Modern Language Requirements

All graduate students are required to attain minimal reading knowledge of at least one (for M.A. programs) or two (for Ph.D. programs) foreign modern languages in addition to English. Doctoral students who have demonstrated competence in an approved modern language as a requirement of their MA need only test in one more language. Available choices are French, German, Italian, and Spanish. The student will select the language(s) in consultation with their Graduate Advisor. The selected language(s) will be reported to the Graduate Committee.

Competence in a language can only be established by the successful completion of an examination administered by the department’s Graduate Committee or (when available) by another department (currently such examinations are offered at UBC for French, Spanish and Italian).

In exceptional circumstances, when an intended dissertation project requires access to a significant body of scholarship in another language, doctoral students may substitute that language for one of the two required languages, with the approval of the Graduate Committee. The selected language must clearly be relevant as a language of scholarship key to the student’s intended program of research.

The Department strongly urges students, in consultation with their Graduate Advisor, to consider early on in their program how they will fulfill the language requirements in order to further their career development.

The modern language requirement must be satisfied before the student completes comprehensive examinations. The examination may be re-attempted until passed.

Modern Language Examination Logistics

The Graduate Advisor will select two passages, each 500-600 words. These passages will be drawn from modern scholarly literature that is relevant to the student’s field of study. These two selected passages will then be submitted to the Graduate Committee, who will select the passage for the examination.

Departmental examinations will be offered at fixed times (usually in October and February). The Modern Language Examination will be 90 minutes in duration. The student is permitted to use a dictionary during the examination.

All logistical organization (date room, time) of the examination will be determined by the Director of Graduate Studies. The examination will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis by one member of the department’s faculty selected by the DGS. The marker will inform the DGS of the outcome of the examination and the DGS will inform the student, and note the examination’s outcome in the student’s file.

Below, find a template of the instructions to appear on each language examination:


You have 90 minutes to write this examination. Translate as much of the assigned text (excluding the footnotes and captions to illustrations) as time allows into idiomatic English. The overall purpose of this examination is to demonstrate that you are able to make quick and efficient use of scholarly literature in the language and thus equipped well for your future research endeavours.

Please write your translation in ink on alternate lines of the examination booklet.

You may use a dictionary.