Language Requirements

The university requires every MA student to have one research tool and every Ph.D. student to have two research tools.  A research tool is usually reading proficiency in a foreign language.  In the Religion program, some degree programs require language proficiency in the study of the languages used in a sacred text.  Since the study of texts lies at the core of these programs, language proficiency must sometimes be demonstrated in other languages to satisfy the research tool requirement.  Be sure to check with your advisor, the area coordinator, and the associate dean to confirm whether competency in a particular language will satisfy the requirement.  As an aid in distinguishing between those languages that will count as a research tool and those that will not, the Religion Handbook will refer to two categories of language requirements:

  1. Primary Text Language Requirement: MA and Ph.D. degree programs in Comparative Scriptures, Hebrew Bible, Islamic Studies, and New Testament require language competency in one or more languages (see degree requirements below).  Students may be required to take a test upon admission to determine their level of language competency.  Typically, this language requirement does not satisfy the research tool requirement.
  2. Secondary Research Language Requirement (satisfies the university research tool requirement): Students can typically choose from among:  Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew (modern), Japanese, Korean, Latin, Sanskrit, and Spanish, on condition that the Religion department can provide an examiner in those languages.  The student’s advisor and the student’s area coordinator must approve any exceptions.  Those whose mother tongue falls among the languages chosen or approved as above or those who have had at least three years of regular education in such a language will be exempted from the examination in that language.  (“Three years of regular education in such a language” means more than taking three years of a particular language; it means going through three years of high school or college taking a full course of subjects required in a particular national school system conducted in that language.)  The requirement is satisfied by passing a two-hour exam given by the SOR at the beginning of each semester and at the beginning of the summer.  The exam simulates a research situation: the student translates a selected passage from a previously known list of books with the aid of a dictionary.  Both a language instructor and a member of the Religion faculty will grade the exam.  A nominal fee is charged at the time of the exam in order to pay for the first examiner.  Language workshops in French and German are offered in the summer.  This language requirement does satisfy the university’s research tool requirement.

MA Requiremints

Primary Text Language Requirement: Specialized MA degree programs in Comparative Scriptures, Hebrew Bible, Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, and New Testament, require the completion of courses in a primary text language (see specializations below). Other specialized degree programs may, at the discretion of the area faculty, require a primary text language depending upon the nature of a student’s research plan.

Secondary Research Language Requirement: All MA students must have a reading proficiency in another language. Consult with your advisor and the associate dean to determine which languages will satisfy this requirement.

Please review the Religion handbook for details specific to your area of study.

PhD Requiremints

Secondary Research Language Requirement: Students are required to have a reading knowledge of two secondary research languages (see page 5 above).  Area faculty, in consultation with each student in their area, will decide which two languages best prepares the student for research in their field of study.  Those who do not have proficiency in these languages may find their participation in some graduate seminars seriously restricted.

Students are expected to have studied at least one of these languages prior to beginning the last 48 units of the PhD program.  Students are required to pass one secondary research language examination before registering for any of the last 24 semester units of their PhD program.  In order to encourage students who have trouble passing the exams, as well as to encourage regular use of German and French in the context of regular graduate seminars, the following policy of deadlines and sanctions has been instituted.

  1. Incoming PhD students (48-units) or 72-unit PhD students beginning the last 48-units of their program are required to attempt the exam before registration. Those who fail must attempt the exam again each time the exam is offered (August, January, May) until they pass.
  2. Students who fail the exam(s) again at the beginning of their second semester in their last 48-units shall be required to do work in the language in two of their courses during that second semester.
  3. If the student has not passed a language exam before registering for the last 24 units of course work, then sanctions take effect, in that the student shall be permitted to register for only two courses. During this semester, the student shall use French or German in both courses and receive private tutoring in the language. The instructors in the courses and the tutor are to submit in writing at the end of the semester a report on the student's work and progress during the semester.
  4. If the student fails again before the next registration period, then she or he will register only for Doctoral Study until the exam is passed.

It is hoped that this policy will not only be a positive way of helping students to develop language tools in the context of research and course work, but also will encourage regular use of research languages in doctoral seminars.

*The second language examination must be passed before Qualifying Examinations can be scheduled.

Primary Text Language Requirement: Students will also be expected to be proficient in other languages—ancient and/or modern—necessary for the sources in their research areas, or as required by the faculty in their areas of concentration.  See the individual program area sections below for specific language requirements.  All language requirements must be met before taking Qualifying Examinations.

Please review the Religion department handbook for details specific to your area of study.

For Religious Exam Texts, click here.

To register for a language exam, click here.

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