Language Programs


The study of the languages of the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa plays a central part in the academic life of MESAAS. Learning a language provides a starting point for exploring the cultures and histories expressed and passed on in that language. Languages, however, are also of immense value in themselves, as forms of aesthetic, literary, and cultural life.

MESAAS encourages students to approach the study of language not as the fulfillment of a requirement but as the start of a multi-year journey to acquire linguistic and cultural competence, and as an intellectual discipline in and of itself. In most of the languages we teach, the two-year sequence of elementary and intermediate courses equips students to engage in general conversations, write short compositions, and begin to appreciate the beauty of the language. But this represents only the beginning of the journey.

We encourage students who want to make serious progress in the language to consider taking intensive summer courses where available, and to progress through the third-year level of instruction and beyond. The program coordinator in the language you are studying can advise about intensive summer language programs, which are offered at Columbia, at other universities in the United States, and abroad. The language coordinator can also offer advice about academic-year programs abroad.

MESAAS offers instruction in the languages listed on the right. For instruction in other South Asian and African languages, see the Language Resource Center.

Students should be aware that enrollment in language courses is in some cases determined by placement examinations (see below).

Language courses must be taken for a letter grade. Pass/Fail or Registration credit (R) is not permitted.

Language Placement

Please note that placement exams do not satisfy language requirements. To arrange a proficiency exam, contact the instructor for that language.

The Fall 2014 language placement exam schedule is as follows:

Arabic: Friday, August 29 at 10:00am to 3:00pm in 101 and 104 Knox Hall

Hebrew: Wednesday, August 27 at 9:00 am in CO1 and 103 Knox Hall

Hindi-Urdu: Thursday, August 28 at 10:00am in C01 Knox Hall and Friday, September 5 at 10:00am in 207 Knox Hall

Persian: Wednesday August 27 at 2:00pm. in 116 Knox Hall

Turkish: Friday August 29 at 11:00am in 103 Knox Hall; students also need to schedule an oral exam with language coordinator Zuleyha Colak

All exams will take place in Knox Hall.

Beginners who cannot read or write basic Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi/Urdu, Persian or Turkish should register for First Year Arabic, First Year Modern Hebrew, Elementary Hindi/Urdu, Elementary Persian or Elementary Modern Turkish.

Students wishing to study Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi/Urdu, Persian or Turkish at a level above the introductory level must take a placement test before registration. Those seeking to waive a language requirement must take a proficiency test.

For Arabic, all prospective students should consult the Guidelines for Registration

For Hebrew, students who have passed the Jerusalem Examination or have scored 700 or above on the College Board SAT Subject Test in Modern Hebrew are exempt from the language requirement and may take courses in Hebrew literature.

Other Languages

Students wishing to study African languages (other than Arabic), Armenian, Sanskrit, Tamil and Ottoman Turkish at a level above the introductory level should consult the relevant language coordinator (see right column this page.)