Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Washington State University
History | Language Examination

Language Examination Guidelines

If a Ph.D. student has passed a foreign language examination at another university for the M.A. degree, he or she may not substitute that examination for one taken at WSU.

Language examinations at the doctoral level will be administered and evaluated by the Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures at Washington State University. Students should obtain a copy of the document entitled “Fulfillment of the Foreign Language Translation Requirement for Graduate Students in Other Departments” and following the procedure and using the application form outlined therein.

The Department of History allows a PhD student to take a language course numbered 306 or higher with a B or better or Spanish 600 offered by the Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures to fulfill the foreign language requirement for the PhD in History. However, a PhD student who wishes to take Spanish 600 (S/F) to satisfy this requirement must obtain preapproval from his/her major professor and the Director of Graduate Studies.

Once the appropriate foreign languages faculty has evaluated the translation exam, the School of Languages, Cultures, and Race must report the results to the student and the major professor and deliver a corrected copy of the translation exam to the major professor. In case of a divided judgment regarding the results of the exam, the major professor may request that the chair of the Department of History identify and contact a qualified third party to adjudicate the dispute. If any question concerning the results remain, the Graduate Studies Committee will determine the final outcome in consultation with the major professor. The Committee reserves the right to require that the student take a second translation exam.

Once the student has successfully completed the foreign language requirement, the major professor must report the results to the Graduate Studies Committee for the purpose of maintaining the student’s record. A corrected copy of each examination taken will be placed in the student’s file.

The language requirements for the Ph.D. program must be fulfilled prior to the scheduling of preliminary examinations. Continued funding is contingent upon passing the language examination by the end of the third semester of doctoral work.

Please fill out the Language Background Form and send it with your application to the Department of History.

Required Form

Please fill out the Language Background Form and mail it with your application to the Department of History.

Evaluation Procedures

What is being tested in these examinations are 2 sorts of linguistic skills:

  1. comprehension of the meaning of appropriately-selected passages in the language of the examination, and
  2. the ability to find a suitable English equivalent to the language of the examination passage and to render a smooth, idiomatic translation.

The language examination is designed to test both skills; but, inasmuch as the ability to read and do research in another language is more important than the ability to translate it, in general, exactitude of meaning should take priority over fluency of expression.

In translating the test passage, students should demonstrate not only a knowledge of the meaning of the words; they should be able to put verbs in the correct tenses, words in their proper grammatical forms, and common idioms in their nearest English equivalents. The candidate should recognize the difference between negative and positive phrases, declarative and interrogative expressions, and indicative and imperative moods.