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Foreign Language Requirement

Wind Art outside of Kohlburg Hall

Sculpture “Back From Rio” (Alexander Calder, 1959) near Kohlberg Hall.
(Photo: Alina Jara Yupanqui)

“It is most desirable that students include in their programs some work in a foreign language, beyond the basic language requirement.” Swarthmore College Bulletin, Educational Program (Section 7.2. Program for the First and Second Years)

“KNOWING another language enriches your personal life, expands the range of professional opportunities open to you, and increases your power to act as a citizen of the world.” (“Language Study in the Age of Globalization: The College-Level Experience,” ADFL Bulletin) 

To receive the degree of Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science, candidates must fulfill a foreign language requirement. Students may satisfy this degree requirement in at least one of the following:

  • (a). successfully completing 3 years of a single foreign language during grades 9 - 12 (work completed before grade 9 cannot be counted, regardless of the course level);
  • (b). successfully completing the final term of a college-level, year-long, introductory foreign language course or a semester-long intermediate or advanced foreign language course; or,
  • (c). for students who have learned English as a foreign language; demonstrate proficiency in another language.

If you need to complete the language requirement, please contact our department so that we can assist you:

New students in our department will be referred to faculty in the relevant languages to ensure that they are placed in the appropriate language course at Swarthmore. Please note that a placement test is required for all students with previous language experience who are planning to take classes at Swarthmore, irrespective of AP or IB scores.

If you have already fulfilled your language requirement, the Department encourages you to use your time at Swarthmore to become truly proficient in that language with introductory and/or advanced content courses. Many of these courses fulfill the Writing Course requirement, and will provide you with the necessary tools to study abroad in full immersion.

Please note that students planning to participate in study abroad programs are expected to demonstrate linguistic skills that are beyond the language requirement, and to have pursued College level language study at Swarthmore.

Alternatively, students who have completed the language requirement are encouraged to study a new, additional language during their time at Swarthmore.

Are you planning to begin a new language at Swarthmore?

For students to develop a useful proficiency in a foreign language during their time at Swarthmore, the department of Modern Languages and Literatures strongly recommends that new-language learners start with a beginner class during their first year. When this is not possible, MLL faculty can recommend programs of study to catch up with this sequence during summer study or while studying abroad.

Choose a Language Program

Language Study in the Age of Globalization

This brochure by the Modern Language Association is directed primarily to college students. It​ explains how knowing other languages enriches students’ personal lives, expands their range of professional opportunities, and increases their power to act as citizens of the world.


Language Media Lab

The Language Media Lab provides resources to enhance the study of foreign language, literature, and culture at Swarthmore College. Students have access to audio/video materials required for foreign language classes. The lab's resources include 12 Macbook Pros, 8 iMacs, an extensive library of foreign films, video cameras, and audio recorders. The space is a unique, adaptable, multimedia-friendly place to study, practice and develop language skills. 

Learn More