Janet Cummings
Executive Secretary
Modern Languages & Cultures

P:  (540) 464-7241
F:  (540) 464-7677

Virginia Military Institute
416 Scott Shipp Hall
Lexington, VA  24450

Contact Modern Languages

Graduate School Information 

for Majors in Modern Languages and Cultures

The decision to attend graduate school for a Masters or Ph.D. is not an easy one. Those seeking such degrees need to be able to show language and cultural fluency to even be considered for most graduate programs. Many require candidates to submit writing and speaking samples in the language he/she intends to study. All candidates must also take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and submit scores to the institutes to which they apply.

During graduate school, most students teach undergraduate language classes or serve as Teaching Assistants for professors. Others serve as research assistants to faculty members. The number of classes one teaches per semester and the stipend per class varies greatly from institution to institution. Be sure to inquire about teaching expectations, pay, and/or research assistantship expectations. Most universities pay for some or all of the cost of tuition as well as medical insurance in exchange for a teaching or research assistantship.

Graduate work in modern languages is usually divided into two branches: literature and linguistics. Graduates with degrees in literatures study and research the great works written in the language, while writing research papers on prose, poetry, or theater that investigate areas of interest particular to that student. Knowledge and application of literary theory is a must.  People focusing on the linguistics track study the social factors inherent in learning a language and how languages are best taught. The study of linguistics uses a wide array of methodologies to study languages, ranging from the humanities to social, medical, and natural sciences.

In the Arabic language, an area that has recently become vital to Western society’s understanding of the Muslim world is Islamic Studies. This is a very diverse field which studies Muslim culture, Muslim history, the historical study of Islam, and Islamic economics. There is an increasing demand for specialists in Islamic Studies, as many universities seek to breach the sometimes wide chasm that separates the Islamic world from American universities. At the same time, numerous Masters and Ph.D. programs offer degrees in Arabic language and literature.

In the past, a person with a Masters or Ph.D. in a modern language most always sought a teaching position at a college or university teaching the language of his or her degree. This is still the case in many instances, and teaching is a rewarding and highly respected vocation. Recently, however, private companies are seeking people with language AND cultural fluency. Regrettably, in the United States the lack of exposure to foreign languages in the elementary and middle schools has increasingly produced monolingual high school graduates with limited cultural knowledge of other countries or ways of life. Graduates with advanced degrees in modern language are tasked with broadening the cultural and linguistic horizons of their students, their clients, or their constituents.

Links for Graduate Programs in Arabic Language and Arabic Studies

Links for Graduate Programs in Spanish, Latin American Studies 

Links for Graduate Programs in French