Foreign Language Proficiency Requirement

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Most Elliott School M.A. programs require proficiency in one foreign language. The methods to meet this requirement vary depending on the program as described below.

[NOTE: The M.A. program in International Science and Technology Policy (ISTP) and the Master's program in International Policy and Practice (MIPP) do not have a foreign language proficiency requirement.]

Requirements for Regional Studies Programs

Students in the regional studies M.A. programs are required to be proficient in a modern foreign language that is used in their region of study to receive the degree. They must fulfill this foreign-language requirement by passing both the reading and the speaking proficiency examinations administered by the Elliott School at a level required by the academic program.

Advanced-level language coursework during or prior to enrollment at GW cannot substitute. Foreign-language proficiency examinations will be offered during the fall and spring semesters. 

Students may take the examination at any point during their enrollment and will have three opportunities to pass the proficiency examination administered by the Elliott School. Failure to pass the exam for a third time will result in dismissal from the program.

NOTE: When a student's native language is not English, and is not a language used in their region of study (for example a student who is a native speaker of Chinese in the Middle East Studies program), that student must still demonstrate proficiency in a modern language used in their region of study by passing the Elliott School language proficiency examination.

Approved languages for the Asian Studies M.A. program are:
Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Online Self-Administered Diagnostic Examinations

Students who are in M.A. degree programs with a foreign-language proficiency requirement and who did not meet this requirement with university-level course work prior to enrollment must take an on-line self-administered diagnostic examination in the foreign language that they would like to use to demonstrate the required proficiency. This diagnostic examination must be taken before the end of the first semester after enrollment; and students will not be able to register to take the Elliott School foreign language proficiency examination without first taking the on-line diagnostic examination. Students who wish to enroll in an Elliott School 1-credit professional skills language course must also take the relevant diagnostic examination before registration and receive a score in at least the "intermediate-level" range.

The Elliott School currently offers on-line diagnostic examinations in the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. M.A. students requiring a diagnostic examination in Persian, Hebrew, Kurdish, or Turkish should contact mesp@gwu.edu for information on completing their diagnostic exam. Students are exempt from the diagnostic examination requirement if they intend to fulfill the language requirement in a language that the Elliott School does not offer a diagnostic test.

Students may take the on-line diagnostic examination in more than one language. If a student would like to re-take the diagnostic examination in the same language, one should not do so unless an interval of at least two months has passed. These diagnostic examinations provide only a rough estimate of one's language proficiency. Therefore, a certain score is no guarantee that one will pass the proctored language proficiency test at the required level.

Diagnostic Exams:

One-Credit Professional Skills Language Courses

The Elliott School currently offers one-credit professional skills language courses (IAFF 6504) in the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Students with intermediate-level proficiency may take these courses to improve their language ability and to prepare for the language proficiency examination. In order to enroll in these courses, students must first take the online diagnostic test in the corresponding language and achieve a score in at least the intermediate-level range. For non-regional studies M.A. programs, students may fulfill their language requirement by demonstrating the required level of language proficiency in the context of this one-credit course through an evaluation administered by the instructor. Students in the M.A. regional studies program may use this one-credit course to improve their language skills, but they must still take the Elliott School language proficiency test.

Language Tutor/Practice Opportunities

The Language Center offers tutoring in the majority of languages offered at GW. Sessions are free and offered on a walk-in basis. 
 
Mount Vernon offers faculty-led conversation sessions in the following languages: Arabic, ASL, EFL, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. All skill levels are welcome to attend. 
 
Hosted by the Language Center, the Language Exchange Program matches you with GW students offering the language you want to study who also need help with your native language. 
 
Elliott School Institutes offer language conversation sessions at certain times throughout the semester. Students may contact the individual institutes for semester schedules. The Elliott School of International Affairs houses the following regional institutes: the Sigur Center for Asian Studies, the Institute for Middle East Studies, and the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies
 
For further information regarding Arabic tutoring opportunities, please contact mesp@gwu.edu
 
GW inaugurated the Confucius Institute in spring of 2013, a center dedicated to Chinese culture and language learning. Activities and classes are slated to begin at the end of the fall 2013 semester. Please check back with the Confucius Institute's Facebook page for current updates. 
 
This GW student organization provides traditional and non-traditional language courses through native-speaker volunteers. Students should pay attention to registration dates since places are limited.

International Students and Non-Native Speakers of English

English for Academic Purposes (EAP) Placement Course

All students whose native language is not English or who are not citizens of countries where English is the official language are required to take an EAP course before classes begin if they scored below 620 on the paper-based, 260 on the computer-based, or 105 on the 8 internet TOEFL exam. The courses are designed to facilitate the successful completion of the degree program.

Any of the 3-Credit EAP graded courses can substitute for a maximum of 1-credit hour of the Elliott Schools professional skills course requirement and will count toward the students degree as long as the student's Elliott School degree program allows professional skills courses. Other EAP course credits and EAP courses taken by students in degree programs that do not allow professional skills courses will not count toward the degree.

Required Levels for Foreign Language Proficiency

The following are the required proficiency levels for languages offered on a regular basis at the George Washington University:

Language Reading Speaking
Arabic Advanced (MES only)
Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Advanced (MES only)
Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Chinese Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
French Advanced
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
German Advanced
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Hebrew Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Italian Advanced
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Japanese Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Korean Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Persian Advanced (MES students)
Intermediate High
Advanced (MES students)
Intermediate High
Portuguese Advanced
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Russian Advanced (EES only)
Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Spanish Advanced
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)
Intermediate High
Intermediate Low (ITIP only)

Reading — Intermediate Low

The student can understand some facts and main ideas in simple connected texts dealing with basic personal and social needs. These texts would have a clear and simple structure and provide information with which the student is familiar or is required to make only minimal suppositions. The student may make occasional errors in understanding.

Reading — Intermediate High

The student can fully understand simple connected texts dealing with basic personal and social needs; comprehend main ideas and information in texts at the next higher level featuring description and narration. Structural complexity may interfere with comprehension; e.g., basic grammatical relations may be misinterpreted and temporal references may rely primarily on lexical items. Some difficulty with the cohesive factors in discourse may be evident, such as matching pronouns with referents. While texts do not differ significantly from those at the Advanced level, comprehension is less consistent. The student at this level may have to read material several times for full understanding.

Reading — Advanced

The student can easily read and understand several paragraphs if the text has a clear underlying structure and familiar sentence patterns. The student comprehends the main ideas and facts but misses some details. Comprehension arises from situational and subject matter knowledge as well as increasing control of the language. Texts at this level include descriptions and narrations such as short stories, news items, bibliographical information, social notices, personal correspondence, business letters and simple technical material written for the general reader.

Speaking — Intermediate Low

The student can handle a limited number of communicative tasks and social situations successfully, ask and answer questions, initiate and respond to simple statements, and engage in face-to-face conversation. The conversation, however, will contain frequent linguistic errors and will be very restricted in manner and scope. Vocabulary will be sufficient to discuss the most elementary needs, but there will be frequent misunderstandings. The Intermediate-Low speaker is generally understood by sympathetic interlocutors.

Speaking — Intermediate High

The student can handle most communicative tasks and social situations successfully and can initiate and sustain a general conversation with strategies appropriate to diverse circumstances and topics, but errors are evident. Limited vocabulary causes some hesitation and may produce unexpected circumlocution. However, there is emerging evidence of connected discourse (i.e., the ability to speak in whole paragraphs), particularly for simple narration and/or description. The Intermediate-High speaker is generally understood by interlocutors, who are unaccustomed to dealing with speakers at this level, but repetition may still be required.

Speaking — Advanced

The student at the Advanced level participates in informal conversations related to school, leisure, and home life, and at times in formal situations in these environments. Advanced speakers can carry on a lengthy conversation in all tense forms although aspect may be occasionally lacking. During narrations or extended speech they are able link sentences together with smooth conjunctions. Some literal translations and false cognates still appear, showing the speakers' reliance on native structure. The conversation flow of an Advanced speaker remains substantive with only occasional hesitation, grammatical errors, self-correction, and sometimes generic vocabulary. They are understood by native speakers who do not have the habit of understanding non-natives, or are able to make themselves understood with repetition or rephrasing.

Timeline

     Online self-administered diagnostic examination:
must be taken by the end of the first semester and before registering for the language proficiency test or the 1-credit professional skills language courses
English for Academic Purposes (EAP) Placement Examination late August
Early Bird Registration for the fall semester foreign language proficiency tests late September
Fall semester foreign language proficiency tests November
Early Bird Registration for the spring semester foreign language proficiency tests February
Spring semester foreign language proficiency tests March-April

NOTE: Currently enrolled students will receive via-email the Early Bird Registration announcement for the foreign language proficiency tests from the Office of Academic Advising and Student Services.

Contact:

Katherine Willis
esialang@gwu.edu
(202) 994-7678