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World Language Policy

Foreign Language Policy

Students pursuing a Smeal College major are required to demonstrate a 12th-credit level proficiency in a non-English, world language. Students may continue with a language studied previously in high school, begin a new one, or take a language proficiency exam if fluent and literate in another language. Those continuing with a previous language should follow the placement policy as outlined below.

Note: American Sign Language (ASL) is not eligible to fulfill the world language requirement for Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees at Penn State. All Smeal majors are Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees.

Placement Policy for World Language Courses

Students who have studied a world language within four years immediately before admission to Penn State may enroll in that language for credit based on the number of Carnegie units prior to admission. A Carnegie "unit" refers to one course level of a world language - French 001, French 002, French 003, etc. - equivalent to one year of study and accredited as such by the school. If a period of four or more years has elapsed between a student's graduation from high school and admission to college, he or she may be eligible to enroll in level 1 of the language studied in high school.

Foreign Language Requirements
Carnegie Units Completed Prior to Penn State AdmissionRegister in Language Level
Fewer than two Carnegie units Course Level 001 (4 credits)
Two or three Carnegie units Course Level 002 (4 credits)
Four or more Carnegie units Course Level 003 (4 credits)

Non-Course Work Knowledge of World Languages

Students who have acquired a knowledge of a world language by means other than course work (e.g., family background, travel or study in a foreign country, participation in noncredit summer language programs, etc.) may enroll in elementary and intermediate courses in that language only with permission of the course coordinator or department head. Once students have been placed in a skills course, they may not receive credit for a lower-level skills course.

Students whose native language is not English may not receive credit (through course work or examination) for elementary and intermediate courses in their native language. Enrollment in skills courses beyond intermediate level (e.g., conversation, composition) must be approved by the department head.

Accelerated and Intensive Courses

Students may choose to enroll in accelerated courses such as French 111 and 112, German 011 and 012, or in Penn State's Summer  Language Institute courses. Because the objectives of these courses are somewhat different, students may schedule them for full credit even if they have studied the language previously. https://language-institute.outreach.psu.edu/course-offerings

Student Disability Resources (SDR)

For students who present official paperwork from Student Disability Resources (SDR) that allows them exemption from completing a foreign language, this is Smeal's updated policy on how they can complete the 12th credit level language requirement for Smeal majors:

The student can take 12-credits of any IL classes, as long as they are 'pure' IL (not US/IL) and are not business classes.

In addition to satisfying the 12th credit level language requirement, these credits can also satisfy any gen ed and elective credit requirements as well as the IL requirement for the student's Smeal degree.

If a student took any level language course and completed it with a "D" or higher (or has transfer credit for a direct equivalent to a PSU language course), then those credits can be deducted from their 12-credit count.  (e.g. a student completed SPAN 1, then they only need 8 credits of IL to meet the requirement).

Proficiency Certification and Credit by Examination

Some students seek to satisfy language requirements by means other than taking coursework. If their situations fall within the criteria established by Penn State’s Foreign Language Placement Policy, they may request that the relevant language and literature departments provide Non-Credit Proficiency Certification or Credit by Examination.

Non-Credit Proficiency Certification: this process does not confer credits

Sometimes the situations of students fall within the language proficiency certification realm. Examples include the following:

  1. Native Speakers - Undergraduate students who are native speakers of languages other than English. Such students are not eligible for credit in the elementary or intermediate courses in their native language, as noted above, but they may be seeking certification that they have met the 12th-credit-level proficiency requirement for their degree.
  2. Education Abroad - Undergraduate students seeking documentation of their proficiency in a language acquired through means such as education abroad or other such programs, often to satisfy the 12th-credit-level proficiency requirement.
  3. Languages Not Offered at Penn State - Students seeking proficiency certification in languages not taught at their Penn State location.

Students seeking Non-Credit Proficiency Certification in World Languages should contact the School of Languages and Literatures in one of these locations based on the language:

  • 466 Burrowes Building for German, Russian, Ukranian, French, Arabic, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese
  • 102 Old Botany for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, and languages not taught at Penn State.

Requests are to be submitted to the department that offers the language curriculum (as specified on the form) at least one semester prior to the time when the certification will be needed. It is not guaranteed that all requests will be fulfilled. If the language department cannot fulfill the request, the student will be notified and can seek alternative means of documenting proficiency (such as taking an external standardized exam in the language). If the language department can fulfill the request, the fee ($60 as of 2019-2020) must be paid before the examination is administered.

Credit by Examination: this process can confer credits

This is a method of graded credit acquisition. It is officially defined by Faculty Senate Policy 42.50 and implemented via University Policy E-2 which states: "Penn State students may earn credits which are accepted to fulfill degree requirements through successful completion (C or better) of a comprehensive examination. This examination is a substitute for completing the usual requirements of a course. Credit by examination may not be used to earn credit for a course previously completed with a quality letter grade (including courses that were failed). Credit by examination may not be attained on the satisfactory - unsatisfactory grading system. Obtaining credit by examination may not be possible for some courses."

A fee per credit is charged for Credit by Examination.  The credits and grades are entered on the student's transcript. Paperwork to request Credit by Examination can be obtained from the academic departments in charge of the language. Departments are not necessarily obliged to offer Credit by Examination.

In language courses, students are eligible for Credit by Examination only within the parameters of the University's World Language Placement Policy. This policy states, for example, that students may not receive credit for elementary or intermediate courses in their native language.