Departmental Language Requirement

All MA and PhD students must demonstrate competence in reading a language or languages other than English. The Department expects every candidate for an advanced degree to be proficient in the language or languages necessary for carrying out thesis or project research and for accessing the literature in his/her field. The requirements differ for each of Ancient Societies and Cultures, Classics, and History.

Ancient Societies and Cultures

For all students, one modern language, either German, French, or Italian, or another language appropriate to the student's area of specialization. Ancient language requirements vary according to a student's topic. Requirements should be agreed by each student, their supervisor and the Associate Chair (Graduate) at the time the student enters the program.


In Classics, requirements for Greek and Latin are described separately under each program's description and are not subject to the procedures laid out on this page.

Modern language requirements are as follows:

MA in Classical Archaeology - Any modern language relevant to student's field of study.

MA in Classical Languages - one of German, French, or Italian.

PhD in Classical Archaeology - two modern languages relevant to the student's field of study,

PhD in Classical Languages - German plus either French or Italian.


For students specializing in Canadian History, the language will normally be French. In appropriate cases, and at the MA level only, the Graduate Committee may permit another language to be substituted.

For all other students, the specific language requirement will be determined in consultation with the student's supervisor.

Options for Satisfying the Language Requirement

Students may satisfy the language requirement in their programs in one of two ways. They are urged to discuss the most appropriate path with their supervisor, since some areas of research may require additional study of a language.

Option 1 - The student may take and pass, with a minimum grade of B+, *6 of second-year (or higher) undergraduate course work in the requisite language.

Option 2 - The student may take and pass a language translation examination administered by the Department. The Departmental language examination is held three times a year (September, December, and April).

NOTE: This provision supersedes the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research regulation about fulfilling the language requirement with "documentation from an appropriate language department." External attestation of proficiency by another department in the University does NOT satisfy the Departmental language requirement(s) in History and Classics.

Students choosing Option 1 are urged to take the language courses as early as possible, whether at the start of their graduate program or before if feasible.

Students choosing Option 2 must make at least one attempt at the Departmental translation examination in the first year of their program. The Departmental examination may be taken a total of three times. Only under exceptional circumstances-and only with a supporting letter from the student's supervisor-will any further attempts be allowed; the decision will be made by the Associate Chair (Graduate).

The Departmental language requirement must be fulfilled by the end of the second year of a student's program. In the case of PhD students in History, it must also be fulfilled before scheduling the Candidacy examination.

Departmental Language Examination

Students planning to sit either the September, the December, or the April examination must register with the Graduate Program Advisor no later than 10 days prior to the examination itself. The Graduate Program Advisor will post the date and time of the examination both in hard copy outside the Department main office and online on the Departmental graduate webpage, and email students with the information, at least two weeks before the deadline for registering.

The Departmental translation examination is two hours long. Students will be given a choice of two passages, both in standard scholarly prose (or ancient-language texts of appropriate type), relevant to their discipline. Use of a printed dictionary is permitted. All examinations are read by two members of the Department, both of whom must consent to the final grade of pass or fail. If they fail to agree, a third Department member may be asked to adjudicate, or the exam may be repeated. In instances where there are insufficient Department members proficient in the required language, the Department will locate appropriate examiners from elsewhere in the University or community.

Since the purpose of the examination is to demonstrate a reading knowledge of the language, a pass depends on both the quality and quantity of translation. The assessment will rely upon the examiners' judgment, not any strictly mathematical calculation. Individual errors may not necessarily lead to failure, and the main criterion is the ability to give a clear and accurate translation of the passage as a whole without any significant misunderstanding of the text's argument. The examination will consist of at least two pages of a modern European language, or its equivalent in other languages.

Students are urged to consult both their supervisor and the examiners before undertaking the examination.


Students may be exempted from the language requirement for a given language if:

They have already fulfilled the requirement in that language as part of an earlier graduate program in our department (typically this applies to PhD students who also did their MA here).


They have obtained a degree from a post-secondary institution where that language is the primary language of instruction.

Note that this only applies if the language in question is in fact the relevant language required for the student's program of study, as determined by the above procedures. A student's being proficient in a language other than English does not automatically guarantee that that language will be considered relevant.

A student who has passed a comparable language examination in an appropriate language in the History or Classics department of another university may petition in writing to have this considered fulfillment of requirement for that language. In such cases, the Associate Chair (Graduate Studies) will reach a decision in consultation with the student's supervisor.

The Department may also, at its discretion, exempt a student from the requirement for a particular language on the grounds that they have undisputed native proficiency in that language, even in the absence of relevant post-secondary degrees. In such cases, the Associate Chair (Graduate Studies) will reach a decision in consultation with the student's supervisor.