The Foreign Language Requirement
Requirements and Restrictions
The foreign language and skills requirement must be fulfilled
by selecting one of the following three options:
1) Demonstrate reading competence in two foreign languages
2) Demonstrate reading competence in one foreign language and
conversational competence in a field language
OR (granted only with the support of the student's faculty
3) Demonstrate reading competence in one foreign language and
a passing grade in a graduate level quantitative methods course
(e.g. L/R Quantitative Methods in Sociology I, COMM 524 Introduction
to Statistical Analysis, COMM 694 Intermediate Statistical Methods)
or a graduate level course on web technology and its application
(RELS 602 Technological Approaches to the Humanities).
All students are required to take their first language exam during
their first year at Penn. If a student is learning a language
not previously studied, he or she should enroll in one of the
language competence courses for graduate students offered by Penn
during the first summer session after the first year of course
work. The second foreign language must be completed before or
during the completion of the Ph.D. examination. These languages
are intended to be an important part of the graduate training
because they are used in carrying out scholarly research and fieldwork.
They therefore should be acquired as soon as possible in the graduate
career. Languages studied for use in fieldwork must be directly
relevant to the student's folklore/folklife scholarship. Eligible
languages are subject to certain university restrictions.
English does not qualify as a foreign language, not even for
foreign students. By special petition foreign students may use
their native language as one of the foreign languages if it is
a language appropriate to their dissertation research project.
Approval may also be given when the student can prove a considerable
body of folklore research has been published in that language.
Students must obtain program approval of their chosen languages
prior to scheduling their language exams.
Students working toward an MA only need one foreign language.
Scheduling and Format of Individually Chosen
Languages (outside of coursework)
Once their language selections have been approved, students
take a translation examination (into English) to demonstrate their
reading competence. These tests are administered by the Graduate
Advisor in consultation with the Graduate Chair. There is no scheduled
time for language exams; students may take them at any time However,
language exams must be completed before the student takes oral
comprehensive examinations. Notify the Graduate Advisor at least
a week in advance of your intention to take a language exam, and
it will be set up for you.
The examination itself consists of a short passage from a scholarly
article in the foreign language. You are allowed two hours to
translate the passage into English. You may use a dictionary.
There are members of the folklore and folklife faculty who are
able to grade these examinations, but in cases where a language
is approved but not covered by the faculty, arrangements will
be made by the graduate chair to get someone outside the program
to administer and grade the examination. If the student fails
the exam on the first try, he/she may try one more time.
Satisfying the Language Requirement through
In the first six-week summer session, Penn offers free reading
courses in French and German for registered Ph.D. students. All
students taking the courses must sign up for credit; no auditors
will be allowed. More information on these courses will be available
from Dean Farrells office (Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences,
College Hall) toward the end of the Spring semester.
Courses in other languages are available both at Penn and elsewhere
in the Philadelphia area. As of February 1991, tuition for basic
courses in a second foreign language (once the requirement for
the first language has been fulfilled) is covered by fellowships
and teaching assistantships during the tenure of such awards.
Students should register for credit (not audit) for such courses
in the normal way and will receive grades on their transcripts.
However, no graduate credit (toward the 20-course-unit requirement
for the Ph.D. degree) will be granted for undergraduate language
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