The World Language Requirement – what you need to know

As you are researching schools in preparation to apply this fall, you no doubt have spent a lot of time looking at each school’s admissions requirements. English, math, science … all the basics are covered, but are you a little unsure about Penn State’s world language requirement? Then read on …

Our current requirement for world languages reads as follows:

Two units in a single world language other than English are required. However, a student may be admitted with fewer than two units in a world language other than English, but must correct this deficiency by the time s/he earns 60 credits or graduates from Penn State, whichever comes first. This deficiency may be corrected by passing one three- or four-credit college level world language course or by demonstrating proficiency equivalent to two units of high school world language study.

Either a third unit in the same language or an additional unit in a second world language other than English is recommended.

So, what does this mean? There are really two scenarios for this admission requirement:

1. You completed 2 or more years of a language in high school.
If this is the case, then your admission requirements have been met. BUT, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are done with world languages. Some of Penn State’s colleges, like Smeal or Liberal Arts, require you to be proficient in a language at the 12-credit level, meaning the equivalent of 3 college classes in that language. Based on the number of years of a high school language completed, you will be placed into that language at a certain level and will have to take the appropriate number of classes to complete the language requirement for your college. So, for example, for 2 years of language in high school, you would be given course level 1 at Penn State, and would need to complete levels 2 and 3 to fulfill the 12-credit requirement. For more information on language placement, please visit the University Bulletin.

2. You completed less than 2 years of a language in high school.
If you only took one year of a language or did not take a language at all in high school, we ask that you take a language course within your first 60 credits at Penn State to meet this admission requirement. This requirement may be met by earning a passing grade in one three- or four-credit college-level foreign language course at Penn State, by earning transferable credits in a foreign language course at another institution, or by demonstrating proficiency. Please note: if you are studying in a Penn State academic college with additional foreign language requirements, you will have to take more language classes than the one required course.

The most common question we get about the language requirement is whether sign language fulfills the requirement. Sign language does not meet the world language requirement.

Hopefully this post gives you a better understanding of this requirement. And don’t worry – should you decide to attend Penn State, you will have academic advisers here that will make sure you take the proper amount of language to meet this requirement, as well as any language requirements you might have for your degree program. Until next time, adios, au revoir, auf wiedersehen, ciao …

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