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Language Proficiency

Language proficiency is a primary consideration in achieving one's academic goals in a non-English speaking country. Beyond being able to hold a simple conversation or to order a meal in a foreign language while traveling, students studying abroad must be able to follow lectures, read scholarly texts, and to function on their own for long periods in a foreign culture. In general, Vassar requires that study abroad participants have taken the equivalent of two years of study in the appropriate foreign language or two semesters of a foreign language at the second-year level before participating in a program abroad. A single course, even at the 200 level, is not sufficient. Thus, if you are considering studying abroad for all or part of your junior year and you have not studied a foreign language, you should begin as early as the first semester of your freshman year. Students who meet the minimum language requirement are expected to continue language study until they leave for study abroad.

Except as noted below, all coursework abroad must be taken in the language of the host country in order to receive credit. This includes France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, Spanish or French-speaking Latin America and the Caribbean, Francophone Africa, and Russia, among others. Most American college-sponsored programs are conducted in cooperation with a foreign institution or may be taught by foreign faculty, and the language of instruction is generally the language of the host country. For the most part, the minimum requirement for these programs is two years of college-level or equivalent foreign language study. In addition, many foreign universities admit U.S. students under special status—generally to a "School for Foreigners"—where they may take either courses in the language and culture of the host country or the regular university courses. Scientific fieldwork programs taught in English are exempt from the on-site language requirement, although Vassar may require pre-participation language preparation in some cases. Students, studying a language not taught on campus, for example Xhosa or Czech, will receive 1/2 unit of credit for one semester of intensive introductory work. This does not satisfy the language requirement.

The two-year language requirement does not apply for study in cultures where Vassar does not offer instruction in a language appropriate to the chosen program abroad—Vietnamese or Nepali, for example.

Thus, depending on their academic needs, students should be sure to check Vassar's language specific requirements. For certain programs Vassar may not require a minimum language proficiency. CLP will make individual decisions.

Generally, for non-English speaking countries where Vassar requires less than two years of language study before study abroad, participants attending programs in English must take intensive courses in the language of the host country for the entire period of their study abroad.

Vassar’s Self-Instructional Language Program (SILP) offer beginning, intermediate and advanced instruction in Irish, Hindi, Korean, Portuguese, Swahili and Swedish. SILP courses may change so be sure to consult the SILP Office.