Foreign Language Requirements

English M.A. and Ph.D. students must fulfill a foreign language requirement to demonstrate their ability to use the language in research. The Coordinator of Graduate Studies for the department has the responsibility of administering this requirement.

About the Requirement

You may fulfill the requirement by demonstrating reading competence in any language other than English relevant to your research.

M.A. candidates must fulfill the language requirement before taking the M.A. exam. If you enter the department with an M.A. degree already in hand you must pass the foreign language requirement before you take the comprehensive examination.

Acceptable Languages

Greek, Latin, French, German, Spanish, Russian, and Italian automatically qualify as acceptable languages for the requirement. If you wish to fulfill the requirement in another language you should consult with the Coordinator of Graduate Studies well before you expect to complete the requirement. In practice, you may elect any language in which a) a suitable examiner can be found or b) appropriate courses are offered at the university.

Fulfilling the Requirement

You may satisfy the foreign language requirement by:

  • Receiving a grade of Pass on the departmental translation test
  • Earning an "A" in either a senior-level or graduate literature course in the language
  • Earning an "A" in one of several graduate-level translation courses offered every Spring

Translation Test

The foreign language requirement may be fulfilled through a translation test (this by far the most common way of fulfilling it). The following guidelines govern the test:

  • The exam will be a two-and-a-half hour translation test (from the foreign language into English). You will be given a passage of scholarly writing and a passage of literary writing (350-500 words each) in the foreign language and asked to choose one of them to translate. You may use a dictionary and verb book.
  • The grader will not know the name or the level (M.A. or Ph.D.) of the candidate.
  • The grade of PASS satisfies the language requirement for both M.A. and Ph.D. students.
  • To assist you in preparing for the departmental exam, the Coordinator of Graduate Students maintains files of sample passages in the languages for which the department itself administers and grades the exam (French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Latin). The actual exam passages need not be selected from the works from which the sample passages come; the purpose of the samples is to suggest the kinds of materials on which your can expect to be tested, and the level of difficulty.
  • If you fail the exam, you should consult with your Program Director to see how you can satisfy the foreign language requirement, either by retaking the exam or in some other way, such as through course work.
  • You are limited to two attempts for the departmental exam. If you fail the exam a second time you must register for a graduate translation/reading course in order to fulfill the requirement.

The following criteria will be used in grading the exam:

  • FAIL: The translation shows a general misunderstanding of the basic events of the passage or is repeatedly inaccurate. Verb tenses and idioms are repeatedly mistranslated. The translation is overly literal, displaying no sense of the nuances of the original. The translation is incomplete.
  • PASS: The translation is complete and accurately conveys the sense of the passage, without distortions (although minor lapses are permitted). Basic verb tenses and idioms are translated correctly. The translation is not overly literal and is written in fluent, idiomatic English.