Language Requirement

Studying a new language and developing an intercultural competence are essential skills in today’s globalized world. Together they allow us to engage in complex experiences and build relationships with people from diverse cultures, while at the same time exploring new perspectives, beliefs, and values. In addition, the mission of our university emphasizes the importance of cura personalis, or care for the whole person, including their unique background and identity. So, by acquiring such cultural competence, and language skills, students can become better informed members of their communities, as well as of a far wider world. By learning another language, each of us welcomes new perspectives in an effort to understand and communicate with others, interestingly different from ourselves. The link within this process to questions of social justice are clear: language acquisition allows us to meet others on their own terms.
In this respect, USF is obviously located in one of the most international cities, not only in the United States, but in the world. San Francisco is famous for its openness to new ideas, a city that celebrates multiculturalism and multilingualism and, therefore, an ideal place to put your language skills to work in real time. The Mission, Chinatown, Japantown, North Beach, the Excelsior and the Richmond District, each neighborhood offers a door into cultures far different than where you may have grown up in before college. In this way, language acquisition can and will help you explore the cultural richness of the city (and of course of many others that are waiting).
In this page you will find information about:

  • key reasons to study another language
  • the importance to begin your language study early
  • the courses needed to fulfill the language requirement
  • the requirements for each USF college or school
  • the links for placement and proficiency tests, and waivers


  • Learn new skills and enhance ones you already have.
  • Learn about other cultures and perspectives.
  • Become much more aware about your native language and how it works.
  • Do research in your field of study in other languages besides English and have more options of information resources to choose from. 
  • Study abroad in one of the semester- or year-long Global Education programs and/or participate in shorter excursion abroad!
  • Increase your number of job opportunities.
  • Expand your professional connections beyond English speakers both within and outside of your community.
  • Find work in other professions besides your field of study, such as translation, interpreting and education, both here in the U.S. and abroad. 
  • Learn about other cultures and perspectives, and communicate with many more people in the world! 
  • Share similar experiences with fellow USF language students and exchange students.
  • Understand and appreciate your own heritage.
  • Become even more empathetic toward other perspectives and values and second language learners.
  • Improve various cognitive skills: listening, problem-solving and memory abilities (and some studies show knowing a foreign language can delay dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease!)

  • If you are continuing your foreign language studies from high school, taking a language class immediately at USF will allow you to better retain what you have learned while it is still fresh on your mind.
  • Some language programs at USF only offer specific levels one semester each academic year. If you check the course schedule offerings immediately and plan ahead, you can make sure the course is offered when you need to take it.
  • If you are interested in studying a new foreign language, you may find you would like to study abroad where that language is spoken and/or complete the major or minor. Getting started immediately will allow you to plan ahead with plenty of time in case you encounter any additional requirements.
  • If you switch majors and have an additional semester of language required, you will be able to satisfy the extended requirement on time.
  • If you are not interested in or unable to complete the language major or minor, starting your requirement right away will let you take additional classes so at least you can become more proficient.
  • From time to time there are unforeseen circumstances resulting in changes with the course schedule and the possible cancellation of specific classes (e.g., due to low enrollment). You personally may also experience some changes with your schedule and/or outside life. Just in case, you don’t want to wait until your senior to fulfill your language requirement and not have any classes to take.
  • After you have arrived and have gotten to know the USF programs and offerings, you may discover an internship, community-engaged learning opportunity or a short-term immersion experience abroad for which knowing a second language will benefit you. Starting your language studies right away will open up more possibilities for you.

Bachelor of Arts: three consecutive semesters of the same language, or complete a class equivalent to level FL3 or higher

Bachelor of Science: two consecutive semesters of the same language, or complete a class equivalent to level FL2 or higher

Only students completing the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration majoring in International Business have a language requirement: three consecutive semesters of the same language, or complete a class of level FL3 or higher.

No language requirement.

Specific majors and minors may also require additional semesters of language study. Please check with the appropriate department or your academic adviser.

If there is a difference between the requirements of the two majors, students need to fulfill the higher requirement. A student majoring in science and arts is required to complete three consecutive semesters of the same language, or a class equivalent to level FL3 or higher.

Many placement tests can be taken online prior to coming to campus. Please take them before you register for classes.

Please check the Placement Tests page to determine which exams you need to take.

Exemption from the foreign language requirement may be obtained through establishment of equivalent proficiency in the following ways. See below for more details.

visual that explains steps for the language waiver in a simple way


Students who scored a 4 or 5 on the AP language exam are automatically exempted from the Third-Semester language class (201) and, therefore, fulfill the foreign language requirement. They will also receive 8 units of foreign language credit.

AP Literature Exam
Students who scored a 4 or 5 on the AP literature exam are automatically exempted from the Fourth-Semester (202) and, therefore, fulfill the foreign language requirement. They will also receive 8 units of foreign language credit.

International Baccalaureate Exam
Students who scored 4-7 in the higher level exam are automatically exempted from the Third-Semester class (201) and, therefore, fulfill the language requirement. They will also receive 8 units of foreign language credit.

If students who plan to continue studying language beyond the foreign language requirement at USF, please contact the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.

USF generally accepts all college-level courses completed at regionally accredited institutions for transfer. Once the official transcript has been processed, students should check Degree Evaluation to see whether the requirement is fulfilled. If not, they can take the next level of class they are eligible for or contact the department to ensure you enroll in the right class.

Students who are fluent in a foreign language can choose to test out of the foreign language requirement by requesting a waiver.

Submitting Foreign Language Waiver Requests

  1. Take the foreign language placement test in the language you would like to waive; we offer it online in Chinese, Filipino, French, German, Japanese and Spanish­, or schedule individual proficiency interviews with faculty in other languages. Students can only take the online placement test once for a given language. Multiple attempts for the same language are disallowed, as only the first score will be recorded.
  2. Complete the foreign language waiver request form;
  3. Contact the department to schedule individual interviews or provide evidence of proficiency.  For Spanish, you need to successfully pass the Stamp Waiver Exam which is proctored on campus once every semester and tests all 4 skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking.

If you wish to apply for a waiver in a language which does not have a placement exam, please skip Step 1 and go directly to Step 2 and 3.

If students originally came from a country where a language other than English is spoken and have studied up to eighth grade or higher in an educational setting where the language of instruction is not English, they may apply for waiver of foreign language requirement by providing transcripts for completed classes, following the waiver request process.

If students do not have any transcripts, and the language they speak is offered at USF, they must take the Foreign Language Placement Test to demonstrate evidence of proficiency. A follow-up proficiency interview will be arranged with the faculty in the department.

If the language students speak is not offered at USF, the department will make reasonable efforts to arrange proficiency testing and review evidence of proficiency.