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Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
Rutgers University
Armitage Hall, 311 N. 5th Street
Camden, NJ 08102
(856) 225-6136
forlangs@camden.rutgers.edu

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Home » Requirements » Language Requirement

Language Requirement

A students’ guide to the requirement, placement, and course selection

For questions that cannot be answered here, please contact the chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Dr. James Rushing.

Do I have to fulfill the foreign language requirement?

Are you planning to major in accounting, finance, management, marketing, nursing, pharmacy, engineering, or bio-med technology? If yes, click here.

All other majors require you to complete three credits in a foreign language course at the 102 (Elementary II) level or higher.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to take a placement test?

If you took French or German in high school, and you are continuing in that language, you do NOT need to take a placement test. Your placement is based on the number of years you studied the language in high school.

  • If you took just 1 year, you should start with Elementary I (101).
  • If you took 2 years, you should start with Elementary II (102).
  • If you took 3 years, you should start with Intermediate I (131).
  • If you took 4 or more years, your placement is likely to be Intermeidate I (131). But you may be ready for more advanced work, especially if any of your high school courses were Honors or AP courses, you may well be ready for a more advanced course, and you should consult the department to determine which course to take.  (Placement tests are still available, and you may wish to take one if you think that relying on years studied will provide an incorrect placement.)

If you took Spanish in high school, or have learned Spanish in some other way, and you want to take Spanish at Rutgers-Camden, you should take the placement test to determine the appropriate level for your first course. Please go to http://newstudents.camden.rutgers.edu/testing_registration to get more information about testing or register for a placement test.  

If you took Spanish in high school, have not learned Spanish in any other way, and took your last high school Spanish course 10 years ago or more, you do not need to take the placement test, but can simply register for Elementary I (101). However, you might still want to take the test, to see if you remember enough to start with 102, which could save you a course.

 

Why do we have all these rules about placement?

Because we want the course or courses you take to fulfill the foreign language requirement to be as meaningful as possible. There is no point in taking a course that repeats material you already know. There is equally no point in taking a course that is clearly too difficult for you. If you take the right level, you should have considerably more ability in the language at the end of the course than you did at the beginning. 

Are there restrictions on which courses I can take for credit?

Yes. If you took three years or more of a language in high school, you cannot receive credit for Elementary I (usually 101) in that language. If you took more than three years, you cannot get credit for Elementary II (usually 102). Shorthand: three years, no 101; four years, no 102Most people will place higher. These rules are intended to prevent students who somehow fall through the cracks in the placement system from getting credit for courses that are far below their true level.

Why does foreign language study matter, anyway?

Studying a foreign language is a wonderfully enriching, mind broadening experience, and an important part of a general education. But for more concrete reasons, look at our country, and look at the world. Millions of Americans speak languages other than English, many millions more come from families that spoke another language not many generations ago. Issues of immigration and language policy are frequent topics of political debate. Studying another language, any other language, will help you understand the issues faced by Americans who speak languages other than English, will help you understand the immigrant experience, may help you understand your neighbor, your family, or yourself. And look at the world: America is less isolated (like it or not!) and the world is more interconnected than ever. Economic opportunities, economic threats, opportunities for international cooperation, and threats to our security are everywhere. Studying another language will help you understand all these things. Finally, studying a foreign language helps you understand the nature of language itself, one of the most essential aspects of our humanity.  

Which language should I study?

There are several reasons for continuing to study a language that you have already begun studying in high school (or elsewhere).

  • You can fulfill your language requirement in one semester, whereas if you start a new language you will have to take two semesters.
  • You can advance much farther in your ability to actually use the language.
  • Studying at a slightly more advanced level can be much more rewarding, and actually a lot more fun, than starting over with the basics in a new language.

On the other hand, there can be reasons to start a new language. But many of the reasons that commonly motivate students to start a new language are not really good reasons.

  • You think it will be easier to start over at the beginning level, even though it means taking an extra semester. 
    • For most people, this is probably not true. If you had two or more years of a language in high school, even if you didn’t do really well and you’ve forgotten a lot, you have learned a good many basic structures and vocabulary items. Why start all over with how to say your name and the words for “pen” and “chalkboard,” when you could be building on what you know and moving on to much more interesting topics? TAKE THE PLACEMENT TEST, and see how you do. Chances are, it will confirm that you know more than you think and are ready for further study.
  • You took three years or more of a language in high school, but feel that you performed so poorly and learned so little that you are unqualified for anything beyond Elementary I, which you are not allowed to take for credit after taking three years in high school. So you feel you must start a new language.
    • You could be right, but you could be underestimating your abilities and overestimating the difficulty of the next level. TAKE THE PLACEMENT TEST, and see how you do. If you really do place into the beginning level, you will have to decide whether to take one semester for no credit and then continue the language, or to start a new language.
  • You are really interested in a different language for academic, personal, or future professional reasons. 
    • By all means go ahead and start a new language.

Can I take an online course to fulfill my foreign language requirement?

If it is not offered by a unit of Rutgers, then the answer is no. If it is an online course offered within Rutgers, then technically the answer is yes, but we strongly discourage it, for the following reasons. 

1) We are generally skeptical about whether online courses can provide real alternatives to classroom courses at this level of language instruction, since learning a language naturally requires real-time face-to-face conversation and almost constant speaking and listening.

2) Since these courses are not offered by our department, we cannot monitor or vouch for their quality or evaluate whether they are achieving the learning goals implicit in our Camden degree requirements.

3) Since these courses are not offered by our department, Camden students who run into problems with these courses, or need to complain about an instructor or a grade, find it difficult to know where to turn to resolve their problems.

4) In some cases, the placement requirements and expectations associated with these courses on other campuses are clearly different from those associated with our Camden courses, which leads to confusion and frustration for our students.

5) Textbooks and methodologies may also be different in these online courses from those used at Rutgers-Camden, meaning that students who take part of the elementary-intermediate sequence online and another part on our campus may run into a variety of problems including the need to purchase a different textbook and adjust to a different teaching method.

For all these reasons, we strongly discourage Camden students from taking online courses to fulfill their foreign language requirement.

What if I’m a native speaker of a language other than English?

Students who identify themselves as native speakers or heritage speakers of a language other than English are treated in the same way as everyone else under these guidelines:

  • If they wish to study their non-English native language (provided it is one we teach here), they must follow placement guidelines and start at the appropriate level. Spanish speakers should normally take the placement test. French or German speakers should consult the department.
  • If they wish to study a different language, they should be placed in the same way as any other student. They may not receive course credit by examination simply for speaking a language other than English.

Why do we use a proficiency test for placement?

High school programs vary enormously in how much they cover and how well. A student who had four years at one school might be at the same level as a student who had two years at another school. Individuals also vary enormously in how much they learn from a given amount of study. Testing thus provides a much more precise and individualized placement than merely relying on how many years a student has studied the language.

My placement is “Intermediate.” Isn’t that a really advanced course? Won’t it be really hard?

No! Many students appear to be inordinately fearful of Intermediate level courses. If that is your placement, then you should be ready for it, and you should do fine. In fact, Intermediate may be easier in some ways than Elementary, because so much of the grammar will be a review of points already learned in Elementary.

What if I’m a transfer student?

In general, transfer students who completed a foreign language course at the Elementary II level or above at their previous institution will receive transfer credit for that course, which will fulfill the Camden foreign language requirement. Any problems or questions should be referred to the chair of the foreign languages department. Transfer students who have not completed the language requirement elsewhere should take the placement test and be placed just like freshmen (unless they’ve been out of high school for ten years). 

What if I took an Advanced Placement test in a foreign language?

Students who receive a score of 4 or 5 on the ETS Advanced Placement Exam in French, German, or Spanish receive 4 elective credits and begin language study at a more advanced level. The AP test does not fulfill the language requirement, it merely provides advanced placement, as the name suggests.

What if I took my high school language classes ten years ago or more?

If you last studied a language ten or more years ago, you do not need to take a placement test, and you may take Elementary I (101) for credit.


Are there other requirements that can be fulfilled by taking courses in the foreign languages?

Yes, there are two other categories in the general requirements that can be met by foreign language department courses.

  • Literature and Fine Arts

In category 4.b. of the general requirements, “Literature and Fine Arts,” you must take one course from either the English Department or the Foreign Languages Department, but not counting pure writing courses in English or pure language courses in Foreign Languages. This has to be a course in literature, culture, or film. Most of the courses taught in English in the foreign languages department, such as French Literature in English Translation, German Cinema in English Translation, Civilization of the Spanish Peoples, and so forth, will count here, as will advanced literature, film, and culture courses taught in the target languages.

  • Diversity and Global Studies

The general requirements also include one course in Diversity or Global Studies. Courses acceptable here will be designated D or G in the catalog and the schedule of classes. At present, all Foreign Languages Department courses, except elementary level language courses, fulfill this requirement. Thus if you took, for example, Intermediate French/German/Spanish I to fulfill your language requirement, you could take Intermediate II to fulfill your Globalism requirement, and take your language abilities to a new level at the same time. All the courses taught in English in the foreign languages department will also fulfill this requirement.


Fields with no true foreign language requirement

The business majors, along with nursing, pharmacy, engineering, and bio-med technology, have no foreign language requirement in the strict sense. You may, however, have other requirements that can or must be fulfilled through foreign language department courses, such as the humanities elective in nursing, or the “three credits from the offerings of the foreign language departments” in the School of Business.

Many students who do not have a true foreign language requirement in their field choose to take foreign literature, film, and culture courses taught in English. While these are excellent courses and can play an important role in your overall education, you shouldn’t take one because you assume it will be easier than a real foreign language course. Consider your own strengths and weaknesses. If you’re better at memorizing than at writing essays, for example, you may be better off in a language course. Courses taught in English often require a considerable amount of reading, and grading is likely to be based to a significant extent on your ability to write essays about literary or cultural questions. Many students are likely to have an easier time getting the grade they desire in a real foreign language course. Besides, there is something to be said for taking courses based on what you can gain by taking them rather than on what you can avoid by not taking them. Studying a foreign language, even if you don’t have to, can be an enormously rewarding experience, providing valuable insight into how other people live and a valuable tool for understanding the world and communicating with the people in it.