The History Department requires reading proficiency in one or more second languages for all M.A. and Ph.D. candidates. Every candidate for the Master's degree must demonstrate a reading knowledge of one second language before taking the comprehensive examination. A reading knowledge of two languages is required of all Ph.D. candidates, except in United States History, where one language is required. The requirement must be completed BEFORE the written/oral comprehensive examination.
Proficiency is achieved when the students acquire the expertise to read widely in secondary literature and undertake original research in another language. The Department standard establishes minimum requirements that must be fulfilled by all students before the M.A. Comprehensive Exam or the Ph.D. Comprehensive Exams. M.A. and Ph.D. Committees may require students to achieve proficiency in additional languages and will, in conjunction with the student, determine how many and which languages an M.A. or Ph.D. candidate may have to qualify for based upon individual programs of study and thesis/dissertation research. These additional languages may include spoken languages that rarely, if ever, generate written texts.
Language courses do not apply toward degree course requirements in History, unless they are at the 500 level or higher. Because language proficiency is often a prerequisite for participation in colloquia and seminars, students are strongly encouraged to make their first attempt to fulfill the language requirement during their first semester in the program. The language proficiency requirement is fulfilled by passing the History Department's written proficiency exam. Proficiency is here defined as the student's ability to read, comprehend, and render into standard written English primary source material and articles from academic journals in the target language. Departmental written proficiency exams will be offered once a semester, currently on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and on the Saturday after Spring Break.
The exam shall be a four-hour test in two parts, in which students 1) translate a passage from the target language into English and 2) demonstrate their reading comprehension by answering a series of questions in English about a passage in the target language. Students are permitted to use a dictionary for both portions. All students testing in a language shall take the exam on a given testing date. The exam is evaluated in the History Department by faculty members proficient in the language tested or by instructors in appropriate language or area studies departments in consultation with the Department language administrators. Under normal circumstances, students will be notified of the outcome of the exam within a two-week period. Students who do not pass the exam may retake the exam as many times as needed without penalty.