Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Being lingual -- and speaking English

You've heard us say it before, and it bears repeating: languages are important at SAIS.

They are important partly because they help make up the diversity that sets SAIS apart. We are proud of the international character of our student body, faculty and alumni. Our alumni come from 110 different countries and our current students from 34: that's a lot of languages.

We teach a great many languages because mastery of a language can open a door onto a culture, a society, a political system, in short a foreign realm. It's not absolutely essential to speak many languages to have an impact on the world, but learning another language will surely help you better understand the workings of the world and of other societies.

We've posted on languages before. Our most loyal readers will remember that we teach 8 languages at SAIS Bologna and 16 at SAIS Washington. Every student must pass a proficiency exam in a foreign language to graduate.

Still, it's worth remembering that the language of instruction is English. Whether in Bologna or Washington, you'll hear a variety of languages spoken in the corridors, the courtyards, Giulio's caffè or on Embassy Row. But the courses, aside from the non-English language classes, are conducted in English.

It's important that a candidate be proficient in English to thrive in the demanding academic environment. Fluency is no guarantee that one will excel, but a student who struggles to read, write or listen in English will surely have difficulty making the most of the experience.

As our candidates know, we require a certain proficiency in English for entrance to SAIS. Non-native speakers must pass an English proficiency exam to graduate. Below, Rebecca Hopkins, who heads the English  language program at SAIS Bologna, discusses the importance of mastering English at SAIS.

If anyone has any questions about languages at SAIS, you know how to reach us. We'll do our best to answer your questions -- although we can't promise we'll be able to speak your language.

Nelson Graves


Anonymous said...

I think that would be a really good idea to have some info about the status of the process. As you can imagine many people apply to the different universities at the same time and all them have various deadlines. Therefore, having information about the current status of the process would be helpful to organize our application strategy better. Not necessarily all the details need to be displayed, just to update people about how many applications you have received, how many of them have been already checked and then we'll know approximately when to expect the answer. This is my suggestion. but I can also understand the heavy workload of this process.
Another point (Or a question)also: after listening to Rebecca I had a feeling that the language requirement for the admission is not that strict (i.e. IBT TOEFL 100). SAIS might accept the students who provide the test scores below the admission requirement and then they help them to enhance their language proficiency through the intensive English course. Did I understand it correctly?
And, thank you very much Nelson for your immediate answers to the questions.

Góes said...

Another great post, Mr Graves. Thank you once again.

How are these proficiency exams SAIS apply? I hope they are straightforward tests which aim at checking one's true ability to communicate and thrive in an academic environment. I was truly disappointed after a while studying for the GRE because they opt for tricky old-fashioned language (and rather uniquely odd analogies for foreigners, I must say...) instead of plain - albeit formal - English.

Furthermore, those who fulfill the scores of English language standardized tests can still opt for the pre-term English classes - or they are advised not to? Are there any fees for such classes? I've never lived in an English speaking country, so maybe and adaptation period could be a nice option.

Thank you for your kindness and your great job,

Carlos "Charlie" Góes

Nelson Graves said...

David - Thank you. You raise some good points. In today's post, I plan to address both the admissions process -- where we stand, what's left to be done -- and your question about English-language proficiency. I hope my post is helpful. Nelson

Carlos - Thanks for your comment, too. I'll try to address your questions in today's post, too.

Thanks to both of you -- it's great to get comments.