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Non-Primary Language « Degree Requirements « Students « College of Liberal Arts & Sciences « University of Illinois


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Non-Primary Language

The University of Illinois Committee to Review Foreign Language has stated:

The study of foreign languages has been an integral and indispensable part of higher education in the West for the past two thousand years...The traditional view has been that a person may be trained to competence in some occupations or professions, but to be educated in a liberal and liberating way, he must move beyond the limitations of one's native tongue...

The committee feels strongly that part of the purpose of a liberal education is to lead the student out of the narrow framework of one's personal and cultural preconceptions, including the ethnocentrism that may result from a monolingual education. The study of a language beyond the student's primary language, it concluded, is ideally suited to achieving an awareness of cultural and linguistic diversity.

Requirements

If you are a student in a Sciences and Letters major, Secondary Education, or Specialized Curricula for geology, or physics (chemistry, biochemistry, or chemical and biomolecular engineering specialized curricula students see below), you must demonstrate proficiency in a non-primary language in one of the following ways. Before graduation, you must satisfactorily complete two years of college study (or four years of high school courses) in a single non-primary language. If you have completed three years of a single non-primary language in high school, you may either (a) continue studying that language and complete the fourth-semester course or (b) begin another language and complete the third-semester course.

All courses applied toward the language requirement must be taken for a letter grade: the credit/no credit option cannot be used for any part of this requirement. You are not required to enroll in a language in consecutive semesters, but you are strongly urged to do so. Language instructors note the importance of studying a language without interruption, in order to limit the loss of learned skills due to long intervals between study and lack of use. Fulfilling the language requirement within your first two years also lets you study a particular language at an advanced level, if you like. If you have not satisfied the requirement by the beginning of your junior year, you must take language courses each semester until you do meet the requirement. It is your responsibility to complete the language requirement within the four years of your undergraduate study.

If you want to continue your high school language, you need to take the placement examination in that language to help determine which University course will suit your achievement level. With the assumption that one year of high school language study is the equivalent of one semester of college study, you may "place back" two college semesters and have the new course credit count for graduation. For example, if you have completed four years of high school French, you would receive graduation credit upon satisfactory completion of French 103 (second semester) but not French 101 or French 102. Students who completed the non-primary language admissions requirement via dual enrollment should consult with their College Admissions/Records Officer.

If you score high on the placement test, you may want to take a proficiency test and thus earn college proficiency credit for work beyond the elementary level (i.e., for third- and fourth-semester course work). Students may get advice and information about these proficiency tests from the respective language department during the first week of the semester.

If you perform satisfactorily at the fourth-semester level in a proficiency examination approved by the college and the appropriate department, you may also meet the language requirement. You can apply up to 10 hours (third- and fourth-level only) of basic language proficiency credit toward your graduation from LAS. You may also receive additional proficiency credit for advanced language courses that emphasize literary and linguistic study.

Proficiency credit is not awarded for languages that are not taught on the Urbana campus. However, you can still meet the LAS language requirement if you demonstrate the appropriate achievement level in one of three ways:

  1. Certification by an authorized faculty member on the Urbana campus.
  2. Certification by an authorized faculty member on the Chicago campus, where reciprocal agreements have been arranged through LAS.
  3. Credit awarded through other recognized programs, such as approved study abroad, advanced placement, or international baccalaureate

For the first two options, fourth-semester proficiency is determined by testing fluency and comprehension in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. If you show proficiency at this level, the requirement for four courses will be met, but no college credit will be granted because these are languages not taught on the Urbana campus.

Exceptions

Students who can demonstrate and document a specific language-learning disability may petition for an accommodation, and substitute course work for the foreign language requirement. Previous and current records of achievement, commentary from previous teachers, and clinical data are generally required to support petitions. All petitioners must also be registered with Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES). Students who are uncertain if they qualify for a language accommodation should start by meeting with a Dean in his or her college or with a DRES counselor, either of whom will help to determine his or her eligibility and explain the various petition requirements, which are also described in detail on the petition form.

Accommodation decisions are made once a semester. Petitions for the Spring Semester are due October 1; petitions for the Fall Semester are due March 1. Accommodation decisions will be made before the start of priority registration for the following semester. As gathering all of the information required for the petition process can take a fair amount of time, students are encouraged to start the process as soon as possible. Specifics are discussed in the petition.

For more information, visit LAS Student Academic Affairs or contact a staff member at the Disability Resources and Educational Services.


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