Proficiency Notation


The Proficiency in Italian Transcript Notation explicitly recognizes students who have demonstrated at least an Intermediate-High level of language proficiency and cultural understanding in Italian. The Notation also signals significant global competence in a language and culture beyond a student’s own background or in a language and culture that are not the student's dominant ones. The Notation documents that a student has acquired the cultural knowledge necessary not only to interact with communities that speak Italian, but also the ability to synthesize cultural information from different perspectives. Students in any major or minor can earn the Notation.


The Global Engagement element of the Brandeis Core requires students to demonstrate at least an Intermediate-Low level of proficiency (as defined by the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines) in a world language. Students usually satisfy this requirement by completing either three semesters of language study at Brandeis or through a combination of prior study and coursework at Brandeis. Many students continue their language study beyond the requirement without intending to major or minor because they want to focus on developing their language skills. Other students who initially intend to major or minor are unable to complete all the requirements because of schedule conflicts and demands of their main majors.

Awarding the Proficiency in Italian Transcript Notation to qualified students commends them on their efforts to expand and maintain their multilingualism. Learning a language is a cumulative process that requires a serious commitment of time and effort. Science, creative arts, or social science majors, including double and triple majors, have to make an additional effort to continue learning a language outside of their main academic trajectory. Currently, the work students put into learning a language is not visible at any level - within the Brandeis community, to graduate programs to which our students may apply, or to their future employers. Many of our students, whether first-time learners or heritage bilinguals, regularly show a great level of determination in developing their global talents, skills, and commitment to issues of diversity and inclusion, and we believe their achievements deserve recognition. Therefore, we view the Notation as an honor that makes students’ dedication to language learning visible and incentivizes them to continue.

In addition to recognizing students’ levels of language proficiency and cultural competence beyond the Brandeis Core requirement, this Notation benefits students in the following ways:

  1. Students can cite this Notation when pursuing international careers that require language proficiency and cultural knowledge of another world community.
  2. Students can describe their level of linguistic and cultural proficiency in a standardized way.
  3. Students gain increased motivation to engage with different cultures and further develop their understanding of diversity in the world.
  4. Students gain a sense of accomplishment thanks to this official recognition of their efforts to go beyond basic expectations in linguistic and cultural proficiency.


To receive the Notation, students must

  • study a world language at Brandeis beyond the Brandeis Core World Languages and Cultures requirement of three semesters (or the equivalent) by taking at least two more courses. Only courses taught in Italian count for the Proficiency in Italian Transcript Notation.
  • maintain an average GPA of 3.3 (B+) in Italian courses.

Several paths lead to completion of the Proficiency in Italian Transcript Notation.

  1. For students with no prior experience in Italian (those who start from a 10-level course):
    These students should first fulfill the Brandeis Core World Languages requirement, and then complete two additional 100-level courses (five courses taught in Italian in total).
  2. For students with prior experience in the language:
    a) Students who have fulfilled the World Languages and Cultures requirement need to continue their study by taking at least two additional courses. For students who, upon entering Brandeis, place into a course above the 30 level, this course will count as the first of the two additional courses.
    b) Heritage speakers or second-language learners who place at the 30 level or below need to first complete the World Languages and Cultures requirement and then take at least two additional Italian language courses beyond the 30 level. Depending on the individual students, they may need to take three or four Italian courses in total to earn the Proficiency in Italian Transcript Notation.

Important notes:

  • The Proficiency in Italian Transcript Notation is available to undergraduate students only.
  • If students take more than the required number of courses, they may choose courses that apply for the Notation.
  • A four-credit Independent Study course may be substituted if 100-level courses are not offered in the program or with the permission of the director of the language program. 
  • Study abroad and intensive summer program credits may count toward the notation with the approval of the language program director. Some study abroad and summer programs have intensive language study, and a student may receive credit for two courses; others may be less intensive, in which case a student may receive credit for one course. Language program directors may also administer a placement test in order to determine how to count courses from study abroad and summer programs. The director of the language program makes the final determination.
  • Students may take one language course with the Pass/Fail option and still receive the Notation, as long as the average grade of all remaining courses that count toward the Notation is B+ or higher (from 10 level up).
  • Native speakers of Italian cannot receive the Proficiency in Italian Transcript Notation. The committee understands the difficulties and controversies involved in defining native speakerhood. This definition is very complex and cannot be reduced to a clear formula with mathematical precision. For the purposes of the Notation, a native speaker is defined as someone:
    -- who acquired a language other than English naturalistically from birth and has been using it as their only or primary language continuously at least until the age of 11; or
    -- who received at least a majority of their education (up to at least age 11) in this first or primary language before matriculating at Brandeis.
  • For the purposes of the Notation, the following definition of heritage language is used: “a language qualifies as a heritage language if it is a language spoken at home or otherwise readily available to young children, and crucially this language is not a dominant language of the larger society” (Rothman, 2009). Heritage bilinguals may be born outside the U.S. or to immigrant families in the U.S.; they may have diverse proficiency levels, but importantly, they do not receive primary education exclusively in their home language.
  • Students holding an International Baccalaureate should consult with the director of the appropriate language program to determine their eligibility for the Notation.
  • Students who, after receiving the Proficiency in Italian Transcript Notation, decide to become minors or majors in Italian, may keep the Notation on their transcript.

Application and Approval Process

  1. A student submits an application for a Proficiency in Italian Transcript Notation to the director of the appropriate language program.
  2. The language program director reviews all requirements and approves the application.
  3. The language program director notifies the Office of the Registrar that the student has completed the requirements for the Transcript Notation.