If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. - Nelson Mandela.

The Language Experience at Morehouse, a liberal arts college

Part of the liberal arts college experience is to provide students an overview of the arts, humanities, and sciences while students engage with the community.  This is in line with Morehouse College’s mission “to develop men with disciplined minds to lead lives of leadership and service by emphasizing the intellectual and character development of its students and by assuming a special responsibility for teaching the history and culture of black people.”  A Morehouse student, is a world citizen.  As President Wilson stated, “a Morehouse Man is one who moves through the world with obvious competence and confidence, able at once to compete and work in the world that is, and yet imagine and work for the world that must yet be.”[1]

Learning a foreign language is key to attaining both of those missions because language provides the skills needed to move through the world as it is explained in the framework of 21st Century Learning.[2]  Furthermore, The National Education Association (NEA) stresses the importance of learning languages as part of global competence in American Students:  “Global competence refers to the acquisition of in-depth knowledge and understanding of international issues, an appreciation of and ability to learn and work with people form diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, proficiency in a foreign language, and skills to function productively in an interdependent world community[3]  Additionally, the Lead with Language initiative by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)  summarizes its importance: “Imagine waking up one day to a new reality.  A world where English is only one of thousands of languages and 95% of Americans are left out the conversation. Realize that that day is today. In the world that we share 7 billion people, 75% don’t understand any English and the fastest growing economies  across the globe are non-English speaking. How can we succeed? Answer: With Languages[4]

Language acquisition does not necessarily begin in college. Ideally it should begin in primary and secondary education, and, for some of our students, learning more than one language begins at home.  The importance of learning language is also recognized with “the Seal of Biliteracy,” an award made by the State Department of Education to recognize students who have attained proficiency in English and one or more other world languages by their high school graduation.  This seal is already being awarded in more than 30 states including the state of Georgia.[5]

At Morehouse College, teaching languages is not limited to teaching how to communicate effectively in a variety of situations. Teaching languages follows the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages (ACFTL) standards. These include acquiring cultural competence and understanding (Cultures), connecting with other disciplines and gaining information and diverse perspectives to use the language to function in academic and career-related situations (Connections), developing insight into the nature of language and culture in order to interact with cultural competence (Comparisons), and communicating and interacting with cultural competence in order to participate in multilingual communities at home and around the world (Communities).[6]

These standards also reflect the current educational landscape such as Common Core State Standards and College and Career Readiness. Over 40 states have already implemented the five “C’s” (communication, cultures, connections, comparisons and communities) in their language education programs. 

In addition, extensive research about learning languages proves its countless advantages: language learning supports increased academic achievement, correlates with higher academic achievement on standardized test measures, benefits both monolingual English and English language learners in bilingual and two-way immersion programs, and accelerates the development of students’ reading abilities. There is evidence that language learners transfer skills from one language to another and there is a correlation between second language learning and increased linguistic awareness.  There are also correlations between language learning and students’ ability to hypothesize in science and between young children’s second language development and the development of print awareness.

Finally, there is evidence that heritage learners who use their language skills to interpret and translate for family members experience higher academic performance and greater self-efficacy. Likewise, there is a parallel between language study and higher scores on the SAT and ACT tests as well as high school foreign language study and higher academic performance at the college level.[7]

The General Education Program’s Foreign Language Requirement

The foreign language requirement of the General Education curriculum at Morehouse College may be satisfied by taking two semesters (6 hours) of a foreign language at the 201-202 intermediate level. Courses taken at the 101-102 level are electives and serve the sole purpose of preparing students for the 200 level courses.

The Department of Modern Foreign Language’s main goal is to assure that our students attain an Intermediate level through their General Education curriculum.  Intermediate Level is defined by ACTFL:  “Speakers at the Intermediate level are distinguished primarily by their ability to create with the language when talking about familiar topics related to their daily life. They are able to recombine learned material in order to express personal meaning. Intermediate-level speakers can ask simple questions and can handle a straightforward survival situation. They produce sentence-level language, ranging from discrete sentences to strings of sentences, typically in present time. Intermediate-level speakers are understood by interlocutors who are accustomed to dealing with non-native learners of the language.”

The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines are descriptions of what individuals can do with language in terms of speaking, writing, listening, and reading in real-world situations in a spontaneous and non-rehearsed context.[8]

Intermediate level is the minimal functional level in school and in the workplace.  For instance, most graduate studies require reading comprehension in a second language. In the private and public sector, a minimum of an intermediate level is required for promotion or salary increase. In addition to that, learning a second language complements all majors or minors and is the most popular of double majors. [9]

Attaining the Novice level by completing the 100 elementary level courses does not carry a functional competence.  For that reason, language acquisition is truncated when learning ends at that level.  Students who terminate studies at the Novice level are unable to use their language skills for survival in commonplace situations such as needing to purchase items or make a reservation in another language.

How to be placed in the proper level


Students who entered Morehouse College prior to Fall 2018 can satisfy the foreign language requirement by taking two courses at the 201 -202 intermediate level (6 credit hours).  Courses taken at the 101-102 elementary level may be taken for elective credit only.


Students who will enter Morehouse College in Fall 2018 can satisfy the foreign language requirement by taking the sequence 101, 102 and 201 (9 credit hours). All students must take the placement exam to ensure proper placement. 

At the beginning of the semester, the instructor will verify all student levels of competency and/or the instructor might ask the student to take the placement test again. Upon evaluation, the student will be reassigned accordingly.

The Department of Modern Foreign Languages reserves the right to require students to retake the placement examination to ensure proper placement and reassign the student. The initial course that new incoming students are assigned will determine how many courses are needed to fulfill their language requirement. Students cannot skip the sequence.

All students need to take the WebCape pacement exam. In addition to that, our faculty will assess their level during their first week of class. Being placed into the correct level ensures a successful completion of the class and also supports all students’ learning since students who are not in the appropriate class affect the level of teaching and learning that can take place.

High school students typically have 2-4 years of experience in language learning. Our faculty can assess incoming students’ levels upon their arrival at Morehouse as many of our faculty are trained in the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI).

Students with an intermediate level or higher in a second language have various options to fulfill their General Education language requirement.  Students can:

  • Take the ACTFL OPI and earn a minimum score of Intermediate Low (ACTFL OPI offers more than 80 languages),
  • Earn a score of 4 on the AP Spanish, French or German exam,
  • Receive CLEP Level 2 with a score 63,
  • Come from a high school with a Seal of Biliteracy,
  • Come from a high school with an International Baccalaureate Diploma,
  • Study Abroad during summer or semester, with specific proof of having satisfactorily completed the General Education language courses,
  • Satisfactory completion of 202 or one upper level course (300).