F2.4 Foreign Language Requirement
Updated: August 24th, 2011
Doctoral students must satisfy a foreign language requirement, unless a blanket exemption has been approved by the Graduate Council at the request of the doctoral program. Students should satisfy the requirement as early as possible in their graduate careers, and it must be satisfied before they are eligible to take the qualifying examination.
Acceptable languages. The Graduate Division will accept any natural language with a system of writing (with the exception of English and any pidgin or Creole of which English is the base), if the department or group certifies that 1) the language has scholarly value in the field; 2) the language is integral to the training of a particular student or group of students in the field; and 3) a person qualified to administer the examination is available. Computer languages are not acceptable for use in satisfying foreign language requirements.
Each student selects the language(s) used to satisfy this requirement from a set of languages certified by the Graduate Council for that department or group. Students may substitute an uncertified language if the Head Graduate Adviser makes such a request based on academic relevance for the student’s research and it is approved by the cognizant Associate Dean.
Options for completing the foreign language requirement. Programs that have a foreign language requirement may select from the following options. They may also establish more stringent requirements.
Option 1. This option requires a reading knowledge of two languages. Students may pass both by examination or one by examination and the other by completing a four-semester (or six-quarter) course sequence with an average grade of B or better.
For one of the two languages, an upper division foreign language course that requires a four-semester (or six-quarter) course sequence as a prerequisite satisfies the requirement. Course sequences of four semesters (six quarters) in a certified language completed at any UC campus also automatically fulfill the requirement for one of the languages. If students take courses at other institutions, the Graduate Division must validate the courses. Students must have completed any foreign language course sequence, whether taken at UC or elsewhere, within four years of admission to Berkeley. If a student completed an appropriate course sequence as an undergraduate, or if the student’s high school or undergraduate institution conducted courses in an approved language, the Head Graduate Adviser should petition the Graduate Division to recognize that student has fulfilled the language requirement. This request should be made at the time the student is admitted to graduate standing at Berkeley.
Regarding the requirement that one or both of the two languages be passed by examination, the Graduate Council directs that a passage of at least 300 words be translated into English within a time limit of 90 minutes, with or without a dictionary at the option of the program faculty. Examinations may be conducted by departments, groups, or any outside testing agency that has been approved by the Graduate Division, such as the Educational Testing Service, which adheres to the Graduate Council’s minimum policy.
Option 2. The student is expected to demonstrate an exceptionally thorough reading knowledge and an adequate knowledge of the grammatical structure of one language. Knowledge is tested by a written examination consisting of a translation of a passage of about 1,000 words on a subject appropriate to the student’s major field of interest. The examination is limited to three hours and the translation is to be made without the aid of a dictionary. The translation must show an accurate comprehension of the meaning of the language text, and since the language text is in the student’s discipline, the translation should use the correct English technical terms.
Option 3. Requirements are as for Option 1, but involve only one language. Students may pass by examination or by course work. The examination requires the translation of a passage of at least 300 words into English within a time limit of 90 minutes, with or without a dictionary at the choice of the program faculty. As in the case of Option 1, examinations may be conducted by a department, a graduate group, or an approved outside agency. The course work required is a foreign language course sequence of four semesters (or six quarters), whether taken at UC or elsewhere, within four years of admission to Berkeley. For acceptable exceptions and the timing of requests, see above under Option 1.
Native speakers of a language other than English. Students who are native speakers of a language other than English do not automatically fulfill the requirement; the native language must be appropriate to advanced research in that particular discipline, as shown by important journals and research that has been carried out in that language. Also, students may show evidence of native ability in the language through secondary school or university transcripts. The department must submit a memo to the Graduate Division specifying the language and certifying native ability as well as explaining the language’s relevance to the student’s research.
How to report completion of the foreign language requirement. As soon as a student completes all or part of the language requirement, the Head Graduate Adviser notifies the Graduate Division by sending a memo and the graded departmental exam, if applicable. If the student satisfied the requirement for Option 3 or for one of the two languages for Option 1 by completing a four-semester (or six-quarter) course sequence, the Head Graduate Adviser certifies in a memo that the course sequence was acceptable to the department. The department must provide a copy of any completed language examination to the Graduate Division when the student is advanced to doctoral candidacy.
How to request departmental changes in the foreign language requirement. Academic Senate regulations allow departments to change or drop their foreign language requirements if that action is approved by the Graduate Council. In 1985, the Graduate Council decided that “a program wishing to change its current foreign language requirement will be expected to notify the Dean of the Graduate Division in accordance with regulation 2001B of the Regulations of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate; a program wishing to reduce its foreign language requirement will be expected to present a detailed justification for the proposed reduction” for review and approval by the Graduate Council.