Languages & Past Exams

Graduate students are expected to demonstrate an acceptable level of reading ability in languages other than English. Language requirements are determined by the fields of research:

Language Requirements by Field

AFRICA
One European language (preferably French); Arabic or another African language

ANCIENT
Ancient Greek; French; German; Latin

BRITISH
French or German; one other European language

BYZANTINE
Byzantine Greek; French; German; Latin

EARLY MODERN EUROPE
At least two European languages (modern and/or ancient), to be chosen in consultation with the graduate advisor

EAST ASIA
Two East Asian languages. Or, one East Asian language and one of the following: German, French, Russian.

INTERNATIONAL
Two major international languages (e.g., Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Russian) that are related to proposed dissertation research and approved by the advisor

LATIN AMERICA
Spanish and Portuguese; and a third language if the dissertation supervisor determines it is necessary

WESTERN MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE HISTORY
French, German, Latin

MIDDLE EAST
French; German; one Middle Eastern language

MODERN HISTORY OF WESTERN AND CENTRAL EUROPE
French or Russian; German

MODERN HISTORY OF EASTERN EUROPE
French or German; two approved languages pertinent to the area studied

MODERN RUSSIAN HISTORY
Russian; French or German

MEDIEVAL RUSSIAN HISTORY
Russian; Old Church Slavonic; French or German

SOUTH ASIA
Two South Asian languages. Or, one South Asian and one non-South Asian language (e.g., French, German, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic)

UNITED STATES
Two foreign languages at a Satisfactory level. Or, one at a Proficient level.

INTELLECTUAL HISTORY OF EUROPE AND THE UNITED STATES
French; German

Testing and Exceptions

Testing

To test proficiency, the department offers reading exams twice a year, in September and again in January. All first-year students are required to take at least one exam in the week before classes begin in September. Exams are usually given in the following languages: Ancient Greek, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. To schedule an exam in another language, please contact the graduate coordinator before August 15 for a August exam, and before December 15 for a January exam.

Exceptions for African or Asian Language Skills

Students who study African or Asian history may have an advisor attest that they have the language skills necessary to conduct research in some languages required by their field of research, e.g., Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Japanese, Swahili, Tamil, Urdu, Vietnamese, Zulu. However, students studying African or Asian history must demonstrate proficiency in their required European language by taking a department reading exam. For more information please write the graduate coordinator.

Courses to Aid in Language Proficiency

Students who do not satisfy the language requirement before the beginning of the fall semester, or need further preparation in a second or third language, are encouraged to take courses designed to help with written language skills. Language requirements must be fulfilled before students can take the general exam. Past language exams may be found here.

Grading

Possible grades for language exams are Proficient, Satisfactory, and Fail. A plus or minus may be attached to grades of Proficient and Satisfactory. The definitions of Proficient and Satisfactory used in evaluating language exams are as follows:

Proficient: a smooth and accurate rendering of the passage into English that reflects a nuanced understanding of the text, with few if any errors.

Satisfactory: an acceptable translation that reflects a good understanding of the passage, free of major errors or significant omissions.