MA/PhD Degree Requirements: Language Requirement

All students must demonstrate intermediate-level reading competency in a language other than modern or Middle English.


The UW Department of English language requirement reflects the importance of translingual, cross-cultural competencies to academic work. It is based in the premise that English-only knowledge inevitably produces cultural and intellectual parochialism. While it is true that English functions increasingly as an academic lingua franca, at the same time, ongoing historical shifts (including, for instance, the emergence of transnational media, genres, and cultural flows; proliferating mass migrations and diasporas resulting from war and climate change) continue to move the study of language, rhetoric, literature and culture away from a focus on mono-cultural phenomena. The study of cross-cultural phenome invite (and arguably require) both second (and sometimes third) language knowledge and, equally important, the ability to work across languages.

We therefore encourage students to consider second language knowledge as something to be used in their research and (if applicable) their pedagogy, rather than just something to be certified. Increased attention in their research areas to scholarship emerging outside the Anglo-American sphere and published in languages other than English can indeed enrich intellectual debate and engagement in the humanities.

Language Requirement Options

The requirement may be satisfied in any one of the following ways:

Prior to the qualifying exam:

  • A 3.0 or higher in the final course of a second-year college-level course sequence (or more advanced), taken within three years prior to entrance; or
  • A score on a UW language test that demonstrates competency at the level of the final course of a second-year college-level course sequence; or
  • Native-speaker ability in another language; or
  • Completion of Advanced Old English language and literature (Engl 513) with a grade of 3.0 or better

Prior to completion of the dissertation (i.e., at any point during coursework, qualifying exam preparation, or dissertation writing, as feasible and appropriate):

  • Completion of the Translation Seminar course offered by the Department of English with a grade of 3.7 or better; or
  • Successful completion of a translation project, as defined below.
    • Important: while students may choose to complete the translation during the dissertation phase, they must secure a faculty adviser and identify a specific translation project no later than when their prospectus is approved.

All credits earned in fulfilling the language requirement by coursework at the 100-400-level are in addition to the graduate credits required for the degree.

The PhD Supervisory Committee may set an additional language requirement if this is judged necessary for the particular specialization.

Translation Project

As noted above, students may choose to satisfy the language requirement through a translation project. If a student chooses this option, the translation project should be designed in a way that reflects and advances the student’s research interests. It may involve translation of either primary or critical materials germane to the student’s focus; the translated material should be substantial (a journal article, a chapter of a novel, a short story, etc) and the translation should be accompanied by a brief (3-5 page) translator’s analysis of the process of translation, the challenges encountered, and the ways in which the translator opted to resolve them. Alternately, a translation project might involve a substantial, article-length analysis of an existing English translation; in this case, the analysis is grounded in the student’s ability to read and engage the work in the original, but the focus is on assessing the quality of the existing English translation and its effects.

A translation project may be completed in one of several contexts: in the Translation Seminar; in another course or independent study, with permission of the instructor; under the supervision of the student’s committee chair, or another committee member. Students should be aware that many but not all English department faculty are willing and prepared to supervise translation projects – so it is vital to plan ahead. In the event that the supervising instructor does not have knowledge of the source language, the project may also be reviewed by a second faculty member with the relevant language expertise, either inside or outside of the department.

Students who complete a translation project outside of the Translation Seminar must submit the following forms to the English Graduate Office at in order to satisfy the program's language requirement: