Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Find answers to your questions 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

What is our Language Studies Program?

Students are expected to take 8-12 credits of language courses during their time here. Our language courses are not purely for linguistic development. We aim to develop specific content knowledge and specialized vocabulary/terminology knowledge in the target language of the fields of the students' degree programs. We offer such courses as Green Business in China in Chinese, Sustainable Development and Business in Latin America in Spanish, Public Health Issues in Sub-Saharan Africa in French, etc. In these content-focused courses, the materials are all in the target language, including the lectures, discussions, assignments, and projects. Students develop their target language skills while learning and acquiring content knowledge of their fields in the language.

What levels are offered in the program?

We require at least a 200-level (intermediate level, 2nd-year college level) proficiency in all skills—reading, writing, speaking and listening, in the target language that the students pursue as part of the degree requirement (except English—a 300-level minimum is required). It is not the number of years of previous language study (courses) that determines the eligibility to enter the language program, but what you can do with the language (read/write/speak/listen) at the time of enrollment. Everyone must take our language placement test and demonstrate the minimum proficiency required in the language program at the start of their degree programs.

What kind of courses do we have?

The main focus of 200-level courses is on skill development, and we focus on building skills through basic regional information, familiarizing students with customs, culture, current events, and issues in the parts of the world where that language is spoken. In these courses, students work on developing communication skills to participate in everyday social interactions with ease and confidence. Some recent 200-level language course offerings include:

  • Information Technology and Global Issues
  • Evolving Societies in Latin America
  • Arab Customs and Traditions

Our 300-level courses focus on solidifying language skills so that students can engage more freely in discussions about concrete topics and complex issues in their professional fields and learn to support their ideas with more detailed elaboration. Course topics delve more deeply into discussions of development, sustainability, business, and regional challenges. Some recent 300-level language course offerings include:

  • Challenges in Peace Building: Congo
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Environment and Sustainable Development
  • Current Issues in the Japanese Media

In 400-level courses, participants polish their language use by participating fully and effectively in discussions on a variety of topics and in varied registers. Students practice structuring arguments, conducting research using first-hand resources, and preparing professional presentations. Topics of recent 400-level language courses include:

  • Models and Decision-Making for Positive Change
  • Human Security
  • U.S. Foreign Policy in Latin America
  • Comparative and International Education

In our upper-level courses, textbooks are seldom used, and materials, lectures, discussions, and assignments are all from current and authentic sources, providing the students with relevant and timely opportunities for building professional proficiency. Professors frequently invite experts from around the world to participate in classroom conversations and share their firsthand knowledge.

What languages are offered?

We have seven regularly offered languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Russian, Spanish), and other non-regular languages, such as Persian Farsi, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Turkish, Urdu, etc. As long as there is one student who meets the proficiency requirements, every effort is made to offer courses for language skills development in the target language.

How can I choose the right language for me?

The minimum entry-level requirement is 200-level (Intermediate level). We offer courses in a wide range of levels and in varied content, ranging from intermediate courses (200-level) to superior level courses (500-level) in some languages. When you choose your language of study, that language should be the one that you foresee using in your professional career after graduating. It may not necessarily be the one that you currently have sufficient proficiency, and we will work on a possible plan to make the language of your choice work. During the admissions process, students will discuss with a Language Studies Advisor how to prepare for language study in the graduate degree program, which may include summer study with a summer language scholarship.

The language you put on your application form and the current proficiency level you have in the language does not have an impact on your admission. We will discuss the feasibility of pursuing the desired language with you before an admission decision is made so that we have a workable plan for your particular language when you arrive.

Is there difference between choosing a language that I already have strong proficiency in vs a language I currently have no or little proficiency in?

Language courses at the Institute combine language skill development with professional content. For example, we have the following courses at the upper-level in French program:

  • Africa in the World
  • Sustainability for Professionals
  • Working with Self, Others, and Institutions (Intercultural Communication)
  • International Migrations/Immigrations (Monterey Model course)

Many students, even when they have high proficiency, find these courses useful as they are exposed to new academic discourse, gain special vocabulary/terminology in the field, and hone their research skills in a specific area. The above list is an example of a semester’s course offering. Every semester provides a different set of content courses.

Content-based courses are also offered in the lower level language courses, however, the lower level language courses (200-level and lower 300-level) are mostly focused on developing basic language skills. Although we incorporate content into those courses as well, the potential gain in terms of content acquisition is quite different from what is possible in higher-level courses.

The 200-level language courses (intermediate level) are focused on developing basic language skills and the course content is quite general. If you start from an elementary course in our summer program and place into the lower 200-level, it would be unrealistic to expect to attain 300-level (advanced) proficiency after just a few semesters of language study. Please keep this in mind when choosing the language of study for your degree program.