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Knowledge of a second language encourages deeper awareness of the structure of language and its relation to thought. It develops sensitivity to other ways of ordering personal experience and social institutions, provides a direct way of comparing another culture to one’s own, and provides insight into the workings of one’s native language.

In addition to improving written and oral communication and reasoning skills, proficiency in Hawaiian or a second language (HSL) is an integral part of the university’s mission to “prepare students to function effectively in a global society,” to “preserve and promulgate Hawaiian, Asian, and Pacific language, history, and culture and [to] provide students an education experience with an international dimension” (The University of Hawai’i Strategic Plan 1996-2001: “Goals,” sec. 111, C: p. 5; “Action Strategies,” sec. V, 2; p. 9)

The Hawaiian or Second Language (HSL) requirement varies by UHM college/school.

Before graduation, students must show competence at the 202 (or equivalent) level in Hawaiian or a second language by doing one of the following in accordance with their college/school:
  • Completing a four-semester sequence (usually 101, 102, 201, and 202) in a single language.
  • Demonstrating competence by taking a UH Mānoa language-competency exam if one is offered. Check with the language department in question.
  • Receiving a language-requirement waiver by demonstrating 202-level second language competency. For example, waivers may be given to students who are native speakers of a language other than English. Contact an academic advisor in your college/school for further information.

Important Note:
 The Hawaiian or Second Language requirement has been modified or waived for students in the following schools and colleges: Shidler College of Business; College of Education; College of Engineering; John A. Burns School of Medicine; School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene; School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology; Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work; College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Students in these colleges/schools should consult a college/school advisor.

Students should be aware that changing their major may involve a change in their college/school and thus change their Hawaiian or Second Language requirement. A list of majors and their respective colleges/schools can be found in the Degrees section.

Back Credits for Previous Language Experience

All students under the current General Education requirements with experience in a language other than English (including native speakers) may earn “back credits.” These students may take any UH Mānoa course appropriate to their level of proficiency in which there is significant use of that language. (Appropriate level is determined by a placement exam or an advisor; significant use is determined by the course content.) Upon completion of this course, students will receive between 3 and 16 back credits if they earn a letter grade of C (not C-) or better. (The course must be the first Hawaiian or second language course taken since high school; and it must be taken for a letter grade, not CR/NC.) Back credits may be earned for only one language. Other restrictions apply. For languages taught within the College of Arts, Languages & Letters, students should complete this Petition for Back Credit in Languages form. For all other languages, check with the appropriate language department for details and forms.

Tip for students: The language course must be taken for a letter grade. Courses offered as Credit/No Credit may not be used.

Languages in which a Four-Semester Sequence is Offered

American Sign Language, Arabic, Cambodian (Khmer), Chamorro, Chinese (Mandarin), Filipino, French, German, Greek, Hawaiian, Hindi/Urdu, Ilokano, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Maori, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Samoan, Sanskrit, Spanish, Tahitian, Thai, Tongan, Vietnamese.

Some language courses are not offered regularly, and this is noted in the course description section of the Catalog.

Petition Form for Back Credits

Students may review the guidelines and submit petitions to the appropriate language department for processing.

Important: Restrictions apply. Students should read and understand the back credit policy before submitting the petition form or taking a course.

Have any questions about the teaching areas listed here? You can review our list of current board members and GEO liaisons.

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