One of the most common questions we get in 70 Bascom is sometimes the most confusing one to answer: what is the foreign language requirement? The reason it's difficult for us to answer and often difficult for students to understand is because even though we have a basic foreign language requirement, every student meets the requirement differently.
Question 1: Are you a Bachelor of Arts? Or a Bachelor of Science? (BA vs. BS)
- If you are seeking a BA, then you must reach the 4th level of foreign language proficiency in the same language (like 4 semesters of Spanish) or the 3rd level of one foreign language and the 2nd level of another (such as 3 semesters of Spanish and 2 semesters of Italian).
- If you are seeking a BS, then you must reach the 3rd level of a foreign language, such as 3 semesters of Spanish for example. Remember, the language has to be all of the same language.
Question 2: What if I took a foreign language in high school?
- Today, most students have taken at least some foreign language in high school. We would need to know, how much did you take?
- If you took 4 years of high school Spanish (or French, or Latin, etc.) then you have completed the BA and BS foreign language requirement.
- If you took 3 years of high school Spanish, etc. then you have completed the BS foreign language requirement.
- If you took 2 years of high school Spanish and 1 year of French... well, that's where it gets confusing.
Question 3: I took 2 years of a foreign language in high school. What now?
- Well, you need to get to the fourth level, or the third level of one language and the second level of another for a BA, or at least the third level for the BS. So this gives you some options:
- At SOAR you will take a foreign language placement test which tells you and your advisor what level of foreign language you would place into at the University. Most students who take 2 years of a high school foreign language (i.e., Spanish) find out that when they take the placement test at SOAR that they "test into" Semester 1 or Semester 2 (generally 101 or 102).
- Whatever level you test into, remember that you have to reach the fourth level (or the third level or one plus the second level of another) for the BA; or just the third level for the BS.
- If you've placed beyond the first semester, you can start with the 2nd semester of that foreign language. (See the retro-credits question below).
- In general, most foreign languages use the following sequences for course levels. (As an aside, some of the East Asian languages are different because they are offered for more credits - so speak with the department or 70 Bascom if you need clarification).
- Level One: 101 (i.e. Spanish 101, French 101)
- Level Two: 102
- Level Three: 203
- Level Four: 204
- Anything beyond those numbers is gravy.
- Departments that don't follow the number sequence outlined above do however list their courses as "First Semester Dutch (for example)", "Second Semester Dutch," "Third Semester," etc.
Question 4: Can I continue with my foreign language studies at UW-Madison even though I've completed the requirement?
- Absolutely! Many students find the study of foreign language not only practical for furthering their career and personal ambitions, but they enjoy it too. Some even add their foreign language as a second major.
Question 5: Can I get credit for the foreign language I took in high school? (Retroactive/"Retro"-Credits are explained here).
- Yes, you can.
- At SOAR you will take a placement test that tells you and your advisor at which level you have placed into for foreign language study. Depending on where you place, will then determine how many retro credits you are eligible.
- For example, let's say you take the placement test and place into 3rd semester Spanish (SPAN 203). If you get a "B" or better in Spanish 203, then you will get retroactive credit for Spanish 101 and 102 (a total of 8 credits!). Now that you are in the third semester of Spanish, you would be finished with your BS language requirement (if you weren't already due to the number of years you took in high school); or would be one course away (Spanish 204) from completing the fourth semester/level requirement.
- You can apply for retro credits after you complete the first course of foreign language. You MUST apply for retro credits during the first semester of foreign language study at UW Madison, and you are no longer eligible for retro credits after you've earned 30 credits toward your undergraduate degree.
- More information on Retro-Credits Policy
Question 6: Now I am confused: what's this thing about course levels? If I have to get to the fourth level, will that take me four years?!
- It sounds confusing, but it really is not meant to be. In high school, you take Spanish 1 (for example) which spans an entire academic year: September through May. The highest level most students reach in high school is Spanish 4 if they took it all four years of high school.
- However, in college, levels don't span an entire year: they span only a semester. If you need to start from the first semester of a foreign language (or the first level), and took the same foreign language until you reached the fourth level, it would take you four semesters (or two continuous years).