The Modern Foreign Languages major is a department within the College of Arts and Letters.



Admission and Progression Standards

Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.

Description of Major

The Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures offers a major and minor in Modern Foreign Languages with four year instruction in the following languages: Arabic, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. In addition, the department provides offers minors in Chinese and Russian and two-year instruction in Latin, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Ancient Greek, and Persian. Through the department’s course offerings, study abroad programs, organizations and clubs, and the presence of faculty with research areas in diverse foreign cultures, the department embodies cultural diversity, particularly international diversity. The programs in the Foreign Language, Literatures, and Cultures Department are designed for the following purposes: to teach the student to understand and speak a language with facility; develop skills in reading and writing; to provide an acquaintance with foreign literatures; develop an appreciation of foreign cultures; and to prepare students for the teaching profession, government work, international trade and research leading to advanced degrees. Minors are also offered in the concentrations mentioned above. Interdisciplinary minors offered include: Classical Studies, Russian Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Asian Studies, Africana Studies, and World Literature. The following Professional minors are offered: the Law Enforcement Spanish Minor, Medical Spanish Minor, Business Spanish Minor, Business French Minor, Business German Minor, Business Italian Minor, and Translation / Interpretation Minor.

More About the Field 

There is more to learning languages than simply learning the language. Language acquisition teaches one to learn how to think, analyze, communicate, and increase one’s own cultural enrichment. The study of foreign cultures also helps people to understand who they are and where they are coming from and gain a better understanding of their own culture. The foreign language experience will develop the kind of global awareness, sophistication and flexibility of cultural response that Americans will need if they are to retain their competitive edge in the world markets of the 21st century.


Specializations in this field tend to be in the particular language and culture chosen to focus one’s interests within a particular career area, such as government, education, business or non profit. The foreign language specialist engages in translating, interpreting, or teaching in one or more foreign languages. The specialist ordinarily possesses and uses knowledge of the literature, culture, and historical development of the country in which the language is used. In addition to pursuing a job in which the primary focus is the use of another language, many opportunities exist for the use of additional language skills in other career areas. Medicine, health services, law, business, libraries, museums, social service, and public service illustrate some of the professions in which competency in one or more additional languages opens up specialized career opportunities.

Complementary Majors and Minors 

Some common combinations are: Anthropology (Cultural), Africana Studies, Art History, Asian Studies, Classical Studies, Communication Studies (Organizational Communication or Public Relations),Criminal Justice, Economics, English, English as a Second Language, Human Resource Development, Health Sciences, History, Historical Archeology, Hospitality and Tourism Management, Human Science, International Affairs, International Business, International Humanities, Justice Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Management, Middle Eastern Communities and Migrations, Philosophy and Religion, Political Science, Psychology, Public Policy and Administration, Russian Studies, Secondary Education, Social Work, Theatre and Dance, Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication, World Literature, and Women's Studies.

Characteristics of Successful Students

Naturally, success in our program comes more easily to those students with a keen interest in learning another language and learning about another culture.


Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.

  • Airport Customer Service Agent
  • Benefits Coordinator
  • Border Patrol Agent
  • Broadcaster
  • Community Services Director
  • Consultant
  • Court Interpreter
  • Cultural Affairs Director
  • Customs Agent
  • Editorial Assistant
  • Entertainment Coordinator
  • ESL Teacher
  • Export Purchasing Agent
  • Flight Attendant
  • Foreign Film Dubber
  • Foreign Language Educator
  • Foreign News Correspondent
  • Foreign Service Officer
  • Foreign Student Advisor
  • Guest Services Manager
  • Human Resource Assistant
  • Immigration Officer
  • Import/Export Specialist
  • Intelligence Officer- FBI/CIA/NSA
  • International Communications Specialist
  • International Conference Planner
  • Interpreter/ Technical Translator
  • Journalist
  • Linguist
  • Lobbyist
  • Marketing Assistant
  • Museum Assistant
  • Peace Corps Worker
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Research Assistant
  • Sales and Marketing Coordinator
  • Social Worker
  • Special Events Coordinator
  • Studies Abroad Coordinator
  • Technical Writer
  • Tour/ Travel Guide
  • Tourism Director
  • Travel Agent

Who Employs Graduates?

Airports / Airlines, Colleges / Universities, Convention Centers, Courts, Cruise Lines, Customs Services - Gov, Department of State – Gov, Film Companies, Financial Institutions, Immigration and Naturalization Service – Gov, Import / Export Companies, Intelligences Agencies - Gov, International Services Organizations, Foreign News Agencies, Museums, Overseas Aid Agencies, Public / Private Schools, Public Relations Firms, Publishers, Radio Stations, Religious Service Organizations, Resorts, Travel Agencies, TV Networks, Tour and Excursion Companies, Tourism Agencies, and “Voice of America”. 

Internships and Experiential Opportunities 

There is no formal internship or practicum program offered through the Department of Foreign Language, Literatures, and Cultures. However, there are several informal ways to gain experience and/or exposure to this field. JMU sponsors the Studies Abroad Program, which allows eligible students to study a semester abroad in Italy or Spain. You will find a number of foreign language clubs on campus (Cercle Francophone, Deutschverein, Hispanic Studies Club, Italian Cultural Society, Russian Club), designed to take the experience of foreign cultures out of the classroom and into your life. Spanish students of Professional Minors gain experience through practicum in various local offices, clinics and the hospital.

View our list of internship coordinators for each major.

Career Profiles 

Interpreters and Translators
Translators and Interpreters
A Day in the Life of a Diplomat

Additional Resources to Research Careers
  • Handshake: view new internships and jobs that employers are looking to hire JMU students from your major 
  • Career Outcomes: see where alumni worked or studied right after graduating.
  • GoinGlobal: learn more about employment opportunities overseas as well as H1B visa information for international Dukes pursuing jobs in the U.S.
  • O*NET: browse occupational profiles to learn about thousands of different careers, pulling data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 
  • CareerOneStop: explore thousands of different careers by looking at career profiles 
  • Utilize the LinkedIn Alumni tool to see what others have done with their majors and what their career paths look like. Reach out to alumni via LinkedIn and conduct an informational interview.

© University Career Center, James Madison University

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from the JMU University Career Center. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to career@jmu.edu

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