Language Requirements

Language Requirements and Language Examinations

Language requirements must be fulfilled before a student is admitted to candidacy. While no M.A. degree require language examinations, students will often have to learn one or more foreign languages in their field of study to successfully complete their research. They will also need to learn these languages if they wish to continue on towards a Ph.D. When applying for either program, preference will be given to students with prior experience with languages in their fields of study.

Language requirements differ across the varying fields within History:

United States:

No foreign language requirements for the Ph.D.  If student’s dissertation topic requires research in foreign language materials, the advisor will decide if the student needs to show proficiency by taking an examination in the language in question.

Latin America

Spanish and Portuguese. For admission, applicants will be evaluated on their language abilities, and preference will be given to applicants with strong command of Spanish and/or Portuguese. All Ph.D. students must show proficiency by examination in both languages by the time they are admitted to candidacy. Exceptions to one of those languages (typically Portuguese) if the student’s dissertation requires use of indigenous languages or documents produced by ethnic minorities. In such cases students must be proficient in those languages.

Global Interaction and Exchange

One language (in addition to English). Depending on the field, the adviser may determine that the student needs to show proficiency in an additional language.

Middle East

For admission, students must have proficiency at the advanced intermediate level in at least one major Middle Eastern language (Arabic, Persian, or Turkish). All Ph.D. students must acquire advanced proficiency in their chosen language either by course work or exam by the time they are admitted to candidacy. In addition, students must demonstrate proficiency in one European language by the time of their comprehensive exams.

Ancient Mediterranean

For admission, students should present knowledge of classical Greek and Latin at the intermediate level and reading knowledge of either French or German. Knowledge of classical Greek, Latin, French, and German is required for the Ph.D. Other language skills, eg. Italian, Spanish, Modern Greek, or Hebrew, may prove to be necessary for dissertation research, but are not formal program requirements. Students satisfy the requirement in Latin and Greek in one of two ways: either by completing three upper level or graduate courses (400-600 level) in each language and obtaining at least a B in all courses, and an A- or better in at least two of the courses; or by passing a departmental sight translation exam. This exam consists of translating (with the help of a dictionary) three passages of three sentences each (roughly one-fourth to one-third OCT page) selected from prose authors of average difficulty. Students show proficiency in French and German through the regular departmental language exams.

Medieval Europe

For admission, proficiency in either Latin, French, or German, and familiarity with a second of those languages. All Ph.D. students must demonstrate proficiency in Latin, French, and German. They can satisfy the Latin requirement in one of two ways: either by taking three upper level or graduate courses (400-600 level) and obtaining at least a B in all courses and an A- or better in at least two of the courses; or by passing a departmental sight translation exam. This exam consists of translating (with the help of a dictionary) three passages of three sentences each (roughly one fourth to one-third OCT page) selected from medieval prose authors of average difficulty. Students show proficiency in French and German through the regular departmental language exams. Depending on field, students may have to know an additional national/regional language like Spanish or Italian.

Early Modern Europe

For admission, proficiency in one foreign language related to field. All Ph.D. students must demonstrate proficiency in two foreign languages.  Depending on field, students may also have to know Latin.

Modern Europe

For admission: students must know the language of the country or region in which they are interested. All Ph.D. students must demonstrate proficiency in the language of the country/region in which they are interested plus another European language.

Russia/Soviet Union

For admission, 3 years of Russian or the equivalent. All Ph.D. students must demonstrate proficiency in Russian plus either French or German. Depending on area of interest, the adviser may require an additional language.

Jewish

For admission, advanced intermediate level proficiency in modern Hebrew. All Ph.D. students must demonstrate proficiency in modern Hebrew and one other language necessary for their fields. The advisor may require other languages as necessary.

Chinese History
For admission, students must have had at least two years of university-level Chinese language courses. All Ph.D. students must acquire advanced proficiency in Chinese since they will be using Chinese documents for their dissertations.  Before admission to candidacy students must pass a Chinese language exam in which they will translate about 30 lines of modern, scholarly Chinese into English. As with all departmental language exams, students will be able to use a dictionary, and they will have four hours to complete the translation.
 
Language Examinations
 
Except as specified for Latin and ancient Greek, the typical language proficiency examination includes summary and translation of a passage from a work of modern scholarship in the student’s field. The Director of Graduate Studies appoints a faculty member, typically the student’s advisor, to coordinate the exam and select an excerpt from a published work of historical scholarship in the student’s field. Students write a 200-300 word summary of this five-to-seven page excerpt from the scholarly literature in their fields, and then they do a direct translation of an indicated 30-line passage within that excerpt. The direct translation must be accurate and rendered in idiomatic English. Students have four hours to complete the exam, and they may use a language dictionary that they themselves provide.
 
Language exams are given every October and April at the same time as the M.A. and Ph.D. Comprehensive Examinations. Language exams are read by two members of the faculty: typically the student’s advisor, who chooses the passage and serves as chair of the exam committee, and one other member of the faculty chosen by the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the advisor. Faculty from outside the Department who have the necessary expertise are eligible to serve as evaluators. The two possible grades are pass and fail. If the two readers do not agree, the Director of Graduate Studies will appoint a third faculty member to read the exam. Students who do not pass on the first attempt may retake the examination without prior approval. After a second failure, the student must petition for re-examination. The chair of the language exam committee will notify the Director of Graduate Studies about the results of the exam within one week after the exam, and the Director of Graduate Studies will notify the student in writing about the results, which will then be inserted into the student’s records.