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Languages and Cultures Department

Program of Study


The mission of the Languages and Cultures Department is to broaden and deepen the competency of the Brigade of Midshipmen in foreign languages and cultures and to produce graduates who possess a fundamental understanding of foreign languages and societies from linguistic, literary, cultural, and geopolitical perspectives.

Mission Goals

The Languages and Cultures Department is committed to teaching midshipmen to:

  1. Communicate effectively in a foreign language and interact in culturally appropriate ways with native speakers of that language
  2. Acquire insight into the heritage, cultural values and practices of the foreign country or countries studied
  3. Develop disposition and cognitive strategies for lifelong studying of other languages and cultures



Course Content Overview

The Languages and Cultures Department offers courses at four levels in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish.

  • First and second year courses help midshipmen acquire proficiency in listening, speaking, reading and writing. In addition, they introduce cultural content.
  • Third year courses continue building language proficiency while emphasizing the culture and literature of the language area.
  • Fourth year courses presuppose a significant level of linguistic competence and concentrate on more specialized topics in the history, contemporary society, and literature of the countries where the language is spoken.

The Department also offers a two-semester English course sequence for Non-Native Speakers, which fulfills the English core requirement for international midshipmen.

Languages and Cultures course descriptions are available on the  Language and Cultures Course Information Page.

Majors and Minors

The Languages and Cultures Department offers majors in Arabic and Chinese, and minors in all seven languages.


Validation permits midshipmen with foreign language experience to continue their studies at an advanced level, often leading to a minor.

The Languages and Cultures Department offers validation exams in Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish. Through these tests midshipmen can earn up to four semesters of credit for college-level language courses. Due to the specific detailed cultural, historical, and literary content of 300- and 400-level courses, they are not subject to validation.

Language Requirement

All midshipmen majoring in Economics, English, History, or Political Science are required to take or validate four semesters of a foreign language offered at the Naval Academy, or the equivalent. Midshipmen majoring in Engineering, Mathematics, or Science are not required to take a foreign language; but many of them can choose to do so.

Facilities and Support

The departmental spaces, renovated in 2008, include classrooms and seminar rooms equipped with supplemental, language-learning technology.

Nimitz Library has a growing collection of audio/visuals, books, dictionaries, journal articles, language learning resources, and news in each of the seven languages offered at USNA. The Library web site provides a section devoted to language-related resources.

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