That pesky language requirement

The five-week stretch from releasing admission decisions in March to April 20, when admitted students make their enrollment decisions, is marked by several recurring themes.  One that is turning up a lot in my inbox is Fletcher’s language requirement.

As I hope all native-English-speaking prospective Fletcher students understand, we require all of our students to pass a language proficiency exam in order to graduate.  For non-native speakers, English is their second language.  For everyone else, a two-part test awaits.  The first part is a reading exam — essentially a translation exercise.  And the second part is an oral exam — essentially a conversation with a language instructor.  If you are comfortable reading and writing in your language of choice, you’re probably going to have no problem with this requirement.  The proficiency level required is short of fluency, and no one is trying to put a roadblock in your way.

On the other hand, if you know that you’re not truly proficient, you should develop a plan for passing the exam.  (And, in some cases, we have made that a condition of your admission.)

Within a few weeks of the start of classes, the School administers the reading exam in a bunch of different languages.  The exam is routinely offered in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, and Urdu.  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.

The oral exam is self-scheduled, and my sense is that almost everyone schedules them for after the reading exam.  We don’t have a preference, though.  If you want to schedule it for the first week of classes, you can do that.

There’s quite a bit of information on the language requirement on this page.  (Scroll down to language requirement, and then when you’ve opened the page, scroll down again to find sample reading exams.)  You’ll see that the reading exams for most languages are an hour in length, but others last longer, and there are also differing required proficiency levels.  If you’re planning to enroll at Fletcher for September, I hope you’ll spend a few minutes reviewing the requirement.  Then think about whether you need a refresher in your chosen language.  If you use the language with ease, the exam will merely be a half-morning’s exercise.  A graduation requirement that you can check off during your first month at Fletcher!  That’s what we want — for everyone to sail right through the exam.

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