Carnegie Mellon University

Welcome letter from Susan G. Polansky, Head, Department of Modern Languages

Susan Polansky


The Department of Modern Languages enthusiastically invites you to engage with additional languages and cultures! By pursuing one of our majors or minors, or taking courses in our department, our students gain valuable perspectives on the worlds of others and themselves, and enrich the personal and professional paths they seek, domestically and internationally.

Here are a dozen-plus recommendations to give you a glimpse of the many routes to explore.  Please feel free to seek additional information through our website and to contact us if you would like more details.

Choose one language or more.

Continue your studies and experiences with the languages and cultures you have already discovered, or engage with new ones! Our classes and many extra-curricular activities will connect you with the Arabic-, Chinese-, French-, German-, Italian-, Japanese-, Russian-, and Spanish-speaking worlds.

Build your skills and cultural knowledge in our small classes.

Students work closely with their peers and professors to develop their skills in understanding, speaking, reading, and writing, while also building knowledge and appreciation of traditions, customs, and issues related to their language areas, and exploring cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary connections.

Consider a major, additional major, or minor in Modern Languages.

In our undergraduate programs, we offer a minor in Arabic Studies, and majors and minors in Chinese, French, German, Hispanic, Japanese, and Russian Studies. Carnegie Mellon students frequently pursue these majors or minors in combination with their concentrations in other disciplines across all colleges of the University.

Seek the right placement.

Students who have previously studied a language take an online placement test and consult with advisors, coordinators, and course faculty to ensure continuation at the best re-entry point. Classes for beginners and a variety of courses conducted in English on engaging cultural topics have no prerequisites and do not require a placement test.

Go abroad.

We strongly encourage students to go abroad, and with our scholarship support, students have participated in summer, semester, or year-long programs all over the world.  Over and over again, our students say that study abroad is a life-changing experience that has improved their language skills, broadened and deepened their view of the world and other cultures, fostered their personal growth by taking them out of their comfort zones, and opened doors to employment and precious personal relationships.

Pursue a certificate.

We offer a Foreign Language and Culture Certificate for eligible students who engage in study at intermediate to advanced levels on campus and abroad.

Check out our beginner-level online courses.

Our hybrid online courses in Arabic, Chinese, French, and Spanish combine internet-based and face-to-face learning and can serve as gateways to further study.

Grow personally and professionally through community engagement.

In our outreach activities in Western Pennsylvania and abroad, modern languages students and faculty collaborate in partnerships connected with coursework and research, and participate in volunteer opportunities. They tutor and work in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, take part in an outreach program for children of Hispanic heritage, assist as translators for clinics and at international events, volunteer in Chinese schools and refugee support programs, and take service-learning trips during Spring Break.

Pursue a research topic that ignites your passion.

Our faculty and students conduct fascinating research related to language acquisition and cultural studies. Recent student projects have focused on topics such as educating learners of English as a second language; internet censorship in China; Otaku: a digital manga; negotiation of food identity in France and Spain; and a documentary filmed in France on what it means to be French.

Become a language assistant.

Students with experience above intermediate level have the opportunity to work as speaking, writing, or online assistants to help support the progress of others in lower- and upper-level courses.

Take part in fun and rewarding activities led by students and faculty.

Help plan and attend events for students of modern languages and the campus community. Every year we enjoy guest speakers, musical events, international holiday celebrations, language tables, and excursions to theaters, restaurants, and exhibitions. Also, the Modern Languages Student Advisory Council (MLSAC) welcomes new members and organizes cultural activities such as film festivals, Polyglot cafés, and Cohon University Center Late Nights. New ideas are welcome!

Take note of the diverse and promising paths of recent Modern Languages graduates.

Modern Languages graduates have entered careers in government, entrepreneurship and business, law, technology and engineering firms, media, public health, health policy and health professions, non-profit organizations, entertainment and creative arts, and education. They have also gone on to graduate studies in second language-related fields in linguistics, second language acquisition, literary and cultural studies, psychology, and education.

Join us!


Polansky signature
Susan G. Polansky
Head, Department of Modern Languages