UMBC 201 Level Language Requirement

Information and Procedures for Requesting a 201-Level Language Course Substitution

As part of UMBC’s graduation requirements, students are required to demonstrate competency in language study at the 201 level (L201). While UMBC views the L201 study of a language to be an essential component of a liberal arts education, it recognizes that otherwise qualified students with language-based learning disorders, deafness, hearing/speech/communication impairments, and some permanent brain injuries impacting language acquisition may find the conditions of the L201 Language Proficiency General Education Program (GEP) requirement to be a barrier to degree completion due to the functional limitations of a disability.

Please note: a 201 level language substitution is not an option if proficiency in a language is deemed essential to a student’s major program or course of study, or is a prerequisite for a required class.

To facilitate success in coursework, UMBC provides students with disabilities reasonable academic accommodations in the classroom and also encourages the use of academic support services such as tutoring, supplemental instruction, individualized meetings with faculty and/or teaching assistants, and conversation partner practice. However, when a documented disability that affects language acquisition and learning would significantly interfere with or prevent a student from being able to learn a second language, the student may formally request to be considered for an L201 language course substitution through the Office of Student Disability Services (SDS).

An L201 language course substitution due to disability is an academic accommodation that must be approved by SDS through an interactive evaluation process between SDS and the student. It is not a “waiver” of a course.

The request process discussion should start during the initial SDS intake. Course substitution requests are due 2-3 semesters prior to the expected graduation date.

In order to establish eligibility for an L201 language course substitution as a disability accommodation, students may refer to the procedures outlined below.

  • The student must be registered with the Office of Student Disability Services (SDS) and have on file (or submit) documentation of their disability diagnosis and limitations that demonstrate clearly how their disability impacts their speech/language skills.
    • Appropriate documentation of a language-based learning disorder is typically in the form of a psychoeducational or neuropsychological assessment report that includes data on the student’s skills in phonological awareness, decoding, auditory information processing, working memory, and comprehension. Preferred documentation includes specific discussion and assessment of the student’s ability to learn a language up to the 201 level.
    • Appropriate documentation of a speech, hearing, or communication disorder that limits second language acquisition should include the evaluation results, diagnosis, and functional limitations by an appropriately qualified provider (e.g., audiologist, licensed speech and language pathologist, neurologist).
  • A student can submit their request for an L201 language course substitution through, 1) the SDS Accommodate online student portal at registration or by scheduling a follow-up meeting if already registered with SDS, 2) in writing to SDS through an email, if already registered with the SDS office, or 3) can share this request verbally with an SDS disability specialist during an intake meeting or follow-up appointment.

Requests should include:

    1. Statement of the difficulties the student has had with learning a language due to their disability limitations;
    2. Identify any and all attempts to take language courses, including American Sign Language (ASL), which is accepted as a second language for the GEP requirement; and
    3. Describe support services and accommodations utilized during previous language learning attempts (e.g., tutoring, meeting instructors one-on-one, language partners).
  • If language courses were taken at another higher education institution, the student’s transcript should be submitted to the UMBC Registrar so that an official record of course attempts and the grades are part of the documentation review. Prior attempts are not necessarily required to be considered for a course substitution.
    • If a waiver or substitution of language study was granted in high school, please submit the corresponding documentation to SDS as part of the request, when possible (this information may be noted on a student’s high school IEP). Please note that a prior course waiver, exemption, or substitution at another institution does not guarantee eligibility for language course substitution at UMBC.
  • Although not required, supporting documentation from a student’s prior second language instructor(s) can accompany the student’s substitution request. Such a letter might outline the student’s progress or lack thereof with the course material, the student’s performance as compared to peers, state whether the student requested assistance or attended office hours for support, and any additional pertinent feedback related to language learning.
  • Documentation from UMBC’s Academic Success Center or another institution’s similar learning support center regarding participation in tutoring or the use of other learning supports for language courses can also be useful for the review. This type of support in college is often essential for student success in language learning, and demonstrates a good faith effort to learn the language, often in tandem with other disability accommodations.
  • Once the student’s course substitution request is submitted, all information is reviewed by an SDS Disability Specialist. The specialist will notify the student of the request status within two weeks. 
    • If the language substitution accommodation request is part of a student’s initial request for SDS services, the initial intake appointment will include a discussion of the impact of the disability on all learning areas, possible access and support accommodations, and will discuss language learning specifically.
    • If additional information is needed to complete the processing of the substitution request, such as additional disability documentation or testing/evaluation details to document language or communication barriers, the Disability Specialist will notify the student what is needed or is missing in order to complete the review.
  • The SDS Disability Specialist will complete the initial review of substitution requests and then forward the request to the SDS course substitution review team when all information/documentation has been supplied. The team will consider any supporting documentation and information obtained from the specialist’s intake meeting to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant a UMBC L201 language course substitution based on disability access barrier.
  • The Disability Specialist will notify the student of the team’s finding within 30 days. If the L201 substitution request is granted, the Disability Specialist will notify the University Registrar in writing and will document the L201 substitution in the student’s online advising record.
  • If approved, the student will be instructed to meet with their Academic Advisor to plan for registration of an appropriate substitution course that carries a Culture GEP designation in order to meet UMBC graduation requirements. This will be in addition to the culture-designated course already required for graduation.
  • If not approved, the student will be informed of the determination rationale and will be given advice on available supports to assist in language learning. Alternative support accommodations will be offered that can create access if the documentation and interactive interview do not clearly indicate that there is a barrier to learning and participating in the language requirement.
  • Students may also take advantage of the SDS appeal process.
  • Note: The L201 FAQ section of the Modern Languages, Linguistics & Intercultural Communication (MLLI) website has helpful information targeted to prospective students, current students, and international students. SDS students should make sure they have read and understood the basic information regarding the UMBC L201 Language GEP Requirement. Information may also be found in the UMBC catalog.