Graduate Language Examination Policies

The foreign language requirements for the M.A. and the Ph.D. are the same for both Comparative Literature and Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society: Proficiency in two languages (other than English) appropriate to a student’s program, as demonstrated by passing language examinations administered by the Department. The choice of languages is to be made with respect to a student’s area of specialization and in consultation with his or her adviser, who must approve it.

Once agreed upon, these two languages will be named on the official Graduate Progress Report (GPR). It is understood that, where appropriate, students and their advisers may agree to make one or more additional languages, or spoken/aural competence in addition to the reading knowledge tested by the Department’s language examinations, an integral part of a doctoral program; however, only the two tested languages will be listed on the GPR. Students for whom English is not their native language may use that native language to satisfy one requirement, provided it is germane to their program of study. No other waivers—having taken language courses, having taught elementary courses in the target language, e.g.—are permitted. The Department strongly urges students to take these examinations as early as possible during their time in graduate school. In any case, at least one language must be passed at least one month before the student takes the M.A. or written Ph.D. preliminary examinations, the other between completion of the M.A. examination and a student’s filing for the degree (for the M.A.) or at least one month before the dissertation prospectus meeting (for the Ph.D.). Examinations may be taken as many times as necessary to meet the requirements.. This policy will apply to all students taking M.A. or written Ph.D. preliminary examinations after 16 May 2014. Students should note that satisfaction of these language requirements within the specified time frames is considered an integral part of adequate progress toward the degree; as such, it will be tracked at each annual review of graduate student progress and will factor into hiring and fellowship decisions over which the Department has control.

Language Examinations

Students are asked to print out and sign 
the PDF iconLanguage Examination Form, which
is to be handed in with the translation.

Examinations will be administered by faculty members in CSCL or by qualified colleagues from outside the Department. The examiner will choose for translation a short passage (ca. 600 words) of moderate difficulty and of general disciplinary relevance from the body of critical literature in the target language. Students have two hours to complete the translation and may use whichever dictionaries they wish to bring with them to the examination. A CSCL department laptop computer with internet access blocked will be provided for the exam. The laptop will be preloaded by staff with the relevant language you will be translating. (Please note that it is your responsibility to contact the appropriate staff member, in advance of the exam date, to reserve a laptop and request the relevant language dictionary be preloaded onto it.) The use of any other devices--such as smartphones, that allow access to internet dictionaries and translation aids--is not permitted. For the purposes of grading (pass/fail), proficiency is defined as follows: The ability to produce a literate and serviceable translation that demonstrates solid knowledge of the major aspects of the grammar, syntax, and lexicon of the target language, as well as some ability to deal with rhetorical and grammatological nuances and idioms.


Students are urged to take language examinations as early in the semester as possible, but no later than the last week of class. In any case, all language examinations must be scheduled with the Curriculum Coordinator by the end of the second week of the semester in which the examination is to be sat. Students are asked to print out the Language Examination Form, sign, and hand it in with the translation. Once graded, the examiner will submit the form to the DGS assistant. If the examination is passed, the required Form OTR193, signed by the student’s adviser and the DGS, will be forwarded to the Graduate Student Services and Progress office by the DGS Assistant.