The graduate programs administered by the Department of Second Language Studies are widely considered to be leading programs of their kind. Both the MA in SLS (begun as ESL in 1961) and PhD in SLS (begun in 1989 as SLA) have gained great recognition internationally. The Advanced Graduate Certificate (AGC) in Second Language Studies, begun in fall 2000, provides advanced training to those who already have graduate degrees (MA, MEd, MS, PhD, EdD, etc.) in applied linguistics, foreign languages, ESL, or related fields. The program is specifically aimed at those who wish to respecialize or to update their training to include recent developments in the field. Continuing graduate students at the University of Hawai‘i (UH) will also be permitted to apply for the AGC while they concurrently complete another graduate degree (master’s or doctorate). Students may also be admitted into the AGC program whose eventual goal is to apply to the PhD in Second Language Studies, but whose previous academic training in SLS is insufficient.

Course of Study

The course of study typically lasts two semesters and includes 15 credits (five courses) and a research paper to be produced during the program. To our knowledge, UH is be the only institution offering such a certificate.

It is expected that scholars will find this program attractive for a variety of reasons:

Among many possible purposes, the AGC program will be:

1) A formal way for visiting faculty (“Visiting Colleagues”) affiliated with the Department of Second Language Studies (SLS) to obtain official credit and documentation for their period of study with us, as well as a more supervised research experience;

2) An avenue for students wishing to compete for places in the highly competitive/selective PhD program in SLS to demonstrate their academic and research abilities, and to accomplish the basic preparation course work and research training that might be expected of them prior to PhD admission;

3) A short-term program providing current topical information and practical preparation for a wide range of employment needs for professionals in language-related disciplines, which should lead to advantageous promotions or salary increases. These include, but are not limited to, Department of Education administrative personnel and senior teachers, business and professionals in service and training positions, and academic staff at public and private community colleges and universities;

4) A supplemental certification (e.g., for a specialist in teaching a particular language who is completing a masters in that language) documenting awareness of current knowledge about research on second language acquisition and teaching.

Student Outcomes

Given the intent of the AGC to provide individually tailored programs of study, student learning outcomes vary considerably from one student to the next. In general, students who complete the AGC in SLS will acquire contemporary knowledge and skills in second language studies, in one or more of the following areas:

  • Knowledge base—second language analysis, second language learning, second language pedagogy, second language use
  • Utilization of research findings
  • Application of research methods

More specifically, each AGC graduate will achieve the following outcomes:

1. Familiarity with topics and concepts specific to their particular interests in the field of second language studies
2. Ability to engage in systematic investigation of topics and concepts in the SLS knowledge base to inform their own and others’ practices
3. Advancement of future career and/or academic study possibilities


Course requirements
Students must complete 15 units of relevant graduate coursework, approved by the student’s advisor. Likely courses will include one or two of the core courses for the MA in SLS, unless the student has already had equivalent coursework, as well as elective courses or seminars in the key areas of interest to the student (pedagogy, learning, use, analysis, or research methods). Example programs are illustrated in the section on “Examples of Types of Student Programs.”

Students should be aware that some of these courses have prerequisites, which cannot be counted toward the required credits for the AGC.

Scholarly Research Paper requirement
As a culminating activity in the program, students are required to submit a paper which demonstrates the student’s ability to conduct independent scholarly research of high quality. This paper must be new research (i.e., different from prior MA-level work) conducted under supervision of the program’s faculty.

Following specific guidelines set by the graduate faculty for use in the MA in SLS Plan B program, the candidate’s Scholarly Research Paper will be read by a committee of two graduate faculty members, one of whom is the student’s advisor, and one of whom is selected by the graduate chair from among faculty members whose areas most closely relate to the student’s topic.

AGC concurrent with another degree at the University of Hawai‘i
No more than 9 units of courses which are counted toward the AGC in SLS may be counted toward another degree. No research paper or thesis which has been used to fulfill the requirements for any other degree may be used to fulfill the Scholarly Research Paper requirement of the AGC in SLS.

No one is granted an AGC in SLS without having completed a master’s or doctorate in an appropriate field. A student who did not already have an appropriate master’s or doctorate degree at entry into the AGC program must study for such a degree at UH concurrently. Such a student cannot be awarded the AGC in SLS until all requirements for the concurrent graduate degree have been fulfilled.

Administrative structure and advising
The Graduate Faculty of Second Language Studies (SLS) is in charge of the program, the members of which are listed at the end of this brochure.


To our knowledge, this type of advanced graduate certificate is not yet offered by any other institution. The common qualifications in SLS and applied linguistics are the masters and doctorate. Approximately 200 institutions in the U.S. offer a masters in second language studies (under various names: chiefly applied linguistics, ESL, or second language acquisition), and about 30 offer a doctorate.

In addition, about 50 institutions offer a qualification called a “certificate”, usually in English as a second language or Teaching ESL (TESOL). However, this type of “certificate” is a uniformly lesser qualification than a masters. Some require only a few months of training. More common are one-year programs.

In contrast, the AGC in SLS is a specialized qualification, and presupposes a graduate degree, either a masters or doctorate. One of the reasons the name “Advanced Graduate Certificate” in SLS was chosen is to make it clear that this certificate is not comparable to existing “TESOL” certificates.


The faculty in SLS at UH is composed of some of the field’s best-known scholars. The Department of Second Language Studies and the two other graduate programs it administers (the MA in ESL and the PhD in SLS) are recognized internationally as at the forefront of the field. See the list of faculty below for an indication of the Graduate Faculty in SLS and their areas of expertise.

The University of Hawai‘i enjoys an extensive graduate library collection of books, journals, and information access to research in second languages and applied linguistics.

The UH also houses the first and most successful of several U.S. government-funded foreign language resource centers, the National Foreign Language Resource Center, which conducts research, training, and materials development in many foreign languages.

Additionally, the strength of the UH in language teaching and research on especially Asian and Pacific languages is widely recognized.


Example programs for several types of future students are illustrated below.

1. Students who have obtained a masters or doctorate degree in applied linguistics, ESL, or a related area of second language studies at a university elsewhere or a very long time ago, and who wish to take advantage of the more extensive offerings, advanced courses, and current treatment of issues in research, which are available at UH but not elsewhere:

For example, a recent masters in Applied Linguistics from UCLA seeking admission to the PhD program in SLS transfers 3 credits of linguistic analysis course work and takes 12 credits, completing a research paper on current theories of L2 acquisition and the acquisition of Chinese as a second language:

  • SLS 680-E—Topics in Second Language Learning: Universal Grammar and Second Language Acquisition
  • SLS 750—Seminar on Current Theories of Second Language Acquisition
  • CHN 750-C—Research Seminar in Chinese Language: Structure
  • LING 750-X—Seminar: Syntax

2. Students at UH who are completing a masters or doctorate in foreign languages, linguistics, education, psychology, anthropology, SLS, or a related field and who wish to complement their regular graduate studies with a further special emphasis on second language studies. For such students, the AGC fills a role that might be called a “graduate minor.” Students may wish to profit from the additional research training opportunity provided by the AGC program, as part of its research-based courses and scholarly paper requirement. As examples:

a) An MA in Japanese student (thesis option) double counts 9 credits (SLS 660—Sociolinguistics and Second Languages and SLS 678—Microanalysis in Second Language Research, and JPN 633—Japanese Sociolinguistics), and takes two additional SLS or Japanese topics/seminars on pragmatics and JSL to write a paper, on acquisition of honorifics, distinct from the thesis, which is an historical survey of honorific use in Japan.

b) A PhD student in Linguistics double counts 9 credits (SLS 640—English Syntax, SLS 680-N—Discourse Analysis, and a SLS 750—Seminar: Universal Grammar & Second Language Acquisition), takes two additional courses on L2 analysis and syntax (e.g. KOR 633—Korean Syntax and Semantics, and SLS 750—Construction Grammar), and writes a separate study on acquisition of Korean syntax.

3. Faculty members at other institutions who come as visitors to UH, either to re-specialize or to update their knowledge, possibly on sabbatical leave. Re-specialization is especially likely in the case of faculty with degrees in literature or linguistics who are in academic positions in which they find themselves responsible for teaching courses on or doing research in second language acquisition, or supervising language instruction programs. Updating of knowledge in this field is often necessary since faculty in second language studies frequently find themselves isolated in academic units with other disciplinary orientations. For example:

A Visiting Colleague from an Asian or Pacific University takes the following 15 credits and does a research paper on language testing and university placement exams in his/her country:

  • SLS 671—Research in Language Testing
  • [SLS 490 is a prerequisite, fulfilled by professor by own course work for doctorate]
  • SLS 710—Teaching Second Languages
  • SLS 630—Second Language Program Development
  • SLS 730—Seminar in Second Language Testing
  • EDEP 629—Educational Statistics

4. Students who have completed a masters degree and wish to apply for the SLS PhD program, but who do not have sufficient training to be considered for the PhD program. Often, these students have degrees from outside UH. A UH example might be:

An MA in ESL student (Plan B) who double counts 9 credits (e.g. SLS 710—Teaching Second Languages, SLS 614—Second Language Writing, and SLS 750—Seminar on Developmental Features in Second Language Writing), but takes two additional topics/seminars on pedagogy and curriculum, conducts research on writing instruction that follows up on the Plan B Scholarly Paper on the same topic.

5. Practicing teachers of ESL or foreign languages in the public or private schools of Hawai‘i. Such teachers may have masters degrees in education, perhaps from UH, but may have little or no in-depth training in second language studies. This may be because they have found themselves in positions involving second languages, even though they did not foresee this while they were in training themselves. An example:

a) A DOE teacher with a masters/doctorate in Educational Foundations on leave from assignments transfers 6 credits from the doctorate degree and takes 9 credits, producing a research paper on critical pedagogy and L2 teaching:

  • SLS 612—Alternative Approaches to Second Language Teaching
  • SLS 680-P—Topics in Second Language Education: Critical Pedagogy
  • EDEF 762—Seminar on the Social and Cultural Contexts of Education

6. Other professionals working in the sphere of social agencies, employment training programs, or corporate training specialists, who work with second language populations and want to gain expertise on how to improve their services.

7. Scholars from non-U.S. institutions who want to learn about recent American work in second language studies. For example, these scholars may come to UH on government exchange programs.



Comments are closed.