Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Frequently Asked Questions

Professor Mahmoud Abdalla Teaching Arabic, Picture

Professor Mahmoud Abdalla teaching Arabic. 

We're here to answer any questions you have about language study in our degree programs. 

We have provided answers to some of the most commonly asked questions related to the language and intercultural communications component of our degree programs. For further detail, or to speak directly with Language Studies Advisor Naoko Matsuo, please contact nmatsuo@miis.edu

Is there a language requirement at MIIS?

All degree programs at MIIS except TESOL and T&I have 12-credit Language and ICC component requirement as part of the degree program. Different degree programs have different requirements.

Why does the Institute require a certain level of language proficiency?

We require at least a 200-level (2nd-year college level) proficiency for Spanish and Arabic, and at least a 300-level (3rd-year college level) proficiency for other languages in order to offer specialized, content-based language courses.  Please note that it is not the number of years of language study you have completed that determines eligibility to enter our language program, but rather what what you can currently do with the language.

During new student orientation or at the beginning of the semester language courses will first be taken,   students must demonstrate through our language placement test that they meet the language's minimum proficiency level requirement.  Please also note that language proficiency does not remain the same over time.  Thus, even if you have studied the language extensively in the past, we still need to assess your proficiency at the time of enrollment, particularly if you have taken time off from your language study.

What language skills does a 300-level course entail?

When students start a 300-level course, they should be able to:

  • Converse with ease and confidence when dealing with most routine tasks and social situations.
  • Successfully handle uncomplicated tasks and social situations requiring an exchange of basic information.
  • Sustain understanding over longer stretches of time.
  • Read simple connected texts dealing with basic personal and social needs, consistently and with full understanding.
  • Extract main ideas and information from texts.
  • Take notes in detail on familiar topics.
  • Respond in writing to personal questions.
  • Write simple letters, brief synopses and summaries of biographical data, work and school experience.
  • Show emerging ability to describe and narrate in paragraphs.
What language skills does a 400-level course entail?

When students start a 400-level course, they should be able to:

  • Converse at an advanced level with ease and confidence when dealing with most tasks and social situations.
  • Successfully handle complicated tasks and social situations, even though some lack of vocabulary or special terminology is observed.
  • Consistently sustain understanding of discussion topics.
  • Read written texts with about 80% accuracy in understanding, with consistency and speed. 
  • Write memos, email, letters, and academic papers.
  • Have some public speaking skills, which will be fine-tuned while studying at this level.
  • Be aware of social protocols and proper register.
  • Function in a variety of social and professional situations.
  • Understand the current and historical issues of a specific country or region of society.
  • Understand politics, business and international affairs of a specific country or region of society.
  • Understand their specific field of study and discuss it in the target language.
How are 300-level and 400-level courses defined?

Generally speaking, our 300-level courses correspond to a 3rd-year college language level, and 400-level courses to a 4th-year college language level.  However, we base our language level guidelines on proficiency level, rather than the number of years a student has studied the language in question.  

How many language courses do I need to take to complete the language component?

Most of our MA degree programs have 12 language study and intercultural competency credits as part of their core requirements. Students are expected to take 8-12 credits of advanced level language courses, with up to 4 credits of intercultural competency (ICC) courses during their time here. 

For specific language and ICC course requirements, view your graduate degree program of choice:

MA, International Environmental Policy MA, International Policy Studies, Human Security & Development Master of Public Administration (MPA)
MA, International Education Management MA, Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies MBA, International Management
Do all language credits have to be in the same language?

Yes. However, if you have taken 8 credits of language courses at the 400-level or above, you can switch your focused language (Language of Study, LOS) to another language as long as you have the minimum required proficiency in the language as well.

Can I change my language (LOS) half way through my education at MIIS?

Only with strong reasons, occasionally switching your LOS is approved. You need to first discuss this with Prof. Matsuo, Academic Advisor for the Language Studies Program.

What languages are regularly offered?

We have Arabic, Chinese, English (called English for Academic and Professional Purposes, EAPP), French, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish.

What kind of language courses are offered?

We aim for our students to develop specific content knowledge and specialized vocabulary in their target language.  As a result, our language courses are not based on literature or general cultural study nor are solely for linguistic development.  Course materials, lecture, discussion and assignments are all given in the target language. We offer, for example, courses such as 'Green Business in China', or 'Sustainable Development in Latin America', 'Public Health Issues in Sub-Saharan Africa' and 'Reading Terrorist Group websites'. 

Can I take a language class in a language that isn't regularly offered at MIIS?

Yes. Based on the special requests at the time of admission, languages other the languages above can be offered. In the past, we have had German, Korean, Farsi, Italian, Portuguese, Turkish, Hindi, Urdu, etc. These are called Non-Regular Language (NRL) courses, and are usually very small classes. There is a special set-up fee for NRL. Other than the class size, the NRL courses have the same standard as out regular language courses.

Can I take more than one language?

Yes. You do need to fulfill the 12-credit requirement in your LOS, but you can take additional language courses which apply towards program electives. If interested, you can also audit some language courses as long as you can demonstrate the minimum language proficiency required in the language. If you are interested in taking any language course, you need to take the placement test of the language.

Can I take a Translation & Interpretation class?

You will first need to take the LS placement test and place into the 400-level or above. You will then need to take the EDT of the T&I program. Upon successful demonstration of a high proficiency level, you may take an introductory T&I course to fulfill the language component requirement up to a certain number of credits.

What do I do if I didn't pass the placement test in my LOS?

You will meet with Professor Matsuo to discuss the 'In-Degree Language Plan', which lays out a plan to complete all the Language and ICC component requirements within the timeframe you have at MIIS.

How do I get placed into a language class?

Everyone who would like to take/audit a language course needs to take the language placement test. The placement test is offered only twice a year, prior to the start of each semester. Completion of the summer programs or other standardized test scores do not replace the placement test. The test site is available for a certain period of time (7-10 days). If you miss the test period, there are two make-up test days scheduled, but your course placement may not be done before the class registration if you don't take the placement test during the official testing period. Some language programs have an oral interview in addition to the online test. You will receive an email to set up the oral interview date/time.

How do I get the result of the placement test?

The course placement will be entered into Bannerweb, and will appear as courses that have approval for you to register. If you don't see any course approval, that may mean that you didn't pass the placement test, or your test was not evaluated completely. Please contact Prof. Matsuo.

Can I change my language class once I'm placed?

The course placement is not solely based on the result of the online placement test. If you feel that you couldn't demonstrate your proficiency in full due to the technical problems, we can redo the placement test, or if you find out that the course you are placed is not really a good match for your skill levels, we can move you to a different course. It's a good idea, though, to wait and find out first which course you're placed, go to the first class and see the course syllabus and class make-up, and if you need to, go talk to the professor of the course about the change of placement.

Can I delay taking a language course?

We strongly recommend that you start taking language courses from the first semseter, especially if your language skill levels are not high. It is very difficult to keep your proficiency at the same level if you take a semester off from language study, and you may not place into the program the following semester! Only when you have higher proficiency (400 or above level), you can start your language later. If you are doing one of the NRL, you are expected to take it from your first semester and continue taking until you finish the requirement.

Can I skip a semester from taking a language course?

If you skip a semester from taking a language course in order to participate in an internship program, or for other reasons, expect that your proficiency goes down. You will need to take the placement test again when you return to campus, as the result of the placement test is only honored in that particular semester you took the test.

I have high proficiency in language. Can I waive out of the language requirement?

If you have strong 400-level proficiency, and find no language course that is beneficial for your study, you may challenge to take Language Waiver Exam. You will first have to take the placement test and demonstrate the 400 plus proficiency. Consult with Prof. Matsuo for details.

Can I start a language at the beginning level?

The elementary and intermediate level languages are offered in our summer programs but not offered through our Language Studies program during the academic year, but we have a program called BUILD (http://www.miis.edu/student-life/world/stories/node/23763), where students volunteers teach elementary and intermediate language courses to their fellow students with no fee.

What opportunities for language studies are available on campus?

We have many students who become 'language partners' and exchange language tutoring of each other's language. There are also 'language clubs', in which interested students promote activities related to language and culture.

Are there language scholarships for MIIS students?

We have a very generous scholarship program (Kathryn Davis Fellowship for Peace http://www.miis.edu/admissions/financialaid/scholarships/davis) that enables students to study in a summer intensive program during their time at MIIS with 100% of its cost covered. You can apply for the scholarship once you enroll at MIIS. There is an information session scheduled in late October/November to help become competitive applicant for this scholarship. Stay tuned for announcement for the event!