Like many of our peers, Fletcher has a second language proficiency requirement for our degree programs. If you are a native English speaker, you will be asked to demonstrate proficiency in a second language as a graduation requirement. If you are a non-native English speaker, educated in your native language, then your second language is English, and you don’t need to think about this any further. For those who do need to think further, here’s a rundown of the language proficiency exam.
Within a few weeks of the start of classes, the School administers reading exams in a bunch of different languages. The exam is routinely offered in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swahili. Additional exams are offered when a student wants to demonstrate proficiency in a less-commonly selected language.
I’ve looked at the exams in French, Spanish, Italian, and Mandarin, and my reaction is that the level of the piece to be translated is appropriate. That is, anyone would think that if you can’t translate something of that complexity, you can’t really call yourself proficient. There’s no intention to trick you with arcane vocabulary, but the passage to be translated won’t be simplistic, either.
Following the reading exam, there’s an oral exam, which is a conversation with a tester. They’re usually instructors from the University’s languages department, but arrangements can be made with testers based elsewhere, as required to ensure students’ needs are met.
A lively debate took place recently on the “Social List” (student elist) about the exam. While I’m sure they didn’t intend to, the students laid out the challenge that we face in Admissions — that it’s very difficult to compare the apples and oranges of language study applicants present. What results in a higher proficiency level, three years of university study, or one year living in a country? Ultimately, the answer will depend on each individual, and the fair way of determining proficiency is to test for it.
Sometimes we’re asked whether students can be admitted if they are not proficient in any modern language other than English. Ummmmm. Well, generally, no. If you have no exposure to a second language, you’re facing too great a challenge to overcome in two years when language study isn’t your focus, and we just can’t admit people who will never graduate. On the other hand, if you have a reasonable grounding in a second language, and could brush up your skills with an intensive summer program, then we’ll make your admission conditional.
One last point. It’s December, and our current crop of applicants won’t start their studies until September. Do you need to brush up on your second language? Why wait until April? Start now, and tell us your plan. Don’t waste the next nine months, when you could instead turn the language exam into a breeze by firming up your proficiency.
There’s good information about the language exam on the web site, including the different levels of proficiency.
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