Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

Language Studies and Language Placement

Why should I study a foreign language at F&M?

Foreign languages are the gateway to understanding other cultures.  Sure, English is supposed to be the "global language," but have you ever really thought about that?   Your hotel clerk in Casablanca may know enough English to register guests and attend to their needs, but is that really communication?  A college student in Madrid may be able to ask you how the Red Sox are doing this year, but you and she may not be able to hold a meaningful discussion in English to figure out why Spaniards prefer soccer to baseball.   The rest of the world seems to realize the value of being able to communicate, however imperfectly, in a language that is foreign to them.  At Franklin & Marshall, we believe that in order to become full participants in this new global society, all of our students also need to study other languages, literatures and cultures.  So why study a foreign language?

  • Learning to communicate in another language sharpens your analytical and critical skills, two  necessary abilities for successful study at both the undergraduate and graduate level.  It has been shown that students who have learned to decipher the code of a foreign language do significantly better at analyzing difficult texts in English. 

  • Learning a language in college may be very different from your language experience in high school.  We have a hands-on, interactive approach to language learning.  Students do not spend all of their time memorizing grammar and vocabulary from a textbook.  We emphasize acquiring communicative competence -- the ability to speak, understand, and be understood by real speakers of the foreign language.  Students gain this competence in a variety of ways:  making their own foreign-language video productions, learning to play soccer in French, experiencing a traditional Japanese tea service, interviewing native-speakers in the campus and community, and participating in service-learning projects such as translating Spanish for doctors in a medical clinic in downtown Lancaster or teaching French to fifth-graders in a local elementary school.

  • Knowing a foreign language can give you real insight into another culture and its customs, beliefs and values.  One of the goals of a liberal arts education is to open your mind to new ideas and make you a better citizen of our global community.  There is no better way to do this than to completely immerse yourself in another culture and to learn to share their point of view.

  • Knowing a foreign language can transform your understanding of international events from mere spectator sport to an exciting, active part of your education.  You will be able to not only read about what is happening around the globe, but to communicate with people involved in those events, either through the Internet or through contact with international  students and visitors here on campus. You can use this first-hand knowledge in other classes, such as history, government, business, or international studies.

  • Studying language abroad gives you the opportunity to make the world your classroom!   F&M students can participate in a wide variety of study abroad programs, both during the academic year and the summer.   Many of these programs also include internships where students get hands-on, real-life experience working or volunteering with foreign companies or organizations.  In fact, some students are so impressed by their study abroad experience that they choose to go abroad again to teach English as a foreign language after graduation.

  • Having the ability to communicate in another language gives you an added advantage when you leave F&M.   Language students go on to serve in the Peace Corps, attend graduate school or law school, or get a job with an international focus (international banks in New York, the fashion industry, marketing firms, the National Gallery of Art, just to name a few).

Now that you are convinced of the absolute necessity of studying a foreign language at Franklin & Marshall, here is some practical information about how to get started.

What if I want to continue language studies at F&M?

If you want to continue with a language you have been studying, you must take a language placement exam so you can be properly placed into an appropriate level.  The procedures are slightly different for those of you who are continuing with French, Spanish, or German as opposed to Italian, Latin, or any other language offered at F&M. 

Spanish, French, and German

If you are interested in continuing studies in Spanish, French, or German into College, you are asked to take the web-based Computerized Adaptive Placement Exam (CAPE). The CAPE placement exam for French, Spanish or German may be taken online either at Beginnings, or at New Student Orientation in August.

This placement exam allows accurate and efficient testing and placement of entering French, Spanish, and German students.  The results will automatically be delivered to the language faculty at F&M and will allow you to be properly placed for your first year.  It takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.

Other Languages

If you would like to continue studies in Ancient Greek, Italian, Latin, you will take a written placement exam during Beginnings. All students who have studied Greek or Latin in high school are required to take the placement exam.  Details on the time and location of exams for various languages will be given to you when you arrive at Beginnings.  Taking this exam is the only way to ensure that you begin your language study at F&M in the language class which is appropriate for you.  

If you would like to continue studies in Japanese, Russian, or Hebrew, you will be meeting with a faculty member during the New Student Orientation Program in August to determine your proper placement.

What if I want to begin a new language at F&M?

If you want to begin a new language, in most cases you may choose to do so in the fall semester only.  Latin 103 is an exception and is offered in the spring semester.  There will be beginning level courses offered this fall in:

  • French
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Russian
  • Hebrew
  • Arabic
  • Latin
  • Ancient Greek
  • Chinese

If you want to begin a new language at F&M, it is highly recommended that you still take the placement test in the language you have been studying.  You may be able to fulfill your three-semester language studies requirement in this way so that you may begin your study of a new language without the pressure of using it for a requirement.

What is the Language Studies Requirement?

The Language Studies Requirement is intended to help students develop informed and thoughtful awareness of language as a system and of languages as artifacts of human culture. Students may meet this requirement by the requirement by passing, with a regular grade, the third course in a foreign language sequence or by demonstrating equivalent proficiency through testing. In particular, this requirement is satisfied by:

  • Passing with a regular grade at least one course at the 200 or higher level taught in the student’s non-native language;
  • Studying in a non-English speaking country and completing a course at the 200 level or above in a foreign language;
  • Scoring 4 or 5 in the Advanced Placement Exam in a Foreign or Classical Language;
  • Scoring 5 or higher in a Foreign Language Course via the International Baccalaureate; or
  • Placing into the fourth semester course or higher in the language sequence as taught at Franklin & Marshall through a placement exam administered by the appropriate Franklin & Marshall academic department.
What if you want to test out of the Language Requirement?

The appropriate place to test out of the language requirement is at


through the web-based Computerized Adaptive Placement Exam (CAPE) for French, Spanish, and German. Placement Exams in most languages are also offered during the academic year. For incoming students who want to fulfill the Language Studies Requirement by exam, the best time to take the exam is during Beginnings in May or during Orientation in August.  There will also be an opportunity to take some of the exams during the pre-registration period during both semesters.   For Spanish, French, and German, the web-based CAPE exam will be offered weekly during the semester.   For all information about language placement exams during the academic year, you should contact Mrs. Gina Brown in the Modern Language Office, Keiper 109, x4296. 

Do I need to take a language placement exam?

The Language Studies Requirement at F&M requires that students demonstrate that they have completed work in a foreign language through the intermediate level. As noted above, if you have studied a foreign language in the past and plan to continue with the study of that language, this exam will determine your appropriate placement.

What if I cannot attend Beginnings?

If you are unable to attend Beginnings, the tests are also offered during the Fall Orientation Program.  Obviously, students who intend to continue in a language from high school will need to take a placement test before classes begin; those students hoping to place out of the language studies requirement have the flexibility to take the placement test at a designated time during the first semester.

If you took another language in high school, cannot attend Beginnings, and plan to continue your studies during college, you should take a language placement exam in your area of language interest during New Student Orientation in August.

The International Studies Program

Students in the International Studies Program study a modern language through the advanced level. Most of them choose from the following taught at F&M: Japanese, Hebrew, Russian, German, Spanish, Italian, French.  Students in the International Studies Program study outside the United States in a non-English speaking environment to earn the equivalent of three F&M course credits. They choose from a variety of programs selected by the College's Office of Off-Campus Study.

International Studies works closely with the Office of Off Campus Study to guide students to appropriate sites for study in non-English-speaking environments. It also maintains contact with the Office of International Students, the International Club, Sangam, Asian Club, Nur-al-Islam, and the various language clubs. In addition, in 2001 a new student organization, Global Organizers (GO!) was founded by students returning from study abroad, international students, and students interested in International Studies to promote international programming.