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The teaching of languages is part of the basic training provided to students at Sciences Po. At both the Undergraduate College and at Master's level, the objective is not only for students to attain French-English bilingualism but also to acquire knowledge of other languages in order to prepare them for the demands of the job market, whatever the area of activity. The choice of languages, other than French and English, is made by the students in line with their study plans and career objectives.
21 languages are taught on the seven Sciences Po campuses: German, English, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, French as a Foreign Language (FLE) for non-French speaking students, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish and French Sign Language (LSF) as well as languages specific to the Sciences Po regional campuses (Swahili, Persian, Indonesian, Swedish, Polish, Hungarian, Czech and Romanian).
Sciences Po also offers ad hoc language training for students who, as of the second year of their Master's degree, intend to sit competitive examinations for the French and European civil services.
In addition, students in Paris have the opportunity to study rarely taught languages at INALCO (Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales) under an agreement between the two institutions.
Nearly 500 language teachers work across all the Sciences Po campuses. This reflects the importance that Sciences Po attributes to language training.
Teaching methods and academic support
In language training, students are grouped according to level and in small class sizes. Classes are interactive and focus on the acquisition of four skills: spoken expression, written expression, listening comprehension and reading comprehension. From level B1 onwards, the content of classes and the targeted vocabulary are increasingly linked to current social, political, economic and cultural issues. The educational tools are varied: written documents, audio documents, videos and digital media.
Language levels and pedagogical progression
The teaching of languages at Sciences Po is in line with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and is provided at different levels ranging from A1 to C2: A1 “introductory or discovery level”; A2 “intermediate or survival level”; B1 “threshold level”; B2 “advanced level”; C1 “advanced level or effective operational proficiency”; C2 “mastery or proficiency level”.
Each level is governed by a charter which defines the objectives, skills to be attained, the linguistic structures to be mastered, the quantity and nature of the work required, and the evaluation procedures. Evaluation of language learning is carried out on an ongoing basis.
The charters also provide information about the evaluation procedures.
In addition, they allow students who were not studying at Sciences Po in the previous semester to self-assess in advance of the online course registration.
Note: students who were already present at Sciences Po in the previous semester are not included in the self-assessment because they have already been evaluated by their teachers.
In all languages, for levels A1, A2, B1 and B2, a standardised end-of-semester test is organised as part of the continuous assessment. Progression from one level to the next is carried out upon the advice of the teacher who has monitored the student’s progress during the semester and according to the results obtained by the student.
For non English-speaking students, the objective at the end of their studies is to attain and validate, for English, level C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This validation can be obtained either internally (IELTS - International English Language Testing System - organised by Sciences Po) or externally (individually sitting the IELTS or TOEFL Internet based test - the IBT).
In order to ensure academic coherence and with a view to effective linguistic progression, it is not possible to change language from one semester to the next. In the same vein, upon beginning the first year of a Master's degree, students are strongly advised not to abandon one or two previously studied languages for which level C1 has not yet been attained to begin the study of a new language. This is particularly advised for languages requiring complex and long-term learning, as is the case for Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Russian among others.
Academic requirements of language learning
It is essential for the student to refer to the course outline of his or her Undergraduate College or Master's degree programme to become familiar with the language learning requirements. Students will only be able to register for the language(s) indicated on their individual student profile.
International exchange students who do not have any language learning obligations may also take classes in two languages. For these students, particularly when they do not have sufficient knowledge of French, it is strongly advised against opting for a language with more than 2 hours of classes per week.
Certification of English level C1 to obtain the Sciences Po Diploma
Non native English-speaking students should, at the end of their Master's degree, have attained and validated English level C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
This validation can be obtained either internally (IELTS - International English Language Testing System session - organised by Sciences Po) or externally (individually sitting the IELTS or the TOEFL Internet based test – IBT).
The required scores are: for the IELTS: 8.5 to 9 = level C2 and 7 to 8 = level C1; for TOEFL: 100 to 120 = level C1.
Students with a B.A., M. A., or PhD from an English-language university are exempted from certification by submitting a copy of their degree diploma to Martine Desauguste.
Several IELTS examination sessions are organised by Sciences Po:
- During the autumn semester for 2nd year students at the Undergraduate College who intend to spend their 3rd year at an English-language university (registration before the summer vacation at the end of the 1st year).
- During the spring semester for students in the 2nd year of the Master’s programme (no session scheduled in semester 1).
Reimbursement of one IELTS examination session (and only one) may be granted during the student's entire schooling, whether the examination session is organised by Sciences Po or the student presents as an individual candidate to sit an examination with an independent certifying body.
A student wishing to do so may extend the validity of a level C1 certification awarded in the 2nd year at the Undergraduate College or prior to his or her arrival for Master's degree study at Sciences Po. In such cases, in accordance with the academic rules and regulations:
« The validity of the certification attained by a student at the Undergraduate College during the second year is exceptionally extended (up to 5 years and only in the case of an interruption or break in studies). The student will continue to benefit from level C1 upon graduation as long as he or she has completed a Master's programme taught in English or has taken an English language study classroom-based course (level C1) or a module in English (minimum of 24 hours) as part of the Master's programme. The student will then be retroactively credited with 6 ECTS credits upon graduation. This provision extends to students admitted directly onto the first year of the Master’s programme. »
Changing language while at the Undergraduate College or enrolled on a Master's programme
Undergraduate College and Master's students may only change language once during their studies. It is possible to replace your current second language with another language.
Note: In order to guarantee effective linguistic progression, any change of second language will be definitive so as to ensure the development of a coherent learning pathway and sufficient progression.
- In Master 1, the request for change, whatever the language and level, must be made in a justified and argued way between the 8th and the end of the 9th week of semester 1 (write to: firstname.lastname@example.org).
- In Master 2, no change requests will be accepted in view of the above information.
Progression from one level to the next is not automatic
Despite an average of 10/20 or above (or sufficient results in the four skills in English class), the teacher may feel that the student has not attained all the objectives and competencies defined within the charter to make sufficient progress at the next level.
The decision of whether or not to progress to the next level is the teacher’s decision alone.
Changes in language level at the beginning of a semester
Whether at the Undergraduate College or at Master’s level:
- No change of level is possible if the student has taken a language course at Sciences Po in the previous semester. His or her teacher will have determined the level at which he or she should be enrolled, on the basis of the various assignments and evaluations carried out.
- A change of level is possible if the student has not followed a language course at Sciences Po in the previous semester and has self-assessed. In this case, it is the teacher’s responsibility to send a request for a change of level by e-mail to the Language Service during the first two weeks of the semester.
The e-learning software “Road to IELTS”
This online software is offered to 2nd year Undergraduate College students to assist them in preparing for the IELTS English language test before leaving for their 3rd year abroad and to Master 2 students intending to sit the IELTS test. It is independent of the classroom-based language courses.
A Master's student enrolled in both a classroom-based English course and a course in another language cannot also take an English e-learning course.
Language lessons taken outside Sciences Po and their validation in the student's academic programme
Sciences Po has signed two agreements with partner institutions in relation to language learning:
- l'ENSAE (École Nationale de la Statistique et de l'Administration Économique) (ENSAE ParisTech): for students enrolled at both Sciences Po and ENSAE.
- l'INALCO (Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales) (National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations): for oriental languages in particular.
Students have the opportunity, under certain conditions, to follow and validate courses of study at one or other of these institutions.
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