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Language Requirement

Specific language requirements apply to each major.

  • Communication Studies: WCAS requirement (for B.A. and B.S.)
  • Dance: WCAS requirement (for B.A.) or no requirement (for B.S.)
  • Human Communication Sciences (B.S. only): No requirement
  • Performance Studies: WCAS requirement (for B.A.) or no requirement (for B.S.)
  • Radio/Television/Film: WCAS requirement (for B.A. and B.S.).
  • Theatre: WCAS requirement (for B.A.) or no requirement (for B.S.)

What is the WCAS foreign language requirement? To demonstrate foreign language proficiency through course work done at Northwestern, students must demonstrate proficiency at the level equivalent to completion of the third quarter of the second year NU language sequence. Students can meet the requirement through any of the following means:

Do foreign language courses satisfy Distribution Requirements?

Yes. Language courses may be used to satisfy the three-credit humanities and fine arts requirement or the additional distribution requirement.

Foreign Language Proficiency Table

Students must achieve two-year foreign language proficiency. Students must also take at least 3 language instruction courses at the University level.  Adjunct majors are strongly encouraged to continue language learning beyond this minimum requirement, and to establish genuine competency in the speaking, reading, and writing of at least one foreign language.

What do I need to know about language proficiency and placement tests?

Most language departments offer online placement tests. If you have not already completed a test, you should do so during the first week of Wildcat Welcome. See this URL for further information:

The placement tests are designed to place students in the appropriate level class. Students who earn appropriately high scores may satisfy the language requirement through the placement test.

The more advanced a student’s placement, the fewer language courses he or she must take to satisfy the requirement. Unlike AP credits, students do not earn language course credits with language placement test results. Keep in mind that the WCAS language requirement is based on students satisfying a threshold level of proficiency, not on number of credits.

Is it possible to demonstrate proficiency in any other ways?

For students whose secondary education was at a school where a language other than English was the primary language of instruction, you should take your secondary school transcript to the WCAS Office of Undergraduate Studies (at 1922 Sheridan Rd.) for evaluation.

What if I am proficient in a language that is not taught at Northwestern?

Students who wish to demonstrate proficiency in a language not usually taught on campus may petition the Council on Language Instruction for a proficiency test in that language.

Petitions must be filed during the student’s first quarter on campus and are available at the WCAS Office of Undergraduate Studies (at 1922 Sheridan Rd.).

What if I have a disability that affects my study of language?

In certain cases of a clinically diagnosed disability affecting foreign language acquisition, students may apply to fulfill the WCAS Foreign Language Proficiency Requirement by using both language and non-language classes. In such circumstances, students should first contact Accessible NU for assistance in petitioning the Council on Language Instruction to be assigned a Language Proficiency Adviser (LPA):

What if I have other questions about foreign language requirements and options?

The Council on Language Instruction maintains web sites that offer detailed answers to many questions. Please consult this URL: