Language Requirements


Language Study Expectations for Applicants

We expect that our graduate students will have a strong background in at least one medieval research language (Latin, Greek, or Arabic) before they apply to our program, as well as knowledge of at least one relevant modern language. For example, students planning to work on medieval Europe should have taken introductory and intermediate Latin and moved into advanced Latin courses during their undergraduate careers, as well as studying French, German, Spanish, and/or Italian. We strongly encourage prospective applicants to do everything that they can to enhance their language skills.

Prospective applicants whose language training is deficient are therefore encouraged to pursue at least a full year of medieval and modern language study in preparation for application to our graduate program.

Language Requirements for Medieval Institute Students

All students in the Medieval Institute must achieve proficiency in at least one medieval research language (Latin, Greek, or Arabic) and at least two other languages. Every student must pass a written examination in at least one medieval research language before the end of the fourth semester. The language chosen should be the primary written language for their region of study. Most students take the Latin examination, which is offered once every semester. Written exams in other medieval research languages are scheduled on an individual basis.

A student must also pass written examinations in two “other” languages to demonstrate reading knowledge. Normally, these will be two modern languages of use for the student’s field of research. Language exams are administered by the various language departments.

If a student enters our program with a completed M.A. degree, and has passed one or more graduate-level language exams in modern languages while enrolled in the former program, it may be possible to substitute these exams for Notre Dame exams. Note that it is never possible to substitute a medieval language exam.

Most medievalists will need several more languages in order to be successful in their field. In many cases, students will need more than one medieval research language, as well as multiple modern languages. The need for language study beyond the minimum is determined by the student’s adviser.

Medieval Institute Latin Exam

The examination normally consists of three “unseen” passages, and may include both prose and verse selections. Students may use a dictionary (paper copies only) to prepare their translation of two of the three passages. The examination is set and graded by a faculty committee. Details about the Latin Exam and samples of past examinations are available for consultation.