Language Proficiency Requirement

Language Proficiency Requirement


As a liberal arts institution, Saint Mary’s values and promotes “global perspectives and inclusive excellence”. As noted in the College’s Strategic Plan, “Our graduates will be entering a world characterized by growing uncertainty, interdependence, diversity, and technological developments. Today’s world needs the blend of critical thinkers, scientifically and technologically literate citizens, ethical and inclusive leaders, and working professionals”. Knowing another language prepares students for meaningful personal and professional lives. The benefits of being bilingual include more professional opportunities, improved cognitive health, superior social skills, and higher salaries. 

In order to assist students with timely progress towards graduation, Saint Mary’s currently allows them to meet the Core Curriculum language proficiency requirement with coursework completed in high school or accredited college-level institution, in addition to other pathways. 

The language requirement may be fulfilled in one of the following ways:

  • By completing with a grade of C- or better each year in the third year of the same language other than English in high school, including American Sign Language. 
  • By completing the second semester-long course in the sequence of courses in the same language other than English at an accredited postsecondary institution. American Sign Language is explicitly permitted.
  • By passing a proficiency exam in a proctored environment with an assessment instrument approved by the Department of World Languages and Cultures or the Department of Classical Languages as appropriate (Examinations must be arranged through the Language and Proficiency Coordinator in the Department of World Languages and Cultures.),
  • By scoring at least 3 on the College Entrance Examination Board Advanced Placement (AP) exam in the World Languages and Culture Exams. The College Board offers exams in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Latin and Spanish,
  • Via an exam score of 5 or higher on the International Baccalaureate (IB) Examination in language. 
  • Via a TOEFL consistent with current enrollment standards for international students who are non-native speakers of English.
  • By achieving an intermediate level score on the Avant Language Placement Test in Reading, Contextualized Grammar, Writing, & Speaking. Results must be confirmed through oral and written proficiency testing with the Placement and Proficiency Coordinator

Please note:

Students do not receive any credits for having had their language requirement waived by the Registrar’s Office.

Students cannot automatically “place out” of the language requirement.  They must demonstrate proficiency by examination.

We strongly recommend that students complete the language requirement by the end of their sophomore year.  Transfer students should complete their requirement by the end of their junior year.

Students may only enroll in level 001 if they are true beginners in the language.  In order to register for a course other than level 001, we suggest that students take the online language placement exam to determine the appropriate level.  

The Avant Placement online exam is available in French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish.  For other languages not offered at SMC, please contact the placement and proficiency coordinator. 

Online courses or placement exams are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and must meet the learning outcomes for level 3 courses. For further information, please contact Professor María Luisa Ruiz, the Placement and Proficiency Coordinator at


Learning Outcomes 

After successfully completing levels 1–3, students will be able to...

  • Understand and produce speech in a variety of personal and social contexts; initiate and sustain conversations about multiple topics in the past, present and future tenses. 
  • Read and comprehend texts with varied subject matter, multiple points of view and verb tenses. 
  • Write prose that includes description and narration on a variety of topics with varied vocabulary.
  • Provide interpretations and supporting ideas. 
  • Exhibit understanding and demonstrate knowledge of cultural, geographical, historical, and sociopolitical aspects of other societies. 
  • Demonstrate an ability to see the world from multiple perspectives and become aware of themselves as members of the global community.

Students graduating with a language/literature major or minor are expected to be able to:

  • Converse with other speakers of the target language on a variety of topics.
  • Read and understand expository prose.
  • Write coherent, grammatically correct essays on a variety of topics.
  • Be familiar with the culture, history and literature of the countries whose language is under study.
  • Engage in literary analysis (using the correct literary terminology, grammar, stylistic requisites) by writing clear and well-organized compositions.

Students graduating with an Italian studies minor, German studies minor, or Asian studies minor will be able to:

  • Converse using the present, past, and future tenses in everyday situations.
  • Demonstrate satisfactory reading and writing skills.
  • Engage the target culture through various disciplines, including politics, economics, anthropology, history, literature, and art.