World Languages and Cultures

Language Requirement

  • Goals of the Language Requirement

    The Department of World Languages and Cultures has three goals for all of its courses:

    1. To teach students to assemble and analyze information through an awareness of the power of language in its many contexts
    2. To provide linguistic training for students to write, speak, and communicate effectively in a foreign language
    3. To promote intercultural competence for students to perceive the connectedness and complexities of our world and to navigate effectively across diverse cultural lines

    We stress a communicative approach to language learning. In our classes, you will learn the essential four skills of a living language: how to read, write, listen, and speak. You will also learn about culture and history through your language study. Depending on which courses you take, your language proficiency may vary, but all Washington College students will achieve at the minimum an intermediate low proficiency level (based on ACTFL guidelines) in all four skills. 

    Language Requirement Placement    Policy

    All Washington College students are required to fulfill the Language Requirement. In order to ensure consistent treatment of all students, each student must take the language placement test (which can be found in WebAdvisor). If the student decides to continue with the language of the placement test at WAC, they must register for the course indicated by the test.

     There are some special cases to consider:

    1. Students can also fulfill the Language Requirement with transfer credit from other institutions after approval of the Associate Chair of World Languages and Cultures.

    2. Students who speak, read and write a native language other than English have the option of waiving the requirement upon approval of the Associate Chair of World Languages and Cultures.

    3. Native Speakers cannot register in HPS 302 or FRS 302, a conversational level. For the rest of the courses the instructor will determine if the native speaker is in the correct class and can move the student to a more appropriate level.

    Very Important: We strongly recommend that students complete the Language Requirement in the first two years of instruction. Otherwise, they may find that the class they need is not offered, preventing them from graduating. In the exceptional case that the Department deems that a change of placement is appropriate, the placement will only be lowered by one level.  Should the student still feel uncomfortable with their placement, they may start a new language at the 101 level.

    Language placement process

    *All incoming and transfer students must take the language survey and, if applicable, a placement exam to determine their level.*
Even if you have never studied a language, you must take the language survey. 
To access the language survey, please login Webadvisor and click on the”Students” menu. Under “Miscellaneous options,” click on “Placement Survey and Test.” 

How to complete the language requirement

  • For students starting a new language or students placed in the 101 or 102 level: two semesters in the new or placement language.
  • For students placing in 200-level or above in French, German, Chinese, or Spanish: one semester of study.
  • Students who have achieved a score of 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement test have satisfied this requirement.
  • Students who speak, read and write a native language other than English may satisfy this requirement with that language pending approval from the Associate Chair of World Languages and Cultures.
  • Students who present appropriate documentation qualifying them for a foreign language substitution may be allowed to substitute two pre-approved courses to satisfy this requirement.

Frequently asked questions

How do I take the Placement Exam?

Following your acceptance to Washington College and prior to Summer Advising Days you will receive a letter in which you will find instructions for taking the foreign language survey. You will access the survey electronically via WebAdvisor on the Washington College website. In order to take the placement survey you will need the login and password that were assigned to you in the letter. If you have already taken Chinese, French, German, or Spanish, the survey will forward you to the Language Placement exam. After you finish the exam, you will see your placement score and the level in which it is most appropriate for you to enroll.

What if I forget which class I placed into?

Your academic adviser will have access to your placement score and will make certain you are enrolled in the appropriate course. Alternately, you can check your language placement level on your Advising Summary Sheet on Student Planning.

What if my language placement is much higher/lower than I expected?

We take placement very seriously and firmly believe that our exam is accurate. Occasionally students feel they are in the wrong class. First, it is important to allow yourself some time to adjust to a college-level language class before rushing into making changes. If, after attending class, you believe you have been mistakenly placed you should speak to your instructor. S/he will be best able to assess your progress to that point in the class. Students often perceive problems when in reality they are simply adjusting to the expectations. If you and your instructor decide that you should be in a different level class, you should then speak with both your adviser and the chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures so that appropriate measures can be taken.

What if there is no placement exam available for the language I studied in high school?

You do not need to take the placement exam since you will be starting with a new language. You should enroll in the language of your choice at the 101 level.

What if the language that I studied in high school is not offered at WAC?

You should enroll in a new language at the 101-level.

I took an AP exam in a language offered at WAC.

If you received a 4 or 5 on that exam you will get college credit and your language requirement will be complete. However, if you plan to continue your study of that language, you should still take the placement exam and enroll in the appropriate level of language based on your score.

I took an AP exam in a language not offered at WAC.

If you received a 4 or 5 on that exam you will get college credit and your language requirement will be complete.

What if I want to take another language than the one I studied in high school?

We welcome you to do so! Please enroll in the language of your choice at the 101-level. For our records, though, we would still like you to take the placement survey and the placement exam for the language you studied in high school if that language is Chinese, French, Spanish, or German. If you change your mind later we will know where you should be placed.

I have learning differences that make studying a language difficult for me.

Please go to the Office of Academic Skills website for further information.

I am a faculty member and would like to find the placement scores of a student.

Please refer to the student’s record in Student Planning.