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Departmental & Programs History

Coursework in Hebrew and Arabic were first offered at Ohio State through the Department of Romance Languages in 1967 and 1969, respectively, and undergraduate major programs in both languages were first offered in 1973.

An independent Hebrew program formed in 1974, the same year the University first offered an undergraduate Islamic Studies major. The Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures (JaNELL) emerged in 1979, locating the Arabic, Hebrew, and Islamic Studies programs together with new Persian, Turkish, Yiddish, and Modern Greek course offerings.

JaNELL added undergraduate minor programs for Arabic and Turkish in 1987, an MA program in 1988, as well as minors in Persian and Hebrew in 1990 and 1991, before being renamed the Department of Near Eastern, Judaic, and Hellenic Languages and Literatures (NJH) in 1992.

Old Faculty Photo
JaNELL Faculty appx. 1990

With the relocations, in 1996, of the Modern Greek and Yiddish programs into the Departments of Classics and German, the department was again renamed in 2000 to become the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (NELC). NELC extended its language offerings to include Hindi and Urdu in 2006 and, in 2007, admitted its first PhD program cohort. In 2008, the Department added Uzbek to its language course offerings, and in 2010 created an undergraduate minor program in South Asia Studies.  Jewish Studies has become part of NELC starting in Autumn 2017. In 2022, the department underwent its most recent renaming, becoming the Department of Near Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures (NESA). 

Today, in addition to its 4 undergraduate majors (Arabic, Hebrew, Islamic Studies, and Jewish Studies) and its 7 undergraduate minors (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Jewish Studies, Jewish Oral History, South Asia Studies, and Turkish), NESA offers courses both in English and in other modern and ancient languages for its own students, as part of the University’s General Education (GE) curriculum, and for graduate students across the University.


Frequently Asked Questions

Course Offerings

Potential participants must first work either with ODEE or the Ohio State Academy for high school students. All students must enroll in the Department’s coursework through these programs. While the Department is happy to host students through these programs, no one may ‘sit in’ on any NESA courses, under any circumstances, with or without the permission of any instructor, without formally registering.

Students have several options for reviewing and improving their language skills both in and out of the classroom. Under some circumstances, classes may be re-taken or complemented with study abroad programs or transfer credit from other institutions. Students may also, less formally, develop personal study programs or seek tutoring or speaking practice. Students should always consult with their advisors and faculty about their specific case.

With the approval of a specific member of the faculty and of the Department, students may enroll in 2193 or 5193 credit hours, within certain parameters. More information, and paperwork, at nesa.osu.edu.

The Department does not typically offer regular summer semester coursework. An intensive summer Arabic language program has historically been available during the 7-week summer session. Students must apply and be accepted, and must take both 1101 & 1102 or 1103 & 2104. More information at nesa.osu.edu.

The Department does not currently offer online courses.

The Department does not offer Individualized Instruction (“II”), where students receive credit for GE-level language coursework by enrolling in credit hours directly with a formalized tutor instead of in classroom-based language coursework.

Study Abroad & Transfer

The Department does not pre-approve study abroad language coursework credit. Students must complete language proficiency exams after completing their program and provide syllabi for all coursework completed. Department faculty will evaluate both in determining returning students’ credits and placements.

First and foremost, students must provide all transfer materials to the University Registrar, who will then approve coursework for transfer to OSU and allow Departments to evaluate the coursework for equivalency with specific Ohio State course numbers. For language coursework, students must complete a proficiency exam. All students must provide all of the materials (preferably syllabi) from all courses. A faculty member will review these materials and determine what OSU credit should be awarded. NESA faculty can only evaluate courses in NESA subjects; students need to work separately with each relevant Department. Names of designated transfer credit contacts for all subjects are available at registrar.osu.edu.

Langauge Examination

Arabic and Hebrew exams are administered by the Center for Languages, Literatures, and Cultures (CLLC) as computerized tests, available without appointment during most business hours. More information at cllc.osu.edu/undergraduate/testing.  Hindi, Persian, Turkish, Urdu exams can be arranged with an email to nesa@osu.edu. Appointments are typically available Monday through Friday between 9:30 and 3:30.

The language exams serve 4 purposes: a) to determine the most appropriate course enrollments for a student with existing background in a language, b) to assess the correspondence between language coursework at other institutions and the relevant OSU language curriculum, for evaluating study abroad and transfer credit, c) to award foreign language EM credit to non-native speakers, and d) to document native speakers’ eligibility for foreign language requirement Validation.

Native speakers (as determined typically by the official language in the place of high school completion), upon demonstrating their proficiency on the language exam, are eligible for language “Validation,” which satisfies Ohio State GE language requirements (as applicable) without awarding any corresponding credit hours. [Self-identifying native speakers must still complete the written proficiency exam in order to produce documentation of their language competency.]

Non-Native speakers may be awarded EM credit for 1101, 1102, and/or 1103 (in any NESA language) based on their corresponding performance on the proficiency exam. Students awarded EM credit receive 4 credit hours toward their undergraduate degree for the equivalency of each course.

Arabic and Hebrew exams are computerized tests; all others are based on written exams, with the possibility of oral exams in situations needing further clarification. Proficiency exams are not meant to gauge fluency, but rather to assess students’ most appropriate placement in 1101, 1102, 1103, or beyond, in the Ohio State curriculum for any given language.

Students enrolled in their first course in any language sequence after having taken a proficiency exam should first speak with their instructor about any concerns they may have about their placement. Exams are typically a reliable, but inexact way to assess students’ language competency and to determine what language coursework is most appropriate for them. If a student, their instructor, and the Department determine that the student should be enrolled in a different course, the adjustment must be made before the University’s course add deadline. For further questions, contact nesa@osu.edu.

Academic Programs

EM credit is credit by examination [i.e., instead of credit from enrolling in coursework] and ‘K’ credit is transfer credit. Visit registrar.osu.edu for more information.

No formal application to the Department is necessary; applicants may indicate their interest on the main University application.

Interested students should contact the NESA Undergraduate Advisor, Tommy Beyl, at beyl.1@osu.edu or visit Hagerty Hall 355 for possible walk-in advising.

All graduate application materials must be submitted directly to the Graduate Admissions office at gradapply.osu.edu. No materials should be sent to the Department. Application deadlines are posted on the NESA Graduate Admissions page.

Administration & Miscellaneous

You can find a list of staff/faculty members along with their emails on the NESA People page. Go to nelc.osu.edu and click on People.

The Department Chair's office is in 300G, Alex Bousfiha (Fiscal & Human Resources Associate) is in 300E, and the Academic Program Coordinator, Phoebe Carmichael, is in 300F.

Interested parties may email inquiries to nesa@osu.edu, with descriptions of the assistance being sought and contact information. The Department can then forward those requests to its faculty and students, who could then offer their assistance directly.

Students, community members, and colleagues on campus are encouraged to contact members of the Department directly at the email addresses published on the Departmental website. Faculty and staff are not always able to maintain regular work schedules and are frequently traveling or on Leave, so email is not always the most reliable means of communication. Anyone experiencing difficulty contacting members of the Department about important matters are invited to cc: nesa@osu.edu for possible additional assistance.

Departmental Resources

NESA Department Handbook

NESA Pattern of Administration

NESA Appointments Promotion and Tenure

Individual Studies (2193/5193) form.pdf

University Board of Trustees Faculty Rules on Instruction (ch. 3335-8), including course number classifications, scheduling policies, examination guidelines, grading parameters, etc.