Second Language Frequently Asked Questions

Am I required to study a second language?

Yes, if you plan to complete a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Individualized Study (BIS) degree. To complete either of these degrees, you must satisfy the second language requirement. To satisfy this requirement, you must either:

  • Complete a fourth-semester, college-level language course of at least four (4) semester credits with a grade of C- or better or S
  • Pass the Language Proficiency Exam (LPE), which tests listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills at the fourth-semester level

What language should I study?

As a CLA student, you can choose from over twenty (20) different modern and ancient languages. Students who have continued studying the language they studied in high school will likely be able to start at the second-semester level or higher. However, there can be advantages to beginning a new language—such as having smaller class sizes, exploring a new culture, gaining professional skills for your future career, or connecting with your cultural heritage.

How do I know which class to take?

If you are starting a new language, then you will take the first-semester course and no placement test is necessary. Special note for Spanish: you can only register for Span 1001 with the approval of the Department of Spanish & Portuguese Studies. Students who have studied Spanish in high school are not likely to receive departmental approval for this course. 

If you have taken two years of Spanish, French, or German in high school and plan to continue at the college level, you may begin in SPAN, FREN, or GER 1022 without taking a placement test. This is an alternative second-semester course, which begins with a review of first-semester material.

If you have had more than two years of second language study in high school, you should take a placement test (if available for your language) to determine whether you can begin in a more advanced course.

If you have received a Minnesota Bilingual or Multilingual Seal or a World Language Proficiency Certificate, you do not need to complete a language placement test. You will instead take the Language Proficiency Exam (LPE) to fulfill your second language requirement and for placement into language major courses, if desired.

Which placement test should I take?

See Second Language Placement Testing for complete information.

What is the retroactive credit policy?

You may request to receive retroactive (or "retro") credits for lower division (1/2xxx level) language courses when you complete an upper-level language course. However, you cannot request retro credits for the first-semester course (the 1001 course). The upper-level language course must be taken on campus or through a UMN-sponsored learning abroad program that receives resident UMN credit.

For example, if you take FREN 1004 in the fall, once a grade is posted, you can request retro credit for FREN 1002 and 1003 (but not FREN 1001). Retro credits are only awarded based on completed University of Minnesota resident credit course work, not on placement test results. Visit your academic advisor to fill out the paperwork needed to receive retro credit.

What if I have taken second-language coursework at another college?

If you have completed a first, second, or third-semester course, please see placement info. If you have completed a fourth-semester or sixth-quarter, four-credit (minimum) course with a grade of C- or better, or S, you have fulfilled the second language requirement. If you have completed a fourth-semester language course of three credits or fewer, consult with your academic advisor. Your advisor will verify that the course you took was the right level and number of credits. 

If you would like to continue beyond the fourth semester consult the language department or academic advisor.

What if English is not my first language?

If you are a native speaker of a language other than English, be sure to tell your academic advisor. They will work with you on fulfilling requirements or further language study.

What if I don’t become proficient?

Studying a language isn’t always about fluency. It’s about how you think and form thoughts and connections, continuing to engage in reading, writing, and speaking. It’s about learning and understanding cultures and peoples in our global marketplace of ideas. Regardless of your level of proficiency, studying a second language gives you a critical advantage, achieving core career competencies that you can apply to your professional career.