Language Programs


The study of the languages of the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa plays a central part in the academic life of MESAAS. Learning a language provides a starting point for exploring the cultures and histories expressed and passed on in that language. Languages, however, are also of immense value in themselves, as forms of aesthetic, literary, and cultural life.

MESAAS encourages students to approach the study of language not as the fulfillment of a requirement but as the start of a multi-year journey to acquire linguistic and cultural competence, and as an intellectual discipline in and of itself. In most of the languages we teach, the two-year sequence of elementary and intermediate courses equips students to engage in general conversations, write short compositions, and begin to appreciate the beauty of the language. But this represents only the beginning of the journey.

We encourage students who want to make serious progress in the language to consider taking intensive summer courses where available, and to progress through the third-year level of instruction and beyond. The program coordinator in the language you are studying can advise about intensive summer language programs, which are offered at Columbia, at other universities in the United States, and abroad. The language coordinator can also offer advice about academic-year programs abroad.

MESAAS offers instruction in the languages listed on the right. For instruction in other South Asian and African languages, see the Language Resource Center.

Students should be aware that enrollment in language courses is in some cases determined by placement examinations (see below).

Language courses must be taken for a letter grade. Pass/Fail or Registration credit (R) is not permitted.

MESAAS Language Placement Tests

This information is subject to change. Please consult this site again prior to the week before classes start for up-to-date information.

Please note that placement exams do not satisfy language requirements. To arrange a proficiency exam, contact the instructor for that language.

Students should allow themselves two hours to take the exam.

You must arrive between the hours stated for each exam, with the exception of Hebrew and Turkish for which you must arrive at the given start time.  This is to ensure that you have enough time to take the test.

The Fall 2024 language placement exam schedule is as follows:

African languages: By appointment. Please contact Mariame Sy at

Arabic:  Please contact Taoufik Ben Amor at

Students may register for the course that they estimate would fit their level pending the results of the exam.

For more information, see our FAQ.

Armenian: By appointment. Please contact Charry Karamanoukian at

Hebrew:   Please contact Naama Harel at

Hindi-Urdu:  The Hindi-Urdu faculty will administer written Placement and Proficiency Tests in Hindi and Urdu from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm on Friday, August 30th 2024 in Knox Hall. While the proficiency test is to fulfill the Columbia University language requirement, the placement test is to place a student in our existing Hindi and Urdu courses. Hindi and Urdu tests are separate. Please contact Rakesh Ranjan at for more information.

Persian:  The Persian placement test will be held Friday, August 30th, 1:00 – 4:00 pm in Knox Hall.  Please contact Saeed Honarmand at

Sanskrit: Please contact Jay Ramesh at:

Tamil: Please contact Jay Ramesh at

Turkish:  Please contact Zuleyha Colak at

Beginners who cannot read or write basic Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi/Urdu, Persian or Turkish should register for First Year Arabic, First Year Modern Hebrew, Elementary Hindi/Urdu, Elementary Persian or Elementary Modern Turkish.

Students wishing to study Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi/Urdu, Persian or Turkish at a level above the introductory level must take a placement test before registration. Those seeking to waive a language requirement must take a proficiency test.

For Arabic, all prospective students should consult the Guidelines for Registration

For Hebrew, students who have passed the Jerusalem Examination or have scored 700 or above on the College Board SAT Subject Test in Modern Hebrew are exempt from the language requirement and may take courses in Hebrew literature.

Other Languages

Students wishing to study African languages (other than Arabic), Armenian, Sanskrit, Tamil and Ottoman Turkish at a level above the introductory level should consult the relevant language coordinator.

  Address:  401 Knox Hall, MC9628
606 West 122nd St,
New York, NY 10027
  Tel: (212) 854-2556