World Languages and Cultures

Last updated: September 2, 2020 at 1:54 PM


A cornerstone of global citizenship, proficiency in a world language is essential for effective communication, cooperation, and collaboration among people of different cultures. The process of learning another language inspires open-mindedness and adaptability, awakens curiosity and creativity, fosters innovative paths of inquiry and discovery, and builds a deeper understanding of oneself and others.

Students who fulfill the language requirement, usually by completing a language course numbered in the 30s, will demonstrate a range of intermediate-level proficiency skills in a language other than English (including American Sign Language). These essential skills, as described by the ACTFL Guidelines, enable students to create with another language in order to express personal thoughts and needs, to engage in meaningful ways in social interactions, and to participate in the events of everyday life. Students of Ancient Greek, Latin, and Biblical Hebrew will focus exclusively on reading, writing, and cultural knowledge.

In the language classroom, students test and develop their ability to think critically and solve problems as they analyze and find meaning in the products, practices, and perspectives of other cultures. This process of reflection challenges students to reconsider their own cultural traditions and habits of thought. Moreover, learning a foreign language at Brandeis plays a central role in helping students cultivate a notion of social justice. During their efforts to become proficient in another language and culture, students may temporarily experience the feeling of exclusion and otherness that outsiders (in all senses of the term) often encounter because of social, cultural, and linguistic barriers that can prevent them from fully participating in society. As a result of their range of experiences in the language classroom, students will deepen their sense of empathy for others.

The challenges of language acquisition instill valuable professional and life skills in our learners. Students advance their literacy skills by examining and evaluating culturally authentic information retrieved from a range of media sources, both traditional and technologically advanced. They develop mental flexibility, which enables them to better mediate conflicting points of view and adapt to changing social and cultural settings. The self-motivation and dedication that language study requires accustom our students to taking responsibility for their own learning and advancement, and help them inspire others to adopt fairer, more tolerant behaviors toward those within and beyond their communities.

World Languages and Cultures website

Learning Goals

  1. Achieve at least an intermediate level of proficiency in a single language (speaking & listening and/or reading & writing), as defined by ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines;
  2. Understand the role of language in the formation and expression of cultural identity;
  3. Understand the ways in which language may shape human thought and perception of objective reality;
  4. Comprehend the role languages play in issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

How to Fulfill the Requirement

Brandeis requires its undergraduates to command a certain degree of proficiency in the use of one foreign language, either ancient or modern. The language sequence is comprised of three courses: 10, 20 and 30-level. The requirement is satisfied when the student has passed a 30-level (or higher) course with a letter grade. No more than one course (and never the final one) in the language sequence may be taken pass/fail if the language is being offered in satisfaction of the world languages and cultures requirement. Students may be exempted from the world languages and cultures requirement by demonstrating at least intermediate proficiency in a language other than English in speaking, writing and reading and listening comprehension. Proficiency may be demonstrated by Brandeis placement exam or documentation of equivalent proficiency (including AP or IB tests, etc.)

All students who wish to enroll in 20- or 30-level courses must complete a language placement test. The number of class hours required per week in any given course may vary depending on departmental requirements.

Courses of Instruction

The following languages are taught at Brandeis. Successful completion of a 30-level course will fulfill the WLC requirement with noted exceptions (see information in parenthesis). Additional language courses can be found in the course listings for each program.

Arabic ARBC 10a, 20b, 30a
Chinese CHIN 10a, 20b or 29b, 30a
French FREN 10a, 20b, 32a
German GER 10a, 20b, 30a
Ancient Greek GRK 10a, 20b, 30a
Hebrew HBRW 10a or 19a, 20b or 29b, 34a or 35a
Italian ITAL 10a, 20b, 30a
Japanese JAPN 10a, 20b, 30a
Korean KOR 10a, 20b, 30a
Latin LAT 10a, 20b, 30a
Portuguese PORT 14b (cannot be used to fulfill WLC requirement)
Russian RUS 10a, 20b, 30a, or RUS 29b and 39b (for heritage speakers)
Spanish HISP 10a, 20b, 32a or 34a, or HISP 108b (for heritage speakers)
Yiddish YDSH 10a, 20b, 30a