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Languages/Proficiency FAQ

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

—Maggie Mitchell, RC ’06


Why study a foreign language?

Learning a foreign language is an unparalleled way to open the world. It offers a unique opportunity for personal growth and intellectual challenge. Studying another language broadens your perspective and appreciation for cultural differences. You recognize how you are shaped by your own culture and language, and that these are just one of many ways to be. On a more practical level: foreign languages open doors to business, diplomacy, and scholarship, not to mention travel and personal connections abroad. Being proficient in another language impresses other people and stands out on your transcript. Above all, it can be transformative and fun.

What is the RC language requirement?

All LS&A students are required to take the equivalent of two years of 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 five offered in the RC. RC languages are offered in a fast-track, intensive format that allows students to learn quickly and efficiently. After one or two semesters of study, students measure their language skills through a formal proficiency examination in their language and enroll in an advanced readings seminar on a range of literary, cultural, or sociological topics. In sum, RC students meet the equivalent of two years of foreign language (same as the LS&A requirement) and then complete an upper-level course in that language (an additional RC-specific requirement), which can be applied to RC and specific LSA concentrations as a 300-level elective. Students can also choose to take more seminars for credit.

What is proficiency?

Proficiency is a measure of a student’s ability in a second language —not fluency per se. The measurement of RC language proficiency allows a student to communicate confidently, and study and travel independently. The proficiency examination takes place after a student has finished their Intensive II or Accelerated Review course. It’s a multi-part exam, testing grammar, vocabulary, reading and writing, listening comprehension, and impromptu speaking.

What is the immersion principle?

The semi-immersion principle in RC language instruction is based on the notion that learning takes place both inside and outside of the classroom, exposing students to language in formal and informal contexts of interaction with peers and faculty. All RC Intensive Language courses meet twice a day and most are team-taught, exposing students to a variety of accents and styles. Students also have the opportunity to participate in daily lunch tables and weekly coffee hours, occasional field trips, and sessions to work individually with tutors and faculty. Best of all, students live with their peers in East Quad and they often study and practice together, strengthening a sense of community, making friends, and learning from each other at the same time.

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

RC students are encouraged to select an RC language for the unique learning and socializing experience of learning languages in the RC! However, if a student isn’t interested in studying one of the five RC languages but wants to be in the RC, they may choose to take the equivalent of an RC language requirement in their desired language—4 semesters and one extra course.


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