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.

Fall 2018 MESAAS Language Placement Tests

This information is subject to change. Please consult this site again prior to the week before classes start for up-to-date information.

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

Students should allow themselves two hours to take the exam.

The Fall 2018 language placement exam schedule is as follows:

African languages: Contact Mariame Sy at

Arabic: Friday, August 31, 10:00am - 1:00pm, Knox 101, 103

Armenian: Contact Charry Karamanoukian at

Hebrew: Thursday, August 30 3:00pm-6:00pm, Knox 101, 103

Hindi-Urdu: Friday, August 31, 10:00am - 1:00pm, Knox 104, and Friday, September 7, 10:00am - 1:00pm, Knox 207.

Persian: Thursday, August 30, 12:00pm -3:00pm, Knox 104

Sanskrit: Contact Tyler Richard at:

Tamil: Contact Tyler Richard at:

Turkish: Thursday, August 30 at 2:00pm, Knox C01. Students also need to schedule an oral proficiency interview with Zuleyha Colak.

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.)