Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales

Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (Inalco) (English: National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations, also known as the University of Languages and Civilizations[1]) is a French research institution teaching languages that span Central Europe, Africa, Asia, America, and Oceania. It is also informally called Langues O’ ([lɑ̃ɡ.z‿o]), an abbreviation for langues orientales).

MottoReach out the world
FounderJean-Baptiste Colbert
PresidentManuelle Franck
Academic staff


  • 1669 Jean-Baptiste Colbert founds the École des jeunes de langues language school
  • 1795 The École spéciale des langues orientales (Special School for Oriental Languages) is established
  • 1873 The two schools merge
  • 1914 The school is renamed the École nationale des langues orientales vivantes (ENLOV)
  • 1971 The school is renamed the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales or Inalco (National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations)
  • 1982 Études Océan Indien (Indian Ocean Studies) journal begins publication; ISSN 0246-0092
  • 1985 Inalco is recognized as a grand établissement
  • 2010 Inalco becomes a founding member of Sorbonne Paris Cité
  • 2011 Inalco centralizes all of its taught courses under one roof at 65 rue des Grands Moulins in Paris[2]

Teaching and research


The undergraduate, graduate and continuing education courses offered at Inalco allow students to gain

  • mastery of a language and a thorough knowledge of the corresponding civilization over a degree program;
  • specific expertise to complement other qualifications.

These courses lead to career paths in international business, international relations, communication and intercultural training, language teaching and multilingual computing.

  • Bachelor's degrees: courses by language and region that can include a professional specialization.
  • Master's degrees: regional programs targeting a research discipline or professional direction.
  • Doctorate: PhD research at Inalco's Doctoral School.
  • Diplomas: certificates, introductory diplomas, language and civilization diplomas, professional master's degrees.

Success and failure

Compared to other French universities, many programs at INALCO show high failure rates, i.e. high proportions of students failing the course in their end-of-year exam. This is particularly true among students specializing in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Russian and Arabic, historically the largest departments of INALCO.

As an example, here is a table with approximate student numbers, indicating rates of success and failure in the first, second and third year of the Department of Japanese Studies.

LevelTotal numberSuccessful studentsFailure rates
First year65025066.7%
Second year30012060.0%
Third year15011026.7%

An explanation sometimes given is the difficulty of these courses, or the high level required by INALCO. A more likely cause is the absence of any entrance examination: any student can register in any course, regardless of their true motivation or academic level. Many students select a language out of a superficial interest in a country or culture, or due to individual connections, yet without the commitment to thoroughly learning those difficult languages. This issue is particularly acute for first and second year students; those who reach the third year are much more motivated, and thus show much higher rates of success.


Research at Inalco combines area studies and academic fields. Researchers study languages and civilizations that are increasingly in the spotlight — Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and as far as the Arctic — and are central to the major issues of the 21st century. Fourteen research teams, often partnered with other research organizations, PhD programs, and a publishing service form the backbone of research at Inalco. Inalco also has a project management and knowledge transfer service.

The research teams, administration offices and doctoral school are housed in a building dedicated entirely to research, with access to a full range of support functions: assistance in preparing research proposals and grant applications, organizing scientific events, looking for partnerships and funding, publication support, internal funding, and communication.

  • 270 faculty members
  • 300 PhD students
  • 14 research teams
  • 100 scientific events per year

Presidents (from 1914 to 1969, Administrators)

1796–1824Louis-Mathieu LanglèsPersian languageDied in 1824
1824–1838Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de SacyArabicDied in 1838
1838–1847Pierre Amédée JaubertTurkish languagemilitary interpreter during the Egyptian campaign 1798
1847–1864Carl Benedict Hasemodern GreekDied in 1864
1864–1867Joseph Toussaint ReinaudArabicDied in 1867
1867–1898Charles ScheferPersianDied in 1898
1898–1908Charles Barbier de MeynardTurkish, PersianDied in 1908
1908–1936Paul BoyerRussian languageDied in 1949
1936–1937Mario RoquesRomanian languageDied in 1961
1937–1948Jean DenyTurkishDied in 1963
1948–1958Henri MasséPersianDied in 1969
1958–1969André Mirambelmodern GreekDied in 1970
1969–1971André GuimbretièreHindiDied in 2014
1971–1976René SieffertJapanese languageDied in 2004
1976–1986Henri Martin de La Bastide d’HustMiddle East civilisationDied in 1986
1986–1993François Champagne de LabriolleRussianVice-president from 1971 to 1986
1993–2001André BourgeyMiddle East civilisation
2001–2005Gilles DeloucheThai language (Siamese)Died in 2020
2005–2013Jacques LegrandMongolian language
2013-2019Manuelle FranckGeography of Southeast AsiaVice-president from 2007 to 2013
Since 2019Jean-François HuchetEconomy of Eastern AsiaVice-president from 2013 to 2019


Inalco conducts research projects in over one hundred countries and offers joint programs with foreign universities. This allows Inalco students and the students of international partners to complement their studies with an immersion experience. Inalco offers distance courses via videoconferencing and online learning content: Inuktitut (Inuit language), Estonian, and soon Swahili (African language).

Inalco is an active member of Sorbonne Paris Cité, with 120,000 students, 8,500 faculty members, and 6,000 technical and administrative staff. Branches have been opened in Singapore, Buenos Aires and São Paulo.

The foundation strives to develop the preservation, study, transmission, development and interaction of languages and cultures in France and around the world with projects involving the Institute's expertise: education, research, advancing knowledge and skills in a globalized world.

More than 120 nationalities are represented by Inalco faculty and students. The Institute, along with its teachers, students and partners, organizes over a hundred cultural events a year. Inalco also participates in several international film festivals and makes every effort to share its knowledge and expertise with society.

Notable professors and alumni


  1. "welcome to Inalco website". Inalco. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  2. See map.

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