College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Foreign Language Exam Guidelines


To pass the English Department foreign language exam, you must write a translation that demonstrates your understanding of the general sense of the passage you are translating. 

This is paramount.  The drift of the argument—the central question or point at issue—must be seen with specificity.  The question is: could you use what you have read in writing an article or an argument?

You must either:

  • Translate the passage into readable, fluid English with a reasonable degree of accuracy.  Some roughness is acceptable as long as the meaning of the original comes through most of the time


  • Translate at least half the passage with almost no errors—that is, write a coherent, smooth, largely idiomatic and accurate translation with no sentence seriously misconstrued and few, if any, misapprehensions of the sense of the original.

You ought to set your goals quite high— translating all of the passage smoothly and correctly.  It is the best way to achieve either one of the above.

Translations vary, but each passing translation shows a command of the language proficient enough to translate beyond a word-for-word interpretation from the dictionary and a list of defined vocabulary.  Passing translations demonstrate confidence in the langauge similar to that of a student who completed a second semester intermediate level class and mastered basic components of the langauge, specifically, reading and writing skills.

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