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Languages/Proficiency FAQ


“Intensive Spanish was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in my life—for a whole year, I had Spanish classes, Spanish activities—I even dreamed in Spanish. In eight months, I went from knowing two words to being able to communicate with Spanish-speaking people I’d known my whole life but never gotten to know…”

—Maggie Mitchell, RC ’06


Why foreign language anyway?

Learning a foreign language is an unparalleled way to open up the world. By learning to speak another language, realms of culture and experience become more relevant and meaningful. Learning a foreign language allows you to change perspectives, allowing you re-examine life as an outsider. Foreign language opens doors in business. It allows you to travel more extensively and more freely. It impresses other people. It’s fun.

What is the RC language requirement?

All LS&A students are required to take the equivalent of two years foreign language [Note: Students may place out of levels of the language based on prior experience.] RC students may elect from five RC languages: Spanish, French, German, Russian, and Japanese OR they may choose any language offered in the LS&A as long it is NOT one of the six offered in the RC.For students in RC language, once they have reached the equivalent of two years of foreign language, they then must take a proficiency examination in their language to verify their skill level. Afterwards, all RC students, regardless of their language ability (including native speakers), must enroll in a language readings course, which takes the form of a literature seminar.So, in sum: to fulfill the RC requirement, students must meet the equivalent of two years foreign language (same as the LS&A requirement) and then complete an upper-level course in that language (an additional RC-specific requirement).

What is proficiency?

Proficiency is a measure of a student’s ability—proficiency is an indicator of a real language ability—not fluency per se, but sufficient that a student would be confident to travel in the country independently. The proficiency examination takes place after a student has finished their Intensive II course. It’s a multi-part exam, testing grammar, vocabulary, reading and writing, and impromptu speaking.

What is the immersion principle?

The immersion principle is essentially the idea to expose students—both passively and actively—to as much of the language as possible. The language of instruction is the language being taught. All RC Intensive Language courses meet twice a day and are team-taught, exposing students to a variety of accents and styles. This means you’ll hear nothing but Spanish, French, Japanese, Russian, or German from day one on. Don’t worry—explanations take place in English and faculty are happy to translate for you.

Am I allowed to take a language outside of the RC?

If a student isn’t interested in studying one of the five RC languages but wants to be in the RC, he or she may, of course, take the equivalent of an RC language requirement in his or her desired language—4 semesters and a readings course. Proficiency exams are not required for languages not offered in the RC.

PLEASE NOTE: RC students wishing to study French, German, Japanese, Russian or Spanish MUST enroll in RC intensive courses.