Language Requirements

Program in History

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Historical research requires proficiency not only in the languages of the sources, but also those of secondary literature. For this reason, the History department requires students in the PhD program to demonstrate proficiency in languages, which are specified by field, as below. The DGS may, after consultation with the advisor, permit substitution of a different language in individual cases, when this is motivated by the needs of the student. Proficiency may be demonstrated in several different ways, including:

1. A passing grade on a reading comprehension test administered by a Yale University language department, a member of the faculty or the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).
2. Graduation from a foreign approved university where teaching was conducted in a language other than English.
3. A written statement to the DGS from a member of the history faculty that a student has done sufficient work in a required foreign language in the context of a research seminar to justify the awarding of credit for that language (used especially for unusual research languages).

1.  African. Students should meet one of three requirements: (1) French and German or Portuguese or Dutch-Afrikaans; (2) French or German or Portuguese and Arabic; (3) French or German or Portuguese or Dutch-Afrikaans and an African language approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and the faculty adviser.

2.  American. One language relevant to the student’s interests. Additional languages as needed.

3.  Ancient. French, German, Greek, and Latin.

4.  Byzantine. Greek, Latin, French, German, and any additional language, e.g., Russian, required for dissertation research.

5.  Chinese. Chinese and Japanese. Additional languages may be necessary; e.g., French, Russian, or German.

6.  East European. The language of the country of the student’s concentration plus two of the following: French, German, Russian, and approved substitution.

7.  Global/International. Two languages to be determined by the DGS in consultation with the advisor.

8.  West European (including Britain). French and German. The Director of Graduate Studies may approve the substitution of another European language for French or German.

9.  Japanese. Japanese and French or German. Chinese may be needed for certain fields of Japanese history.

10. Jewish.  Modern Hebrew and German, and additional languages such as Latin, Arabic, Yiddish, Russian, or Polish as required by the student’s areas of specialization.

11. Latin American. Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

12. Medieval. French, German, and Latin.

13. Middle East. Arabic, Persian, or Turkish (or modern Hebrew depending on one’s area of research); and a major European research language (French, German, Russian, or an approved substitution depending on one’s area of research).

14. Russian. Russian plus French or German with other languages added as required.

15. Southeast Asian.  Dutch or French or Spanish or Portuguese or Chinese or Sanskrit or Arabic and one or more Southeast Asian languages (e.g., Bahasa Indonesia, Burmese, Khmer, Lao, Malay, Tagalog, Thai, Tetum, or Vietnamese).  In certain cases, Ph.D. dissertation research on Southeast Asia may also require knowledge of a regional or local language, e.g., Balinese or Cham.

16. Special. If none of the above guidelines is applicable, language requirements will be set by the appropriate faculty in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Program in History of Science & Medicine


All students must show proficiency in either French and German, or in two languages relevant to the student’s research interests and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Students may fulfill the requirement by DGS approval of demonstrated command of a native language other than English, by graduation from an approved foreign university where teaching is conducted in a language other than English, by passing an approved language course for credit, or by passing a language test administered by the program faculty.