The Huntsman Program places a heavy emphasis on advanced language training, not only so that students can master the mechanics of communicating in another language, but also so that they learn the cultural context that underlies all communication. Penn’s language courses go far beyond a focus on grammar and vocabulary, and most Huntsman students take a mixture of applied language courses that use current materials (e.g., foreign language newspapers) and more content-based courses that examine major literary works, cultural and socio-political topics. Combined with the Area Studies and Study Abroad requirements, the language component builds more than just linguistic skills – it empowers students with the skills and knowledge to move beyond communication to in-depth understanding.
All Huntsman students are admitted in one of eleven language tracks, and that language becomes their 'target language.' The eleven languages are
Applicants must already have an intermediate proficiency in their target language. Proficiency is typically documented with enrollment in AP in the language during senior year or a 700 or above on the SAT subject test, whenever a SAT subject test is available or a letter grade of A on the O-level exam. For languages where a SAT subject test is not available or for less commonly taught languages, prospective applicants are encouraged to inquire with the Huntsman Program directly.
All admitted students are expected to pursue the target language for which they were admitted and to reach near-native proficiency in that language. Typically, students will have already taken prior coursework in their target language. However, students with native or near-native speaker proficiency in Spanish, may apply for Portuguese at the time of admission without having previously taken Portuguese.
In some rare instances, a student may, after being admitted in one target language, petition to change to a different target language. In this case, the Faculty Directors will carefully review the petition. If it is approved, a semester-by-semester plan would be carefully developed to enable the student to achieve near-native proficiency in the new language. The student must sign a contract acknowledging his or her commitment to that plan.
The Huntsman Program is able to send students needing extra language practice to intensive summer study programs after freshman year. Language schools or immersion programs abroad are carefully selected in consultation with the Huntsman academic advisors.