Foreign Language Study

Fletcher actively seeks to enroll a diverse class of students who have demonstrated academic excellence, have a wide range of personal, professional, and academic experience, and have a strong commitment to an international career. We seek students who, by virtue of their background, achievement, and experience, can contribute to the education of their peers and to the scholarship and practice of international relations.

We recognize the vital importance of foreign language skills to a great number of career paths onto which Fletcher graduates embark. Many students arrive at Fletcher with existing language expertise, and students looking to improve or maintain their language skills do make time for this outside of their course load and other activities. However, students should understand that there is, unfortunately, little time within the Fletcher curriculum to acquire and/or master a new foreign language. For that reason, we encourage students who are serious about learning a new language to pursue intensive study prior to matriculation and then take advantage of the opportunities provided by our cross-registration agreement with Tufts and Harvard to build on their existing foreign language proficiency.

Auditing Language Courses:

All Fletcher students are eligible to audit one language course at Tufts per term, with the permission of the language instructor, in addition to their normal load of four courses. Audited language courses do not appear on the student’s transcript and a grade of Certified Audit (CA) is not available for these audited courses. Students may not audit a Harvard course. 

Language Study for Course Credit:

During the academic year, Fletcher students in residential degree programs who wish to pursue foreign language learning may enroll in language courses at Tufts University or Harvard University through cross-registration. Students may enroll in up to one foreign language course for credit towards their degree requirements. Permission to cross-register is at the discretion of the course instructor and the registration deadlines for both schools must be met. Enrollment for credit in a language learning course counts towards the student’s semester course load and is subject to all course load and cross-registration policies. Students in two-year programs who believe they may benefit from a second foreign language course for credit may petition the Committee on Student Academic Programs (CSAP) when language study is appropriate for the student’s academic program and professional goals.

In order to be eligible to receive credit for language study, the following criteria must be met:

  1. Foreign language instruction should be appropriate for both the student’s Fletcher academic experience and their professional career objectives.
  2. Foreign language credit will be given for a maximum of two courses.
  3. Language study encourages a multi-cultural approach to language learning.
  4. The enrollment in a foreign language course does not hinder the student’s progress towards other degree requirements.


Fletcher students have the option to demonstrate foreign language proficiency by taking reading and oral exams in their choice of language. Students who successfully complete this option will have their passing results noted on their Fletcher transcript.

Reading Comprehension Exams are offered once per semester as listed on the Academic Calendar. The language exam guidelines reflect a consensus that the Fletcher foreign language reading exam should test students’ abilities to read, comprehend, and restate in written English, primary materials on contemporary topics involving global affairs. Students receive a passage from a foreign journal, newspaper, or scholarly work on a current topic in international affairs. The passage is approximately 300 words in length for students seeking limited or general proficiency and approximately 500 words in length for students seeking advanced proficiency. Students must restate the foreign text into English, but their work will not be judged on the basis of exact translation, specialized vocabulary, or elegance of English expression. However, the meaning of the passage must be accurately and coherently conveyed. Bilingual dictionaries may be used for all language exams at the limited, general, and advanced proficiency levels. Dictionary usage is not allowed for exams targeting the functionally native proficiency level. Sample exam texts are available for review and practice.

Oral Exams are offered regularly throughout the academic year by designated faculty members from the language departments at Tufts University. The oral exam is a 20-30 minute dialogue between the student and the examiner. The Fletcher Registrar’s Office maintains a list of approved oral examiners with their contact information and students are responsible for scheduling their own oral exams.

Levels of Proficiency:

For purposes of establishing consistent standards of language proficiency, The Fletcher School employs the definitions of reading and speaking proficiency employed by the “Interagency Language Roundtable” (ILR), a U.S. federal organization. The following levels of language proficiency are provided for context. A more detailed description of these proficiency levels can be found by visiting

1. Limited Working (ILR Level 2)

Speaking: Able to satisfy routine social demands and limited work requirements. Can handle routine work-related interactions that are limited in scope.

Reading: Sufficient comprehension to read simple, authentic written material in a form equivalent to usual printing or typescript on subjects within a familiar context.

2. General Professional (ILR Level 3)

Speaking: Able to speak the language with sufficient structural accuracy and vocabulary to participate effectively in most formal and informal conversations on practical, social, and professional topics.

Reading: Able to read within a normal range of speed and with almost complete comprehension on a variety of authentic prose material on unfamiliar subjects.

3. Advanced Professional (ILR Level 4)

Speaking: Able to use the language fluently and accurately on all levels normally pertinent to professional needs.

Reading: Able to read fluently and accurately all styles and forms of the language pertinent to professional needs.

4. Functionally Native (ILR Level 5)

Speaking: Speaking proficiency is functionally equivalent to that of a highly articulate well-educated native speaker and reflects the cultural standards of the country where the language is natively spoken.

Reading: Reading proficiency is functionally equivalent to that of the well-educated native reader.