The College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Social Work, and the College of Education require foreign language instruction beyond what is needed to be admitted to the University. If you are a native speaker of a language other than English, or if you had three years of a single foreign language in high school, you already meet this requirement. Otherwise, you must complete the third college quarter of a foreign language with a grade of at least 2.0, take a placement test that places you into the fourth college quarter of that language, or pass a language proficiency test.
Although a college may not require foreign language beyond the UW’s admission requirement of two high school years or two college quarters, its majors might. In most colleges you can count foreign language courses toward VLPA. Consult our page on General Education Requirements by College and School for more information.
If deafness, speech impairment, or a certified learning disability would interfere significantly with your study of a foreign language, you can petition to be allowed to substitute coursework about a foreign culture for language requirements.
If you plan to continue the foreign language you took in high school, we encourage you to complete your foreign language requirement right away, while what you’ve learned is still fresh in your mind. If you’re considering majors in colleges such as business or engineering, which don’t require any foreign language beyond the UW’s admission requirement, you may want to postpone language study—although in most colleges you can count foreign language courses toward VLPA if you complete the third-quarter course.
You should get started on your foreign language courses right away. Some last-quarter seniors don’t graduate on time because they fail to complete the third-quarter course with at least a 2.0 grade. And although the UW offers 10- and 15-credit intensive language instruction in Summer quarter, many students find these courses more difficult than regular language instruction.
Languages taught at the UW
You must achieve at least a 2.0 grade in the third quarter of the foreign language. The third-quarter course may not be taken on the satisfactory/not satisfactory (S/NS) grading option.
Any passing grade, including an S on the S/NS grading option, in the fourth or higher quarter of a language will also satisfy the requirement.
Placement and proficiency tests
If you plan to continue the foreign language you took in high school, you must take a placement test to determine the level at which you should resume the language. In most languages, if you have transferred college credit, you may simply continue the language with the next quarter. Alternatively, if you have no background in a language, for most languages you can just start with the first class in the sequence.
If you place into the fourth quarter of a foreign language, or higher, your placement test score alone exempts you from the Arts and Sciences foreign language requirement. Placement tests taken at other colleges do not exempt you from the UW's language requirement.
Overlap with other requirements
Courses used to satisfy the foreign language requirement can also count toward your major, if applicable. They may also count towards the Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA) component of your Areas of Knowledge requirement. See below.
- Language instruction courses at the second-year level and beyond may be counted toward the VLPA requirement.
College of Arts and Sciences, College of Education, and the School of Social Work
- The entire first year of the language used to meet the foreign-language graduation requirement cannot also count toward VLPA.
- First-year courses in a language that is not being used for the foreign-language requirement may be counted toward VLPA, but only if you complete the third-quarter course.
College of Engineering
- Language courses at the third quarter level and beyond can count toward VLPA.
All other colleges
- First-year courses may be counted toward VLPA, but only if you complete the third-quarter course.
In other words
If your major is in a College or School that requires the foreign language graduation requirement, none of the first-year courses you take to meet the foreign language requirement — first, second, and third quarter — count toward the VLPA requirement. All courses in a second foreign language can be counted toward VLPA, provided you complete at least the third college quarter of the language. You may choose which language to use for the language requirement and which to count toward VLPA.
If your major is in a College or School that does not require the foreign language graduation requirement, then all of your first-year foreign language courses count toward the VLPA requirement, provided you complete at least the third quarter. One exception: In the College of Engineering, only third-quarter foreign language and above counts toward VLPA.
All courses at the second-year level and beyond will count toward VLPA — if taken for a grade and not S/NS.
AP and IB
If you achieved a score of 3, 4, or 5 on a College Board Advanced Placement foreign language examination, you will receive 5, 10, or 15 college credits at the second-year level. This satisfies the foreign language requirement, and the credit also counts toward VLPA. See the AP tables for more information.
If you achieve a score of 5, 6, or 7 on an International Baccalaureate Program Higher Level foreign language exam, you will receive 5, 10, or 15 credits at the second-year level. This satisfies the foreign language requirement, and the credit also counts toward VLPA. See the IB tables for more information.
For transfer students
Transfer college credits in a foreign language satisfy this requirement if you complete the third quarter or second semester with at least a 2.0 grade (or a higher-level course with any passing grade), and if the entire first-year sequence would transfer as at least 12 quarter credits.
Transfer students who completed college coursework in their high school language of admission are allowed credit for the first quarter of the language, if the course was taken before admission to the UW.
Students who enter under the Direct Transfer Agreement are not exempt from the foreign language requirement.
For postbaccalaureate students
Postbaccalaureate students are not required to complete the foreign language requirement.
High school duplication
If, after your admission to the UW, you start over again in the foreign language you took for two or more years in high school and used for admission, the first college quarter is considered a duplication and you are not awarded college credit. The course and grade will appear on your college transcript, but will not count toward your credit total or your GPA. You will receive credit for all language courses from the second quarter on.
Even when the first quarter of the language is considered high school duplication, the course is counted in your credit total when tuition is assessed, and is also counted for the purposes of quarterly financial aid, veterans benefits, or a student visa. (Note, however, that it will not count toward the 36 credits per year required by financial aid.)
If you take the placement test and place into the first quarter of your high-school language, and you wish to continue studying that language, you must start with the first quarter even though it will not count toward the total credits required for graduation.
English as second language
You are exempt from the foreign language requirement if you spoke a language other than English in your home during the first six years of your childhood, and it was the language in which you received instruction in school through the seventh grade. See an adviser to have it recorded in your advising file that you are a native speaker of another language.
If you do not meet this definition, you may still be able to pass a proficiency test in your language.
Making up an admission deficiency
You have an admission deficiency in foreign language if you lack the University admission requirement of two units (years) of one foreign language in high school. If you lack this admission requirement, normally you must make it up with college coursework before transferring to the UW. A passing grade in the second college quarter of a foreign language removes the admission deficiency. UW Placement into the third quarter of a foreign language will also remove the deficiency, but you cannot take a UW placement test until after you have been admitted to the UW.
Students with foreign language deficiencies are occasionally admitted by petition. If you are a prospective student, contact the UW's testing center to learn about taking a foreign language placement test. Contact the Office of Admissions if you have questions about the foreign language admission requirements.
The foreign language courses you take to remove an admission deficiency can also count toward the foreign language graduation requirement. Although courses taken pass/fail can be used to make up an admission deficiency, you must take the third quarter of the foreign language for a grade, and receive at least a 2.0, if you plan to use the course to satisfy the foreign language graduation requirement.
Summer language intensives
You can complete a full first year of foreign language study by taking a 15-credit summer course. Several language departments also offer second-, third- and fourth-year language-intensive courses during Summer Quarter.