Curriculum: Foreign Language (FL) Requirement

The foreign language (FL) requirement at Duke University is intended to enable all students to engage meaningfully with another culture in its own language. Specifically, Duke’s foreign language courses are designed to help students to:

  1. develop sufficient proficiency in a second language to engage other cultures, histories and literatures,
  2. gain an understanding of the nature of culture as embodied in language, and
  3. bring a cultural perspective to bear to enhance understanding of issues of similarity and difference.

Because Duke's language programs have specific and deeply rooted curricular objectives, including a strong intellectual engagement with the cultures and with trans‐cultural understanding, we want to make sure that all students have exposure in some form to Duke's non‐English language courses. To this end, students, including international students, may not place out of the foreign language requirement, nor may they use transfer courses at other domestic institutions to count towards the requirement. However, students may petition for foreign languages taken in immersion study abroad programs to count towards the foreign language requirement. In rare cases, students may, for compelling reasons, receive special permission from their academic dean to study a less commonly taught language not offered at Duke. Below is more specific information on pathways and policies:

FL Requirement:

The basic requirement is three courses in a given language or a single advanced (300‐)* level course, whichever is attained first.

  • 100 level: Elementary (101–102, or intensive 111, or accelerated 112)
  • 200 level: Intermediate (203–204, or intensive 212, or accelerated 213)
  • 300 level: Advanced

In satisfying the requirement, students may choose one of two options:

  1. Begin a new language at Duke, OR
  2. Use their high school or other previous language experience to place into the highest level language course at Duke for which they are qualified.

Students who place into an advanced (300) level course will only have to take one 300‐level FL designated course to satisfy the language requirement. Students who place into the intermediate level will need to take two or three courses (so that their final course is at the advanced [300] level), and students who begin a new language will need to take three courses.

NOTE: These courses must be in the same language. (See Creole exception.) We strongly recommend that students begin their foreign language no later than their sophomore year (preferably by 1st semester). This is especially important for students who will need to take three semesters of a foreign language, who may study away during a fall or spring, and/or who anticipate full course loads that may be inflexible for including foreign language courses later. Students should also be aware that not all departments offer their foreign language courses each semester. This is usually true for Latin, Greek and Asian languages, where the first introductory and intermediate courses are scheduled for the fall, and the second introductory and intermediate courses are scheduled for the spring. Studying away can interrupt this sequence and make completing three FL credits by graduation difficult. Students should also be aware that FL courses are not always offered in the summer, and if offered in the summer are subject to cancellation, so they should not rely on the summer for taking FL courses. (Exception: summer study abroad programs.)

Exception: students who wish to study Creole (Kreyol) may fulfill the requirement with either three Creole courses, or with four courses: two courses of Creole and two courses of French.

Example Course Plans

  1. A typical pathway for a student who chooses to begin a new language at Duke is as follows:

Three Courses

NOTE: Not all languages have intensive and accelerated courses, check with your program of choice.

FL 101 (Elementary I) FL 102 (Elementary II) FL 203 (Intermediate I)
FL 111 (Intensive Elementary, 2 course credits) FL 203 (Intermediate I)
FL 112 (Accelerated Elementary) FL 203 (Intermediate I) FL 204 (Intermediate II)
FL 112 (Accelerated Elementary) FL 213 (Accelerated Intermediate) 300 level FL course
  1. For students who wish to continue a language in which they have previous experience, the pathways are as follows, depending on which course they place into:

Three Courses

FL 102 (Elementary II) FL 203 (Intermediate I) FL 204 (Intermediate II)
FL 203 (Intermediate I) FL 204 (Intermediate II) 300 level FL course
FL 212 (Intensive Intermediate, 2 course credits) 300 level FL course

OR

Two Courses

FL 204 (Intermediate II) 300 level FL course
FL 213 (Accelerated Intermediate) 300 level FL course

OR

One Course

300 level FL designanted course

Non-Duke Courses that May Count Towards the FL Requirement

Any course in the sequence may be taken:

  • inter‐institutionally, that is, at one of Duke’s partner institutions in the area (including UNC, NC State, and NC Central universities), provided the course is not offered at Duke in the given academic year, or
  • in a study abroad program in which the course is taught in an immersion setting, that is, in a country or region where that language is a main language of communication.

For inter‐institutional and non‐Duke study abroad courses, students must have the course itself pre‐approved by the relevant department before taking the course. However, students can only apply for the FL designation immediately after the course has been taken. It is not automatic; a student can get credit for an approved course but it still might not count towards meeting the FL requirement. Approval of the FL designation is based on the extent to which the course exhibits equivalent objectives, content, and standards as Duke FL courses.

No courses taken at other domestic (U.S.) institutions may count towards the foreign language requirement.

NOTE: For international students, courses taken at other U.S. institutions as well as courses taken in their home countries are considered domestic institutions, not study abroad.

Fulfilling the Requirement with a Less Commonly Taught Language Not Offered at Duke

In rare cases, a student may have a compelling reason (i.e. specific career plans or academic interests) for studying a less commonly taught language that is not offered at Duke to fulfill the foreign language requirement. In that case, a student must receive prior permission from his or her academic dean. Whether or not the course(s) taken are inter‐institutional, in study abroad, or at other domestic institutions, students will be subject to the policies and procedures on transfer courses, and must apply for the FL designation upon completion of each course. (Approval is based on the extent to which the course exhibits equivalent objectives, content, and standards as Duke FL courses.) The policies on using transfer courses for foreign language courses not offered at Duke are as follows:

  • inter‐institutional courses: students may take one course per semester at one of Duke’s partner institutions. As with languages offered at Duke, they will need 1, 2, or 3 courses, depending on the level of the first course they place into (see above pathways).
  • study abroad courses: students may take a language not offered at Duke through study abroad, if the course is taught in an immersion setting, that is, in a country or region where that language is a main language of communication. As with languages offered at Duke, they will need 1, 2, or 3 courses, depending on the level of the first course they place into (see above pathways).
  • other domestic institutions: because students may transfer a maximum of 2 courses from other domestic institutions, at least one course that is used to satisfy the foreign language requirement in a language not offered at Duke must be at the 300‐level or above. It may not be an online or distance‐learning course.

International Students and the FL Requirement

The goals of the FL requirement go beyond mere fluency or ability to communicate in another language. They include cultural literacy and intercultural understanding, something that not all native speakers necessarily possess. Foreign language study at Duke includes an intellectual engagement with issues of culturally and linguistically determined difference; the foreign language classroom is a space in which students from different cultures can interact and reflect on these differences.

If you are a native speaker of, or fluent in, a language other than English, you will likely profit most from either beginning or continuing study of an additional language. You may also choose to take an advanced level class in your native language, but you should consult with the department to help you select the right course. Whatever you decide to do, your study will deepen and expand your own knowledge and understanding, and your presence and perspective will enrich the class to the benefit of all.

Students with Disabilities

A common myth is that students with learning or other disabilities are unable to learn a foreign language. Research has shown that this is not the case, and in fact, many students with learning and other disabilities have been quite successful in foreign language classes, even in languages considered to be among the more difficult. With the right accommodations, all students can be successful in learning another language. Therefore, Duke does not exempt disabled students from the foreign language requirement (or any other curricular requirement).

Duke University assists students with learning or other disabilities who provide the necessary documentation and request accommodations through the Student Disability Access Office (SDAO) or the Academic Resource Center (ARC). Duke University does not grant waivers of curricular requirements but formulates an individualized plan that may include course specific accommodations and academic support services such as tutoring and study skills enhancement.

In recognition of the fact that the foreign language requirement, unlike the other area of knowledge and mode of inquiry requirements, demands a specified sequence of courses that build on one another, course substitution for the third course (FL 203) in the beginning language sequence (FL 101, 102, 203) will be available, upon recommendation of the instructor and language program director to the Dean of Academic Affairs, as an extraordinary exception for students who are not able to successfully pass their second course in the sequence even with utilization of appropriate accommodations, interventions, and an exceptional work ethic. Exceptions will not be made for students who have not sought out and utilized appropriate accommodations and interventions, and demonstrated an exceptional work ethic, in the first and second courses. Moreover, the first and second courses must be taken with no interruption between courses unless the student has been granted a leave of absence or has been dismissed after the first course. No exceptions will be made in the student’s 7th or 8th semester (e.g. the senior year).

Therefore, students who have a suspected or documented disability should immediately schedule an appointment with the SDAO for evaluation in the first few weeks of taking their first foreign language course. Students who do not qualify for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), may visit or be referred to the Academic Resource Center (ARC), which may also provide for appropriate accommodations and interventions.