Grad School Language Requirement Proficiency? What is involved in demonstrating proficiency?
August 29, 2006 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Grad School Foreign Language Requirements: What demonstrates proficiency at the grad school level? Are there media studies, cultural studies, critical film studies, or similar masters programs without them?

(question asked for a friend)

More details:

My friend had enough years of High School French to 'place' out of the language requirement for our college, so he doesn't have any language classes on his transcript. He is, however, much better than me at the mechanics of the language and I completed through the 202-level college courses.

Location should be limited to American and Canadian post-graduate programs (Masters) relating to cultural studies. He hasn't narrowed down a field of interest, but has a BA in American Studies and is interested in masters programs that would be accessable with that background.

So what does "proficiency" mean for his situation? And are there programs that don't require foreign language proficiency?
posted by cowbellemoo to Education (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can only answer for history, where proficiency means the ability to conduct research in documents in a foreign language. This is demonstrated by translating, with a dictionary, X words in Y minutes. Speaking ability is not part of the test, just reading comprehension.
posted by LarryC at 11:57 AM on August 29, 2006

At my anthropology MA program (University of [US State]), the language requirement was only for PhD students. It was a written translation of a written, non-fiction piece, usually in one's field if possible, with a time limit (three hours? I can't recall.) The trick was learning which language professor was going to be doing your test for you - some of them let you have dictionaries, some didn't. Some schools have a verbal component to living languages.

You may very well find an MA program without language requirements, but not a PhD program. I think for historical fields, you don't need to speak it, but if you're going to be dealing with living people, you need to be able to hold a conversation in it.
posted by cobaltnine at 11:59 AM on August 29, 2006

You may find that the requirements at many of the schools your friend is looking at are in name only. I'm starting in literature at a very cultural-studies-friendly program and the language requirement is essentially on the honor system.

(It's expected that you will have competence, especially reading competence, in two foreign languages, particularly if you're doing extensive work in the literature or theory of that langauge -- but there isn't any competency test.)

In any event, it sounds like your friend exceeds the basic requirement for French, though if he wants to do work with French documents or French speakers he'll probably need to brush up on it during the school year or during the summers.
posted by BackwardsCity at 12:08 PM on August 29, 2006

CLEP exams?
posted by blue_beetle at 12:09 PM on August 29, 2006

I'd venture a guess that they want a few years of college language taken.
posted by k8t at 12:34 PM on August 29, 2006

I did an M.A. in American Studies (University of Iowa) that had no foreign language proficiency requirement. A number of related communications/cultural studies programs I applied to also didn't have a foreign language requirement, or if they did they were merely to show that I'd taken classes in a language -- there was no requirement to demonstrate proficiency. Programs that are heavier on critical theory might want to see that you can read/research in French.
posted by scody at 12:38 PM on August 29, 2006

At my university, you take a three week intensive seminar on the language, then take a translation exam a couple paragraphs long. Open dictionary, decent amount of time. It's really not that bad. Your friend sounds like he would do fine here, at least.
posted by sixacross at 2:26 PM on August 29, 2006

My friend says to tell you thanks!

posted by cowbellemoo at 6:10 AM on August 30, 2006

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