confirm that they completed substantial reading in the target language as part of the course.
  • Students who study abroad may elect to take a course that can satisfy the requirement by petition upon their return.

In general, History & Literature's language requirement can be satisfied by courses beginning at the following levels for each department: 

  • African and African American Studies (Gikuyu, Swahili, Twi, Yoruba): 101ar
  • Celtic Languages and Literatures (Irish): 160
  • Classics (Greek, Latin): 10
  • East Asian Languages and Civilizations (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese): 120a
  • English (Old English): 103  (i.e. two semesters of Old English)
  • Germanic Languages and Literatures (German): 61
  • Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (Arabic, Persian, Yiddish): Ba; (Classical Hebrew, Modern Hebrew): 120a 
  • Romance Languages and Literatures (French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish): 70
  • Slavic Languages and Literatures (Russian): 101
  • South Asian Studies (Hindi-Urdu, Nepali, Pali, Sanskrit): 102

Please note that this is not a complete list, and there are always exceptions. In order for a course to satisfy the language requirement, readings must be completed in the target language. Your plan to satisfy the requirement must be approved by your adviser and/or one of the Assistant Directors of Studies.