Foreign Language Competency Requirement

All Ph.D. students must demonstrate advanced reading knowledge of a language other than German and English before they submit their dissertation for the final defense.  We advise students to pass this requirement before beginning the dissertation so that they can make use of their third language in research. The objective of this requirement is to ensure a range of foreign-language expertise such as will allow German Ph.D. students to conduct research of primary and secondary literature in a third language pertinent to their anticipated area of specialization or to their ongoing doctoral thesis. For example, someone with a concentration in Medieval and Early Modern Studies should strongly consider developing a reading expertise in Latin; someone working on Weimar Classicism and aesthetic theory might wish to develop reading skills in ancient Greek; someone working in German Jewish Studies might need Hebrew or Yiddish; and someone working on Nineteenth-Century Realism might be well advised to develop reading skills in French or Russian.

Eligible Languages for Meeting Requirement

Languages eligible for meeting this requirement include:

  • French
  • Italian
  • Classical or Medieval Latin
  • Ancient Greek
  • Old Norse
  • Russian
  • Polish
  • Czech
  • Hungarian
  • Turkish
  • Dutch
  • Danish
  • Swedish
  • Norwegian
  • Hebrew
  • Yiddish


The requirement will have to be satisfied prior to the time that the doctoral thesis is submitted for the final defense. We advise students to pass this requirement before beginning the dissertation so that they can make use of their third language in research.  Students ought to discuss and finalize their selection of a third language for the reading-competency exam with the DGS and their primary advisor sometime before the end of their second year in the program. Under unusual circumstances, students may petition the DGS to have another language approved for the requirement.

Demonstrating Competency

Adequate language competency may be demonstrated in the following ways:

  • by passing the foreign language proficiency exam proctored by the UNC Graduate School or by an accredited testing service (such as the Princeton foreign-language reading proficiency exam)
  • by completing a semester-long reading knowledge course such as UNC's French 601 with a grade of "P" or higher
  • by completing an intermediate language course or above such as UNC's French 204, French 212 or Dutch 404 or Duke’s French 204 or Greek 332
  • by taking a translation exam of a text, to be administered by the Director of Graduate Studies

NOTE: Courses taken to meet the foreign language requirement do not count towards the Ph.D. degree.