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Foreign Language

Foreign Language Requirement

As an International Relations major, you are required* to complete 2+ years (up through completion of the 2nd year/ 3rd quarter of study) of a foreign language at Stanford, or the equivalent. 

The following can fulfill this requirement:

  1. You successfully complete Stanford foreign language courses in one language up through the 2nd year, 3rd quarter of instruction.
  2. You take a language placement test through Stanford's Language Center, and place into the 3rd+ year.

Information on the proficiency exams can be found here.

*If English is your second language and you have not taken the language proficiency exam, you must submit an official letter to the IR Office detailing that English is your second language, which language is your first, and where you lived outside of the U.S. to have this requirement reviewed and potentially waived.

Languages Offered by the Stanford Language Center: 

  • Afrikaans*
  • Amharic*
  • Arabic
  • Bengali**
  • Catalan
  • Cherokee**
  • Chinese
  • Czech**
  • French
  • Georgian**
  • German
  • Greek**
  • Hausa*
  • Hawaiian**
  • Hebrew*
  • Hindi**
  • Hungarian**
  • Igbo*
  • Indonesian**
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Kazakh**
  • Kinyarwanda*
  • Korean
  • Lakota**
  • Nahuatl**
  • Navajo**
  • Pashto**
  • Persian*
  • Polish**
  • Portugese
  • Quechua**
  • Russian
  • Sanskirt**
  • Serbo-Croatian**
  • Spanish
  • Swahili*
  • Tagalog**
  • Thai**
  • Tigrinya*
  • Tibetan
  • Turkish*
  • Twi*
  • Ukrainian**
  • Vietnamese**
  • Xhosa*
  • Yiddish*
  • Yoruba*
  • Zulu*

* For a list of languages offered through the African and Middle Eastern Languages Program, please see the program website.

** For a list of languages offered through the Special Languages Program, please see the program websitePlease note: American Sign Language (ASL) will not satisfy the IR foreign language requirement.

Beyond the Foreign Language Requirement

Students who demonstate a significant commitment to Foreign Language learning may be awarded the notation "Proficiency in X Language" on their official Stanford transcript. To receive the proficiency notation, students must complete two official exams, arranged, proctored, and financed by the Stanford Language Center. The two official exams are as follows:

  • Oral Proficency Interview (OPI)

A 30-minute, telephonic oral interview with a certified tester

  • Writing Proficiency Test (WPT)

A 90-minute computer-based written exam

Students must achieve a minimum rating of "Advanced Low" (for cognate languages) or "Intermediate High" (for non-cognate languages) on the Foreign Service Institute/American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (FSI/ACTFL) proficiency scale. Successful completion of the OPI is required to proceed with the WPT. 

Successful applicants for the Foreign Language Proficiency Notation include:

  • Graduating senior or junior 
  • Have studied a foreign language at or beyond the third-year level at Stanford
  • Have studied abroad in the foreign language

For more information, contact or visit the Stanford Language Center.