Before taking the first qualifying exam at the end of the second year in the program, all students must demonstrate their working competence in one of the following foreign languages: French, German, Italian, Spanish, or Latin. Students are advised to select from this list a language having particular relevance to their individual areas of concentration. Other languages than these five may be substituted by petition in cases where the language has a clear relevance to the student’s intended program of study and where the department can find an appropriate examiner. Please note that computer coding languages do not count toward this requirement.

The department urges students to give early consideration to the language requirement and to confer with their advisor about the appropriateness of particular languages to their research and teaching interests. Depending on their particular field of study, students are advised that additional language training may be helpful to their scholarly work and may even be expected by colleagues in their field. The language requirement for the PhD in English at UCSB should thus be considered as a bare minimum rather than as an indication of all the foreign language training that any particular student may need.

The requirement may be fulfilled in one of two ways:

  1. by passing a written translation exam, or
  2. by passing with a grade of B+ or better either one graduate literature course or one upper-division literature course taught in the foreign language.

7.1. Method 1: Translation Exam

Language examinations are held twice per year, early in the fall and spring quarters. Students will translate into English foreign-language passages of the kind of material they will encounter in their professional lives. This means the translation of two passages: one of non-fictional prose dealing with a literary topic, the other drawn directly from a literary work (or in the case of Latin, two passages from different authors). The passages together will normally have a combined total of about 600-700 words. Both passages must be translated in full within the two-hour exam time.  A high degree of accuracy will be required. The use of one dictionary is allowed. Candidates wishing to take the examination must notify the Staff Graduate Advisor at least three weeks in advance of the posted date (since arrangements must often be made with faculty in other departments to create and grade exams in particular languages).

7.1.1. Preparing for the Language Exam

For students who wish to begin a language or review former language skills, the university sometimes offers introductory courses as well as accelerated sequences designed for graduate students. French 11A and B and German 1G and 2G are directed toward the acquisition of reading knowledge, and enrollment is restricted to graduate students. No graduate credit is given for these courses, nor do they satisfy the coursework option of the English Department’s foreign language requirement. The following texts have proved useful to students reviewing for examinations on their own:

French for Reading (Sandberg and Tatham)
German for Reading Knowledge (Jannach)
Italian for You (Lennie and Grego)

The Staff Graduate Advisor keeps sample language exams.

7.2. Method 2: Coursework

Candidates must pass, with a grade of B+ or better, either one graduate literature course or one upper-division literature course taught in the foreign language. Students choosing this option are required to submit a course syllabus, in advance of taking the course, to the graduate committee. Foreign literature courses taught at another university and/or taken prior to entry into our program may be accepted at the graduate committee’s discretion, with the reservation that no course taken more than two years prior to entry will be accepted.