Language Exams and Courses

1. Overview: The Foreign Language Exam, a requirement in the MA program, tests reading ability in a foreign language of your choice.  A pass/fail exam, it measures proficiency at a level sufficient to conduct scholarly research.  The exam can be taken a maximum of three times.

2. Format: The exam is comprised of a short original text by a major political scholar (such as Alexis de Tocqueville in French, Niccolò Machiavelli in Italian, Max Weber in German, and Guillermo O’Donnell in Spanish) or a recent news article from reputable newspaper.  For the exam, you translate that text into English.  The exam period is two hours, but typically not all of that time is needed.  Dictionaries are not allowed in the exam.  Here are some sample exams:

3. Exemption: Since the exam’s rationale is to ensure that each MA student can conduct future research in at least two languages, exemption from the exam is given if one of two requirements have been met: if English is your second language or if you have received a B or better in an intermediate class in that language.  To receive the exemption, please provide the Graduate chair with supporting transcripts.

4. Registration and Dates  To register for the exam, simply e-mail your Graduate Chair by the stated deadline in the college bulletin, indicating your chosen language.  Fall deadlines are in September and the exam is in December; spring deadlines are in February and the exam in April.  If you are not able to take the exam on the stated days, inform the Chair and an alternative time will be arranged.

5. Language Course and Preparation: There are opportunities on campus for students to strengthen their language skills.

a. CUNY Graduate Center Language Reading Program: The Program’s mission is to teach students to read texts in languages other than English, and to translate them into idiomatic English, so students can meet their graduate program requirements and achieve their goals for personal or professional development.  Level I courses assume no knowledge of the language.  Grammar, syntax, idioms, and core vocabulary (determiners, prepositions, etc) are covered intensively in order to proceed rapidly to the translation of scholarly texts.  By the end of Level I, students who succeed are able to translate scholarly texts with the aid of a dictionary, with some difficulty.  The final examination is a text personalized to each student’s field of interest.  Level I prepares students to begin to attempt literary or scholarly translations by providing the essential building blocks, but more extensive work for ease of translation or reading fluency occurs in Level II.  Level II classes assume that Level I has been completed successfully.  The work in Level II courses is translating scholarly articles in the disciplines of the students in the class; grammar and are other basics are briefly reviewed as needed. Students are encouraged to develop glossaries in their fields and to build their lexical vocabularies.  By the end of Level II, students are able to swiftly and accurate translate scholarly texts in their fields with the aid of a dictionary.  Most students require Level I and Level II to become competent. There is no emphasis on conversation or on producing the subject language in speech or writing.  In Fall, we generally offer French Level I and II; German Level I & II, Italian I and Spanish I.   There are 24 2-hour sessions.  In Spring, we generally offer French Level I and II; German Level I & II,  Spanish Level I, and Latin Level I. There are 24 2-hour sessions.  In Summer, we generally offer French Level I (2 sections) and Level II (one section); German Level I (two sections) & Level II (one section);  Spanish Level I, Italian Level I, Latin Level I, and Ancient Greek Level I.  There are 18 2-hour 40 minute sessions.   The Level I component of this course takes place with the first Level I section; the Level II component begins after Level I ends, and has 12 4-hour sessions.  We are a special program out of the Provost’s Office and are under the umbrella of the Institute for Language Education in Transcultural Context (ILETC). Our courses are non-credit, and do not appear on transcripts. We supply official documentation of each student’s performance upon request.  Several programs recognize success in LRP Level I and Level II courses as satisfying their language reading requirements.  For others, we are good preparation for the department exam.  Registrations are taken on a first-come, first-served basis.  More rarely, some classes that are initially offered are withdrawn due to insufficient registration.  Please see the Registration page for more information (link is to the left).

b. For foreign and/or ESL students: The Brooklyn College American Language Academy (ALA) offers an intensive English language program.  The ALA grants 1-20 for students requiring F-1 status. For details, please contact Barbara Jaccarino at 718-951-5000 ext. 3031.  In addition, the Department of English offers an Advanced Writing Workshop, English 6000X, for ESL Graduate Students.  This course covers: Reading academic texts; Discussing readings; Relating texts to one’s studies and experiences (whole class, group and individual work); Writing summaries of texts, multiple drafts of essays; oral presentations; and Reviewing grammar trouble spots.


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