PhD Program Language Policy

As noted in the Bulletin, all language examinations must be completed before the doctoral dissertation prospectus is defended before the faculty. In addition, at least one language examination should also be completed in each academic year, until all required examinations are completed. Students are required to demonstrate competence in primary and secondary research languages, according to the requirements of their specific programs. The acquisition of these languages is a crucial part of every student's graduate experience since important primary and secondary literature is often available only in these languages. Therefore, it is crucial that each student consult his/her advisor, and attempt to complete the appropriate languages as soon as possible.

PhD students may take only advanced Hebrew courses for degree credit (i.e., seventh-semester Hebrew courses, e.g., HBRW 161b, 164b, 166b, 167b, 168b, 170a), with the exception of Yiddish and students in the Arabic and Islamic Civilizations program who already are proficient in a Middle Eastern language other than Hebrew. Courses in modern research languages (German, French, etc.) taught outside the NEJS Department may not be taken for credit. Doctoral students must submit a form justifying and requesting graduate credit for courses numbered under 100.

Normally students in Jewish Studies are required to establish competence in modern Hebrew and two secondary research languages, typically French and German, although statistics may count as a language for students specializing in the area of modern Jewish sociology. Candidates are not normally admitted to the PhD program in Jewish studies, including modern and American Jewish studies until they demonstrate reading knowledge of modern Hebrew. Students who require additional work in this area should apply for the M.A. degree in NEJS.

In the Hebrew exam for doctoral students in Jewish studies, students are required to translate, using a dictionary from Tarbiz, Zion (or a comparable source), in a proctored setting, approximately one page of a three- to four-page article or section of an article, provided by their advisor. In addition, they will be asked to answer (in English) two to three content questions (asked in English) on the entire passage. A student may have up to four hours for the exam, which will be graded pass or fail by the Hebrew program and the student's advisor. The chair of the graduate program or his or her designee will resolve any disputes concerning the grade. No student is exempt from this exam.

Students in Arabic and Islamic Civilizations normally must establish competence in Arabic and two secondary research languages, usually French and German. Students focusing on Judaism in the Islamic world will be expected to demonstrate proficiency in Hebrew.

Students in Bible and Ancient Near East studies (BANE) must establish competence (through comprehensive exams) in biblical Hebrew, Akkadian, Northwest Semitic Languages and two secondary research languages (normally German and French). In addition, students focusing on Bible must establish competence in modern Hebrew as a research language.

All of these exams, including the Hebrew and Arabic exams, are composed by the students' advisors. The formats for these exams differ throughout the department, but these are typically three-hour examinations, where a dictionary may be used. Typically, some part of a scholarly article must be translated. If questions are asked about an additional section of that article, that need not be translated. The questions and answers for this examination are all in English. Copies of prior examinations are available for students to consult.