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

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.

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 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.

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 wil 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 sucessful 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.

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 sumemr 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.

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.

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.

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.  

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.