Language Requirement

The ability to comprehend multiple languages is important to the study of International and World History. While there is no language requirement for entry into the program, current students must fulfill language requirements in order to graduate.

Ways to fulfill the Language Requirement

Students must fulfill the language requirement in one of four different ways*: 

  1. By taking two years of language training while at Columbia and LSE. 
  2. By taking and passing two translation exams in different languages. (Both translation exams must be taken at Columbia.)
  3. By taking and passing one translation exam and studying a language for one year, either at Columbia or at LSE. 
  4. By taking and passing an intensive summer language course (that equals the same number of credits as a year-long language course) combined with either a passed language exam or an additional year of language classes.

Students have the choice between focusing on a single language or splitting the requirement between two different languages. It is possible to continue further study of a language after a student has passed the translation exam in that language.

*Some exceptions apply for students who can show evidence of multilingual accomplishments.

Language Examinations (only offered at Columbia)

Language exams are offered four times per academic year: September, December, January, and April. They are graded pass/fail and do not go on students’ transcripts. Students who have completed their secondary schooling or undergraduate work in a language other than English, or whose native language is not English, receive an automatic pass for that language.

Sample translation exams can be found on the History Department website. Please notify the MA Program Office if you wish to take an exam in a language that is not listed on the departmental website. Language exams for East Asian languages are administered by the Department of East Asian Languages and Culture (EALAC). At the moment, there are no sample exams for Asian languages, but further information can be found on EALAC’s website.

Language Classes at Columbia

Language classes do not count toward the 30-point requirement; they are in addition to it. Language courses can carry different numbers of points. The most intensive ones, which meet four times a week, can be as many as 5 points (e.g. Chinese). However, most introductory language classes are 4 points. Some introductory and intermediate language classes meet only once a week and carry 2 to 3 points (e.g. Rapid Reading and Translation). If the instructor approves, the program permits students to take language classes pass/fail. 

History and approved elective courses taught in a foreign language offered at the 4000-level and above can generally be counted simultaneously towards both the 30-point requirement and the language requirement. (e.g. French Theater and Revolution; Fifty Years of Impatience: The Italian Novel between 1950-2000.)

Language Classes at the LSE

Language classes at LSE are taken through the LSE Language Center. The Language center offers Certificate Courses during the academic year, which are extra curricular in nature and can be taken by anyone including individuals not currently at LSE. Courses taken at the LSE Language Center cannot be counted towards the second year’s required elective units; they are in addition to them.