Back Credits for Your Native Language

The University of Hawai`i at Manoa has recently approved a policy for granting students "back credits" for proven proficiency in a second or foreign language taught at UH-Manoa.

The Policy

"Students placed at levels above the 101 (or the corresponding newer 3-credit course emphasizing oral proficiency) level in second or foreign languages offered at UHM can receive, at no additional cost, credits for the courses they are exempted from upon completing the next course in the sequence with a grade of C or better. Those whose level is above that of 202 (or its oral proficiency counterpart), including native speakers of the languages, can receive credit for the full course sequence provided they complete, with a C grade or better, any course in any field in which the student makes significant use of the language, e.g., history, literature, culture, language, Hawaiian Studies, anthropology, education, or musicology courses. The judgment as to significant use should normally be made by the instructor of the course the student has taken."

The policy is effective for all students who entered the UH system in the Fall 2001 semester, or later, as new or transfer students.

What does this mean?

In a sense, this means the university is giving you credits for your language ability. You could be eligible to get as many as 16 credits for your native-language ability. 16 free credits means that you could shorten the amount of time it takes to get a Bachelor's degree by one semester or more!

What does the ELI have to do with it?

When this policy was first discussed, the committee developing it was thinking primarily of native speakers of English who have ability in a foreign language. In the early stages of dicussion, the ELI talked to the committee about the right of all second-language speakers of English to be eligible for back credits, as well. We are confident that our involvement helped to make sure that you now have this opportunity.

We know that it is very frustrating for ELI students not to get credit for ELI classes, and we share your frustration. We strongly feel that our students deserve some kind of acknowledgement for their ability to handle academic study in a second language, and that is why we advocated for all second-language speakers of English at the university to be eligible for back credits. And now, we want to make sure all ELI students are aware that this policy exists, and that you might be eligible for back credits.

Who can get back credits?

You are eligible to petition for back credits if you entered the UH system in Fall 2001 or later, and can demonstrate ability in a foreign language taught at UHM. (Note that the entry is into the UH "system" not just UH-Manoa. This means that if you entered a UH community college in Spring 2000 and then transferred to UH-Manoa in Fall 2001 or Spring 2002 you are not eligible.)

Who cannot get back credits?

You are not eligible for back credits if you entered the UH system before Fall 2001, or if your proficiency is in a language that is not taught at UHM.

What about graduate students?

Graduate students are also eligible to receive back credits for foreign-language proficiency, following the same eligibility requirements. Whether these credits apply to your degree depends on your department, so please check with your advisor. However, even if these credits do not count directly toward your Master's or Doctoral degree, some graduate students may feel that it is worthwhile to get the back credits, perhaps as a form of official recognition of your language ability.

What is the process?

There are three steps to this process:

  1. proving your level of ability
  2. taking a course that involves significant use of your native language
  3. filling out and filing a petition form

Where do I go to take care of this?

The best place to go is the language department of your native language. They can confirm whether or not you are eligible for back credits, they can confirm your native level of ability, they can advise you about courses that involve significant use of the language, and they also have the "petition" forms you need after you've completed the "significant-use" course.

Here are the different departments in the College of Languages, Linguistics, and Literature:


Again, we are very pleased to be able to inform you about this, and we hope all of you will be able to take advantage of this opportunity. Please tell other friends in the ELI -- not everyone will check the website, and we want all ELI students to know about this. (Also, please tell any friends who are international or immigrant students but are not in the ELI -- they may be eligible, too.)

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