The goal of Carleton’s language requirement is the learning of a second language in addition to one’s native tongue. The process of learning a second language is in itself a valuable expansion of a person’s perception of the world and one’s understanding of English. Good literary and cultural texts can be excellent teaching tools both for developing linguistic skills and for stimulating student interest. Languages taught at Carleton include Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Latin, Russian, and Spanish.

Language Petition Procedure

You may be eligible for the language petition if:

  • you have a documented language learning disability; or
  • despite diligent study and regular attendance in class, lab sessions, and tutoring sessions, you experience significant and unusual difficulties in language acquisition as verified by your language faculty.

NOTE: Students who are enrolled in language during the filing of a petition and evaluation should stay enrolled in the language course until they have been assured that their petition for exemption has been approved by the Foreign Language Subcommittee.

The Petition Process

Step 1:

If you are considering petitioning for language exemption, you should first talk to your language instructor, if currently enrolled in a language. Next, make an appointment with Associate Dean Andrew Fisher by contacting Karen Moldenhauer (kmoldenh, or call x4300). At the meeting, Dean Fisher will:

  • Explain the process to you and make sure you have the necessary petition form.
  • Let you know that we will be seeking feedback from your language instructor(s), as well as any forms they may have submitted to the Dean of Students office concerning your academic progress in their classes.
  • Have you talk about your experience trying to learn a foreign language.
  • Ask you to write a brief statement about your experience trying to learn a foreign language. Along with the petition and statement, you may also include supporting documents from others (i.e. tutors, instructors, those who are familiar with your history of effort and attempts at language study). The foreign language subcommittee is interested in knowing what it was like for you to try to learn a language, what you did to try to learn the language, what worked, what didn’t, and what gave you difficulty. Useful statements detail not just that language learning was difficult for you, but how it was difficult for you.

How long should the statement be? Some students write a page, others more–whatever is needed. Remember, this isn’t a test and we aren’t going to grade you, but we are trying to understand the nature of your difficulty.

Step 2:

Submit your completed petition and statement via email to Karen Moldenhauer (kmoldenh) in the Dean of the College office. Make certain your adviser has signed the petition, or have the adviser email Karen to indicate their support.

Step 3:

The Language Requirement Exemption Committee will meet to consider your petition. Meetings are held twice a term, in weeks 1 & 7. The committee will have a packet of information which includes your high school and Carleton transcripts, reports from language instructors, and other relevant information provided from your student file. The subcommittee will either recommend or deny exemption. You will be notified of the subcommittee’s decision after their meeting.

Alternate Courses

Approval of your petition does not mean that you will be automatically exempted from the language requirement. In most instances, the Language Requirement Exemption Committee will assign up to three alternate, pre-approved Carleton 6-credit linguistics, literature, and/or culture courses to be taken in lieu of further language study.  These courses must be completed with a C- or better.

Alternate Courses for Language Exemption

To view a list of Alternate Courses for, example, fall 2020, copy and paste this url into a browser (see note below):

https://apps.carleton.edu/campus/registrar/schedule/enroll/?term=20FA&overlays[2]=CX

NOTE: You can view other terms by replacing the “20FA” in the above url with the year and term you wish to view, i.e., 20SP (spring 2020) or 20WI (winter 2020), etc.

Students Who Speak a Language Other Than English

Satisfaction of the language requirement does not happen automatically for students who are proficient in a language other than English.


Information specific to First Year Students


Students need to provide objective evidence of their current language proficiency in all four skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. These are the options for demonstrating proficiency:

  1. Placement exams: If you have taken an AP or IB exam you might be eligible for exemption. Read policies regarding AP and IB credit for each language.
  2. Verification by Carleton professor:  The Dean of the College Office can contact on your behalf a Carleton professor capable of testing your proficiency. The professor would send an email to Associate Dean Andrew Fisher verifying that your overall proficiency in speaking, reading, writing, and comprehension are at the level of someone who has had at least four terms of formal instruction in a language.
  3. Testing: If there isn’t a Carleton professor who can attest to your proficiency, Dean Fisher’s Office has a list of qualified outside testers that they will contact, at your request, to administer a test to prove overall proficiency in that language.

If English is not your native language and you think you have the skills to be exempted from the language requirement, download and complete the Bilingual Petition located in the upper right corner. Return email the completed form to Karen Moldenhauer (kmoldenh) in the Dean of the College Office.