Academic Credit for Language Courses Abroad

Learn a language at a language school abroad, have fun, get credit!

Getting credit for direct enrollment at an in-country language school

Getting credit for direct enrollment can be both a simple and, as with any conventional study abroad program, potentially complicated process.

The most important thing to remember is that no matter how you study abroad, the only institution that can award you credit for any type of study abroad program is your home college or university.

If you spend a summer studying at a language school abroad, the school will issue you a transcript or a certificate of attendance. You might also request a copy of the course descriptions, number of hours, etc., if this info is not already on your transcript or certificate of attendance.Whether or not you receive credit for your study abroad is up to your university.

How can you get credit for direct enrollment study abroad?

  • Independent learning contract
  • Transcript evaluation / credit award
  • Placement exams

Independent learning contract

Independent learning is generally a self-directed learning experience with faculty oversight and guidance. Independent learning should offer and result in a novel learning experience for which credit is granted. Credit is awarded by your school when you demonstrate to your professor or mentor or academic advisor that you have gained knowledge from your learning experience.

How do you show that you have gained knowledge?

BEFORE you study at an in-country language school abroad, for example, you would meet with your language professor or the head of the appropriate department (Spanish, Romance Languages), etc., and let her or him know that you would like to study independently at an in-country language school, and that you would like to get credit via Independent Learning Contract.

DEFINE YOUR GOALS. When you meet with your advisor you will have to define your independent study goals, such as "I intend to acquire an intermediate level knowledge of Italian (for example) language / grammar by participating in an intensive Italian class in Italy during summer break in which I will participate in 20 class hours of Italian language and culture per week for 2 months at the XZY Italian language school.ú

DEMONSTRATE YOUR KNOWLEDGE. If, as in the example above, you spend participate in a summer program at an in-country language program, you will have completed 80 class hours per week—80 hours in one month, 160 hours in 2 months. You will certainly have learned Italian. The next step is to demonstrate you knowledge. Your professor or advisor might ask you to have a verbal interview, in which you show what you have learned by speaking with you professor and giving him/her the chance to evaluate how much and how well you have learned. Or, you may take a written test with a required minimum score to demonstrate knowledge gained.

It is important to meet with an advisor before you go away and to fill out any necessary paperwork and learning contracts ahead of time. The learning contract will contain your anticipated goals, motives for independent study, and the method by which you will be evaluated for your studies at an in-country language school in Italy.

Do not forget to request a transcript or certificate of attendance (with the classes and number of classes hours indicated) from your Italian language school! Know ahead of time if your advisor or professor needs to have a copy sent directly from the Italian language school to her, or to the registrar's office, etc.

Transcript evaluation / credit award

In some cases, receiving credit for learning Italian at an in-country language school will be as simple as showing your advisor or professor a transcript or certificate of attendance from the Italian language school where you took your Italian classes. If professors are familiar with the Italian school (or Italian university program for foreigners) that you attended, they may simply review your transcript / certificate of attendance and award you credit based on established criteria (you should know what that criteria is, of course).

Placement exams

A placement is a test used to determine your level of proficiency in a language. It is used to determine in which level class you are to be blaced. A placement exam may or may not help you receive credit for learning a language at a language school abroad. When you return to your university after studying at an in-country language school, for example, you may be able to take a placement exam at your home university. Passing a placement exam for a higher-level language class means that you have learned enough to move up into that class. It does not guarantee credit, however. So, minimally, you advance a level in your language studies.

But keep in mind that if you were, for example, taking Italian 101 before studying intensive Italian over the summer at an Italian language school in Italy, and you pass a placement exam for Italian 201 upon your return from Italy, the Italian department at your university, your advisor, the study abroad office, or a combination of these may award you credit for Italian 102 (because you demonstrated that you gained that knowledge while you were in Italy).

Remember, it is always your school that determines whether or not credit is awarded—no one else but your school can award you credit, so meet with your advisor, professor, department head, etc., before you go. Planning ahead will ensure the best results.

How does your home university evaluate direct enrollment or study abroad coursework?

If you take an intensive language at a language school abroad, the process for credit evaluation and transfer is the same as it is for receiving transfer credit from any other university or study abroad program type.

Likely Not likely
There is an equivalent class taught at your home university
The class consists of the required minimum number of class hours for credit
You already have credit on your transcript for this type of class
You received less than a C in your study abroad class
You met with a faculty member and had your classes pre-approved
The class you took abroad is a lower level class than one you already took at you home university

Going back to our Italy example, when your college evaluates the Italian classes you have taken at any Italian school in Italy or at any Italian university program in Italy, they will usually evaluate transfer credit using the same policy that is used to evaluate transfer credits from other US universities or traditional study abroad programs (which require the same transcript / certificate of attendance already mentioned).

Who evaluates your study abroad transcript / certificate of attendance?

Study abroad office?

Italian department, Spanish department, or other language or area studies department?

Your advisor?

If your school has a study abroad office, it is likely that someone in the study abroad office will evaluate your credit. If your school does not have a study abroad office, your Italian professor or the head of the Italian department is the person likely to evaluate your transcript. The process can take as much as a couple of months, so be patient.

In some cases, even though your school has a study abroad office, approval for credit may still be required from the Italian department.

Have you declared a major and a minor?

If you have a declared major or minor in Spanish, Italian, French, Russian or any other language major or field of study requiring fluency in a foreign language, the department head of your major or minor may be involved with awarding credit.

Potential problems of transferring credits

  • Universal standards for credits and credit-weighting systems do not exist
  • Considerable variation in credit structures exist in the schools and universities abroad
  • The class you take abroad may have a similar, but not exact equivalent class at your home institution
  • Some classes (such as electives) may not have enough credit hours to qualify for full-credit
  • Did you enroll in an in-country language school abroad but take a class LOWER than the level of the last Italian class you took at your college?
  • Need less to say, you need to do well in your Italian classes—if you have earned less than a C in a class, it will likely not transfer
  • You may not receive credit for a study abroad class conflicts with "minimum residency requirements" at your school—in other words, you are required to complete a certain number of major requirements, minor requirements, and total credits required for graduation at your home school.