Before beginning actual dissertation research and writing, doctoral students must demonstrate competence in at least one language other than their own primary language, and that language must be relevant to the proposed program of research. Regardless of how the requirement is satisfied, a student’s competence must be at a sufficiently high level that it is adequate to the tasks of scholarly research. Ordinarily, for textual research advanced reading knowledge is expected; whereas, for field research, intermediate speaking knowledge is the norm. In some circumstances, both may be required.

Competence can be assessed in a variety of ways. The most common ways are: departmental testing, standardized testing, and course work. Normally, a minimum of two years (4 terms) of university-level study, with a minim um of B+ average, is required for the joint committee even to consider a course- based language proposal. The reason for doing so is that courses may or may not teach the appropriate skills needed for the proposed research. Although the forms and lengths vary, a typical departmental exam of a student's written language competence takes two hours and requires a translation, with a dictionary, of a scholarly passage of approximately 500 words.

Students may re-take a language exam up to two times. After that, they must petition for approval from both their supervisory committee and the joint committee.

In certain cases, undergraduate language training may be taken free of charge, but you should check your university’s regulations concerning the limitations on, and payments for, undergraduate language courses. In general, the departments and universities assume no financial responsibility for either language training or language testing; these costs must be borne by the student.

Language requirements must be proposed to the joint committee by the student with the approval of all members of the supervisory committee. The following form may be submitted earlier but must be fulfilled by the end of the third year in the PhD program.