Program FAQ

Questions and answers about studying less-commonly taught languages at Five Colleges.


Since 1991, the Center has offered more than 60 languages. Currently, approximately 35–40 languages are available each year. Currently, ASL, Hindi, Urdu, Persian, Swahili, and Turkish are offered through the Mentored Language Program (MLP), while all remaining courses are offered in the Supervised Independent Language Program (SILP). View a list of current and recent language offerings.

All of our courses follow a flipped classroom model and emphasize speaking and listening to develop communicative skills that students can use in the real world, right from the first semester. In SILP courses, students work solely with a conversation partner. While they do learn to read and write, they are evaluated only on their speaking and listening skills. In MLP courses, students work with both a conversation partner and a professional language mentor. Students develop all four language skills—speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The MLP also allows students to take two levels in a single semester and thereby cover more ground during their academic career. 

Center courses feature:

  • Daily guided independent study using assigned syllabus, textbook, and multimedia materials
  • Weekly small group conversation sessions with native/fluent speaker
  • Weekly check-ins with Center staff via self-assessment reports
  • MLP students only: Weekly 30- to 60-minute one-on-one tutorials
  • MLP students only: Weekly written homework Midterm and/or final evaluations

Our courses follow the standards recommended by the National Association of Self-Instructional Language Programs.

During a conversation session, you will engage in activities, conversations, and role plays designed by your conversation partner to help you practice the structures and vocabulary you studied in a given week. In a successful conversation session, students and conversation partners use as much of the target language and as little English as possible. Conversation sessions are run in small groups, with each conversation partner paired with just 1–4 students. Conversation sessions are led by native/fluent speakers who are hired and trained by the Center. Your conversation partner is not a teacher and will not present grammar lessons; rather, their expertise lies in speaking the language. Students should arrive at their conversation session with that week’s material already prepared, ready to get talking.

MLP students attend weekly tutorial sessions with professional language mentors. During your one-on-one tutorials, you will discuss grammar and syntax, get feedback on written homework, and practice reading and writing. Tutorial sessions can be geared to meet your specific language learning needs. SILP students do not have tutorials.

As with all interchange classes, credit varies by campus. Students generally receive the following in credit:

  • Amherst: Each level counts as a half course. Note that two half courses do not necessarily add up to a full course.
  • Hampshire: Each level counts as a half course.
  • Mount Holyoke: Each level earns 1.5 or 2 credits. Center courses generally cannot be used to fulfill Mount Holyoke’s language requirement except in rare circumstances.
  • Smith: Each level earns 1.5 or 2 credits. Smith students must complete at least through level II to receive credit. Questions about using Center courses to fulfill Smith’s Latin Honors language requirement should be directed to the college registrar.
  • UMass: Each level earns 1.5 or 2 credits. UMass graduate students do not receive credit, but courses will appear on their transcripts.


Sessions are scheduled at the start of each semester based on the availability of the individual student(s) and conversation partner/mentor. 

Conversation sessions take place on the home campus of the conversation partner. Tutorials for MLP students take place at various locations across the campuses, including at the Center’s offices on the Amherst College campus. Students are scheduled on their home campus when possible, but we may assign you to a meeting on another campus if it better meets your educational needs or scheduling/locational constraints. Online courses are not offered at this time. 

All courses follow syllabi, textbooks, and multimedia materials assigned by our office. When you register for the course, we will give you information about the materials you need. Students are responsible for purchasing all course materials. 

Like all interchange classes, our classes are free! Five College students do not have to pay any additional fees to take our classes beyond purchasing required course materials. 

Course grades are based on a combination of attendance and preparation; submission of weekly self-assessment reports; performance in evaluations; and, for MLP students, quality of the weekly homework portfolio. The specific grade breakdown for your course will be indicated on your syllabus. 

Final oral evaluations take place at the Center and are conducted over the phone or via video conference by certified language professionals and proctored by Center staff. Your evaluator will lead you in a combination of conversation, question-and-answer, role play, and/or reading aloud to determine your overall level of oral proficiency. This style of evaluation is designed to gauge a student’s language proficiency, or what they can do with a language, rather than their language knowledge, or what they know about a language.

Final oral evaluations are individually scheduled at the end of the semester based on the availability of students, evaluators, and proctors. The window of opportunity for scheduling finals is very small. Because evaluator and proctor availability is limited, students must be flexible. Once your evaluation time has been confirmed, rescheduling is not allowed except under extenuating circumstances. 

Students who are a good fit for our courses:

  • Have prior experience successfully studying another language
  • Are self-disciplined and have time and ability to fit daily independent study into their schedules
  • Enjoy figuring things out for themselves and organizing their own learning
  • Are comfortable with minimal feedback and structure
  • Have a strong motivation to learn the language (whether personal, academic, or professional)

Remember that you are not alone. Center staff are experts in language learning and teaching strategies and are here to help you meet your goals.

Contact Us

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Center for World Languages Staff