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ThD students—in consultation with their advisors—must achieve at least intermediate reading competence in two modern languages of secondary scholarship relevant to their course of study (such as French, German, Japanese), in addition to whatever primary source languages are required in their field. (Note that languages needed for ethnographic or other research, requiring verbal competence, are for primary scholarship and thus may not be used as one of the modern languages of secondary scholarship.)
The requirement in modern languages of scholarship commonly taught and examined at Harvard University (French, German, Spanish, etc.) can be met either by achieving a grade of B+ or better in two semesters of a second-year language course (in either HDS or FAS); by receiving a grade of A- or better in the Harvard Divinity School one-semester advanced intermediate language reading courses in French, Spanish, and German; or by achieving a "high pass" on an HDS qualifying exam. Samples of previous qualifying exams are available for practice. Students whose first language is not English may meet the requirement with a "pass" on the language exam.
In the case of modern languages of scholarship for which there is not an intermediate two-semester course at Harvard or a qualifying exam at HDS, the number of years required to achieve "intermediate reading competence" and the equivalent of "high pass" on language examinations will be determined by faculty in the relevant field. This involves an exam comparable to the HDS qualifying exam: translating a text of moderate difficulty in a one-hour exam with one dictionary, using a text of religious or historical significance or a scriptural text. The student will arrange the administration of the exam with the HDS registrar, and consult with the faculty director of language studies about the academic guidelines for the exam.
All language requirements must be met before General Examinations are taken.
In addition to the two languages of secondary scholarship, ThD candidates are expected to demonstrate their reading proficiency at an intermediate level in one of the classical languages of scholarship relevant to the student's course of study (normally, Latin, Greek, Hebrew or Arabic). This requirement may be met by receiving a "Pass" on the HDS language exam (samples of previous qualifying exams, organized by language, are available here for practice) or by completing an intermediate-level full-year course at HDS with a grade of "B-" or higher (e.g. 4021 Intermediate Hebrew II or 4221: Intermediate Greek II) or one semester of an HDS advanced intermediate-level course in Latin (e.g. Readings in Christian Latin: Hildegard of Bingen and the Gospels).