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Department-by-Department Reference Guide

Writing in Foreign Languages and Literatures Courses

A Sampling of Advice from Faculty

For advice specific to Greek and Latin

classes, click here.


1.  What kinds of writing projects are students typically assigned?

  • In composition classes students write compositions, journals, movie reviews, reflections, and research papers.
  • In literature courses they are assigned research papers and presentations.
  • In the culture and civilization courses, they are assigned position papers, movie reviews, and research papers.


2.  What qualities of writing are especially valued in Foreign Language classes?

  • Clarity
  • Good structure
  • A thesis
  • Good introduction and conclusion
  • A coherent and well-developed argument.

Since all writing is done in the target language (Spanish, French, etc.), correct grammar is also very important.


3.  What kinds of evidence are available and required for Foreign Language papers?

     Evidence should be treated according to subject and as directed by each professor. In general, depending on the subject matter and the argument you are making, newspaper articles, books, interviews, and articles from refereed journals can all be cited as evidence.


Tip: Foreign newspapers can be found on the second floor of Raynor Library.


4.  What citation conventions will I be expected to use in Foreign Language papers?

     Generally, citation format should follow the conventions of the Modern Language Association (MLA), known as MLA Style, but consult your professor because some faculty prefer endnotes and a bibliography, the format known as Chicago or Turabian style.

For resources on this site about using MLA citation formats, click here.

For resources on this site about using footnotes according to the Chicago/Turabian style, click here.

5.  Special do’s and don’ts for writing in a foreign language:

  • Don’t write in English first, then translate. Write only in the foreign language.
  • Do use known vocabulary and constructions you have already learned.
  • Don’t write a paper the day before the deadline. Give yourself time not only to develop ideas fully but also to double-check the correctness of all your grammar.
  • Do carefully document and support your thesis.
  • Don’t rely on the Internet for research.
  • Do write about a topic of that interests you.
  • Do create sentences as many times a day as possible (in your head or on paper).
  • Do use the dictionary carefully, always cross-checking and looking for examples in context.
  • Do take risks in the language and be inventive.
  • Do remember that content counts!
  • Do avoid plagiarism by being scrupulous about following good practices for academic honesty.

6.  An Opportunity for Self-Assessment

     The Proficiency Guidelines for Writing from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) describe the qualities of good writing at five levels of proficiency: Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Superior, and Distinguished. The first three are further divided into High, Mid, and Low levels. To read the descriptions, see writing samples, & compare your own skills to these levels, click here.


Writing in Classics Courses

1.  What kind of writing assignments can I expect in elementary courses in Latin and Greek?

     In addition to readings in Latin and Greek, you will have to read sections of several classical texts and/or translations in English. In Latin 003 and 004 you may be asked to write a brief (3-5 pages) literary analysis of the Roman authors studied.


2.  What kind of writing assignments can I expect in advanced courses in Classics?

     In most of these classes you will be asked to write a term paper (8-10 pages) in English. Although the emphasis is on primary sources, you will also be asked to consult secondary readings. You will be expected to demonstrate thoughtful reading of the primary documents, judicious use of the sources, and coherent argumentation.


3.  What can I expect in a Classics translation course?

     These courses follow the same guidelines as you might find in the advanced Classics courses, except that the cultural and literary readings will be in English. You may be asked to write a literary analysis of a particular text or texts. You also may be asked to write one or two creative papers (e.g., compose a modern version of the "monomyth," as set forth by Joseph Campbell, or an original comic scene in the manner of Plautus). In these papers you will be expected to assimilate the structural principles of myth, comedy, and other literary elements into working exercises.


For Further Reading

Brown, H. Douglas. A Practical Guide to Language Learning. A 15-Week Program of Strategies for Success. New York: McGraw Hill, 1989. (Available through Interlibrary Loan)


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Page Last Modified: October 18, 2018

  For suggestions and corrections, please email
Dr. Rebecca Nowacek, Associate Professor of English
Director of the Ott Memorial Writing Center, 240 Raynor Library (414.288.5542)
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P.O. Box 1881 · Milwaukee, Wis. USA · 53201-1881