Frequently Asked Questions

If this list does not contain the answer to your question, please send email to fll-www@mit.edu.

QWhat languages do you offer?
AHere on campus, we offer Major programs in French, German, and Spanish.  We offer Minor programs with full language programs  (3 years) in Chinese and Japanese.  We offer full language programs (2 years) in Portuguese and Russian as well.  Introductory Italian is taught in the January term only and we have advanced level English Language Studies program.  In addition, all of the languages taught by Harvard and Wellesley are available to you through the cross-registration program.

QAre languages required at MIT?
ANo.  However, they help fulfill the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) requirement at MIT.

QCan I take more than one language?

QWhere can I see what classes you offer?
ACheck out our online catalog at http://student.mit.edu/catalog/m21Fa.html.

QWhat is a concentration?
AA concentration is like a mini-minor, 3 subjects taken in one HASS field to get some depth in a topic.  It is required of all MIT students.  Taking a concentration in a language is the most popular topic for students at MIT.

QHow many classes does it take to concentrate in a language?
AAssuming that you already have some skill in the language, you would take three subjects.  If you are starting from scratch, however, you'll need to take four classes, finishing with Level IV, to get you up to speed.

QHow many classes does it take to minor in a language?
AAssuming that you already have two years worth of good high school experience in the language and you can start with Level III language subjects, then you would take a total of six subjects for a minor.  If you're not quite at the Level III language skill, then you'd have to take additional lower level classes as a pre-requisite.

QCan I concentrate and minor in the same language?
AYes, it's actually encouraged!  Your concentration subjects can also be attributed towards your minor.  If you've started your concentration at Level III, you can build directly upon those three subjects and add three more to make a minor. 

QHow do I take a language placement exam?
AWith the exception of the Japanese language, MIT prefers to do its placement on a one-on-one basis, rather than formal exams.  (The Japanese Group holds a meeting within a week before the start of classes, and then holds an exam the first day of classes.  Please contact the Japanese Coordinator for more information.)  The best thing to do is consult with one of the faculty members listed for your particular language interest and send them an inquiry email or talk in person.  You can also place yourself.  You can presume that one year of good high school language preparation is equivalent to one semester of university level language.  Students with two years of good high school language often feel ready for Level III language at MIT.  Many instructors may do some informal testing on the first day of classes to help students find the correct level for their skills.  In some cases instructors may recommend you take a different subject than the one for which you are currently registered.

QWhat are the differences between the Regular and Streamlined Chinese subjects?
AThe Streamlined subjects are designed for students who already have conversational skills (typically gained from growing up in a Chinese-speaking environment) without a corresponding level of literacy.  The Regular sequence of Chinese subjects is for students who are not heritage learners.

QCan I concentrate in a language offered at Harvard?
AYes!  Read about the cross-registration program at Harvard for more information about how to register for classes at http://web.mit.edu/registrar/reg/xreg/ugradMITtoHarvard.html

QCan I minor or major in a language offered at Harvard?
AWith the exception of MIT's Regional Minor programs, and a Major Departure in East Asian Studies, you cannot minor or major in a language not offered at MIT.

QAre there study abroad / work abroad programs?
AMIT does run a couple of study abroad programs, including for Spanish, a Spanish II Study Abroad class during January term, MIT-Madrid for a full spring semester abroad.  For French, we have a non-credit cultural immersion trip during January term.  This trip is free for students who qualify.  MIT's forté is the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) program that provides valuable work abroad experience in connection with language and culture studies.  Please see http://misti.mit.edu.

QHow can I study a language on my own if I need to catch up or review?
AMIT Community members have free access to BYKI.com, an online language learning program which tracks your progress in a large selection of supported languages.  http://libraries.mit.edu/get/byki

Q Do you do translations?
A Sometimes a few of our academic staff will take on translations as freelance work, but in general we do not offer translation services.

Q How does one sign up for IAP language classes?
A IAP signup is announced on the FL&L IAP website . See web site for directions and policy.

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