The MA Program in SLS at the University of Hawai‘i has been in existence since 1961. The Department of Second Language Studies is the first and one of the largest such departments at an American university. The Department has attained top-ranked international recognition due to the diverse expertise and professional activities of its faculty, the breadth and depth of its curriculum, and its research productivity.


For the MA in Second Language Studies the following objectives pertain. All students graduating with the MA in SLS will achieve the following learning outcomes:

Knowledge Base of Second Language Studies. Our graduates will develop familiarity with topics and concepts fundamental to the broad knowledge base of the field of Second Language Studies, including: (a) the scope of issues and methods in applied linguistics, (b) linguistic analysis, (c) second language acquisition, and (c) sociolinguistics. They will also understand how their own interests in SLS relate to the larger academic, educational, and sociopolitical contexts of the discipline.

Utilization of research. Our graduates will be able to access, understand, and critically evaluate the current SLS research literature and engage in systematic investigation of topics and concepts in the SLS knowledge base to inform their own and others’ professional practices.

Professionalism. Our graduates will acquire the disposition to continue professional development for the duration of their careers, seeking increased knowledge of themselves and the discipline while remaining flexible and open to change. To do so, they will acquire the skills to communicate and interact effectively with their colleagues, in order to promote effective and ethical professional environments. In addition, our graduates will be able to communicate skillfully about their SLS work, both orally (e.g., at work or professional meetings) and in writing (e.g., through in-house reports and/or articles in professional newsletters and journals).

For students pursuing one of the five MA in SLS specializations, additional learning outcomes are associated with each.

The program strives to maintain a balance between theoretical and practical concerns by requiring courses that are concerned with linguistic, psychological and sociocultural aspects of language as well as those which treat the methodological and practical aspects of language learning and teaching. By stressing the interdependence of theory and practice, we cultivate in our students the intellectual basis for an understanding of principles that will help guide them in their future careers.

Graduates of the MA program are able to assume key positions in a number of areas of applied linguistics, including teaching (both public and private sectors in the United States and abroad), teacher education, administration, research, evaluation, and materials writing. A substantial number of students have continued their graduate training in doctoral programs.


The Department offers three program plans (designated A, B, and C). The choice of plans is usually made at the beginning of the first semester. A petition for a change of plans, which requires Graduate Division approval, should be made by the end of the second semester.

Plan A, the thesis plan, consists of 36 credits, of which 6 are allotted to thesis research and 30 to course work. The course work consists of a 15-credit core and 5 courses (15 credits) of electives.

Plan B, the non-thesis plan, consists of 36 credits of course work, a 15-credit core plus 7 electives (21 credits). A scholarly paper is also required. (See section below)

Plan C is a special program which is individually planned for each student, without the usual course requirements. Plan C students take a qualifying examination (written) and a final examination (written and oral). A Plan C scholarly paper is required. Admissibility to Plan C is determined in the student’s first semester and requires a personal interview with a committee of SLS faculty. Plan C applicants must also meet the following minimum conditions: 1) A minimum of five years of full-time experience working in the field of second language or foreign language education; 2) At least two years of administrative, teacher training, or materials development responsibility; 3) An outstanding academic record and a high performance on the GRE. Only a few students have completed the M.A degree via Plan C.


The usual course load is 9 credits per semester, aside from possible foreign language courses. In a six-week summer session, it is 6 credits. Most students take four semesters to complete the SLS program. Graduate Assistants and others who must carry a reduced course load normally take longer.


The 36-credit MA in SLS has a 15-credit core requirement, with four courses and one seminar. The following are the four core courses:

  • SLS 441 Language concepts for second language learning and teaching
  • SLS 600 Introduction to second language studies
  • SLS 650 Second language acquisition
  • SLS 660 Sociolinguistics and second languages

The core seminar can be chosen from one of four areas:

  • SLS 730 Seminar in second language education
  • SLS 750 Seminar in second language acquisition
  • SLS 760 Seminar in second language use
  • SLS 775 Seminar in second language qualitative research

Topics for seminars vary. Recent topics include: language and the law, L2 literacy, second language listening, discourse processes in Hawai‘i Creole English, second language ethnography, universals and SLS, language for specific purposes, child language acquisition, second language pragmatics, and task-based language learning. Seminars may be repeated for (elective) credit when the topic varies.


The MA in SLS Advising Checklist and Progress Report is a fillable, savable PDF form that helps MA students and their advisors to track fulfillment of degree requirements for the 36-credit MA program. (FireFox users: Please download and open in Adobe Reader to enable the fillable/savable feature.)


The MA in SLS allows for students to concentrate in a particular area of specialization, each of which has requirements and expectations in course selection additional to the 15-credit core. The number of electives will vary depending on the plan of study (A, B, or C). The thesis or scholarly paper should be on a topic relevant to the specialization.

The five areas of specialization are: Critical Second Language Studies (CSLS); Language Assessment, Measurement, and Program Evaluation (LAMPE); Language and Social Interaction (LSI); Language Education (LE); and Second Language Acquisition (SLA). Each specialization is noted on the student’s transcript upon graduation.

Note. It is not necessary to select a specialization. For students who elect not to have a specialization, the course of study involves the four core courses and one core seminar, along with electives approved by their advisor.

Critical Second Language Studies (CSLS)

Faculty and students in the Department teach and learn about, conduct research on, and disseminate ideas in Critical Second Language Studies (CSLS) in order to promote:

  1. understandings of how matters of power affect language users/learners in educational, occupational, and other social settings;
  2. approaches to second language research which are conscious of, or explore, the ideologies of our professional practices and attend to second/foreign/heritage language learning, teaching and use as sites where social relations are enacted, negotiated and potentially transformed;
  3. more equitable social relations through the actions of language professionals and the organization and implementation of language programs and projects.

The specialization in CSLS is intended to develop language professionals’ knowledge, abilities, and views in approaches to language:

  1. research that derive from a critical perspective, for example, participatory action research, critical ethnography;
  2. pedagogy that derive from a critical perspective; for example, critical pedagogy;
  3. approaches to language curriculum that prioritize the needs and interests of minorities or marginalized groups; for example, bilingual education, and critical English for Academic Purposes;
  4. learning that reflect critical understandings of society (as hierarchical and often manifesting inequities such as those associated with class, race and gender) and of the individual (as embodied, gendered, positioned in discourses but having agency); for example, critical language awareness;
  5. analysis and use that see language as non-transparent, manifesting sociopolitical forces, and active rather than neutral; for example, critical discourse analysis, critical sociolinguistics.

Courses: In addition to the four (4) core courses, MA students specializing in CSLS will complete the following:

  • The core seminar will be from SLS 730, SLS 760, or SLS 775.

Four courses from the following:

  • SLS 380 Bilingual Education
  • SLS 675 Second Language Qualitative Research
  • SLS 680P Critical Issues
  • SLS 680U Various topics in Second Language Use

Language Assessment, Measurement, and Program Evaluation (LAMPE)

Faculty and students in the Department teach and learn about the Language Assessment, Measurement, and Program Evaluation (LAMPE) specialization in order to promote:

  1. useful, fair, and accurate assessment of language users/learners in educational, occupational, and other social settings;
  2. rigorous and appropriate uses of measurement in second and foreign language research;
  3. effective evaluation of language programs and projects, including both processes and products, with an emphasis on improvement.

The specific objectives of the LAMPE specialization are to develop language professionals’ knowledge, abilities, and ethics in:

  1. sound strategies for test (assessment, instrument, measurement) development;
  2. innovative approaches to test design;
  3. appropriate practices in test piloting and validation;
  4. effective analysis and reporting of test development, design, and validation;
  5. responsible uses of test score interpretations and related outcomes;
  6. accurate applications of measurement to research questions and problems;
  7. purposeful approaches, models, and practices in program evaluation;
  8. essential and diverse research methods applicable to assessment, measurement, and evaluation.

Courses: In addition to the four (4) core courses, MA students specializing in LAMPE will complete the following:

  • SLS 490 Second Language Testing
  • SLS 630 Second Language Program Development
  • The core seminar will be from SLS 730.

Two courses from the following:

  • SLS 670 Second Language Research
  • SLS 671 Research Issues in Language Testing
  • SLS 674 Survey Research Method
  • SLS 675 Second Language Qualitative Research
  • A Program Evaluation Course (e.g., EDCS 769, EDEP768g, or equivalent)

Language and Social Interaction (LSI)

The specialization in Language and Social Interaction (LSI) prepares students for such professional careers as language educators and language consultants in different institutional settings, as well as for advanced academic study in SLS, applied linguistics, and related social sciences. The specialization takes the view that social life is fundamentally an interactional and discursive accomplishment. It examines how situated interaction interrelates with language use and how (language) learning, language variation and change emerge through interaction. A prominent line of inquiry is the interactional organization of educational settings and other institutions and its connections with macrostructural levels of social organization.

The specialization intends to foster knowledge about and research capabilities in a range of domains, topics, and research approaches, including:

  1. language use in multilingual societies;
  2. language variation and change;
  3. pidgins, creoles, and non-standard varieties;
  4. English as an international language;
  5. hybrid discourses;
  6. codeswitching;
  7. language ideology;
  8. language and social identity, sociolinguistics and social theory;
  9. language socialization;
  10. discourse analysis, conversation analysis, and, pragmatics.

Courses: In addition to the four (4) core courses, MA students specializing in LSI will complete the following:

  • The core seminar will be from SLS 760.

Four courses from the following:

  • SLS 380 Bilingual Education
  • SLS 430 Pidgin and Creole English in Hawai‘i
  • SLS 672 Second Language Classroom Research
  • SLS 674 Survey Research Method
  • SLS 675 Second Language Qualitative Research
  • SLS 678 Discourse Analysis in Second Language Research
  • SLS 680U Various Topics in Second Language Use

Language Education (LE)

Within the MA in SLS, a specialization in Language Education (LE) tailored to students’ individual learning needs and interests, offering professional-level preparation in a personally meaningful selection from among the following emphases:

  1. Theories, approaches, and models of language education;
  2. Professional growth and development;
  3. Curriculum development and syllabus design;
  4. Materials evaluation, selection, adaptation, and development;
  5. Innovative, ethical, and critical language teaching practices;
  6. Assessment alternatives in language education;
  7. Research on L2 classroom practices and instructional effectiveness;
  8. Program administration and evaluation;
  9. The role of language education and educators in society.

Courses: In addition to the four (4) core courses, MA students specializing in LE will complete the following:

  • The core seminar will be from SLS 730 or other appropriate seminar, as approved by the advisor.

Four courses from the following:

  • SLS 460 English Phonology
  • SLS 490 Second Language Testing
  • SLS 610 Introduction to Teaching Second Languages
  • SLS 612 Alternative Approaches to Second Language Teaching
  • SLS 613 Second Language Listening and Speaking
  • SLS 614 Second Language Writing
  • SLS 620 Second Language Reading
  • SLS 630 Second Language Program Development
  • SLS 640 English Syntax
  • SLS 680P Topics in Second Language Pedagogy
  • SLS 690 Second Language Teaching Practicum

Second Language Acquisition (SLA)

Faculty and students in the Department teach and learn about, conduct research on, and disseminate ideas in Second Language Studies (SLS) in order to promote both theoretical and applied knowledge about the human capacities and processes involved in learning languages other than the mother tongue(s). A specialization in SLA provides strong preparation for students whose long-term goal is to pursue research and further training in SLS and applied linguistics, such as a doctorate in SLA and related fields. It also prepares students for MA-level professional activities such as publishing, presenting at conferences, and conducting research on second language learning and teaching.

Within the MA in SLS, a specialization in SLA is intended to foster knowledge about and research capabilities in a range of areas, depending on students’ interests and goals;

  1. Linguistic, psycholinguistic, cognitive, social, and educational dimensions of L2 acquisition, all of which interact and help explain universal patterns and constraints on L2 acquisition as well as large individual differences across L2 acquirers and users;
  2. Acquisition of any language beyond the first (e.g.; L2, L3, … Ln) whether of English or any other target language (e.g., Arabic, Cantonese, German, Hawaiian, Ilokano, Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish, and so on);
  3. L2 acquisition over the life , from young children to adolescents to adults;
  4. L2 acquisition across a variety of instructed and naturalistic contexts;
  5. L2 acquisition across contexts for second, foreign, and heritage language acquisition; L2 acquisition as experienced by linguistic minorities and by elective bilinguals from.

Courses: In addition to the four (4) core courses, MA students specializing in SLA will complete the following:

  • The core seminar will be from SLS 750.

Three courses from the following:

  • SLS 430 Pidgin and Creole English in Hawai‘i
  • SLS 460 English Phonology
  • SLS 640 English Syntax
  • SLS 642 Comparative Grammar and Second Language Acquisition
  • SLS 673 Applied Psycholinguistics and Second Language Acquisition
  • SLS 680E Topics in Second Language Learning
  • SLS 680N Topics in Second Language Analysis

One research course from the following:

  • SLS 670 Second Language Quantitative Research
  • SLS 672 Second Classroom Research
  • SLS 675 Second Language Qualitative Research
  • SLS 678 Discourse Analysis in Second Language Research
  • SLS 680R Second Language Research Methodology

Non-Specialization Elective Courses

Elective courses may be chosen from the following list, or from relevant courses in other departments of the university. All electives must be approved in advance by the student’s advisor.

  • SLS 380 Bilingual education
  • SLS 418 Instructional media
  • SLS 430 Pidgin & creole English in Hawai‘i
  • SLS 460 English phonology
  • SLS 490 Second language testing
  • SLS 612 Alternative approaches to second language teaching
  • SLS 613 Second language listening & speaking
  • SLS 614 Second language writing
  • SLS 620 Second language reading
  • SLS 630 Second language program development
  • SLS 640 English syntax
  • SLS 642 Comparative grammar and SLA
  • SLS 670 Second language quantitative research
  • SLS 671 Research in language testing
  • SLS 672 Second language classroom research
  • SLS 673 Applied psycholinguistics and SLA
  • SLS 675 Second language qualitative research
  • SLS 678 Discourse analysis in second language research
  • SLS 680E Topics in SLS: Second language learning
  • SLS 680N Topics in SLS: Second language analysis
  • SLS 680P Topics in SLS: Second language pedagogy
  • SLS 680R Topics in SLS: Second language research
  • SLS 680U Various Topics SLS: in Second language use
  • SLS 690 ESL Teaching practicum
  • SLS 699V Directed reading/research (variable credit)
  • SLS 610 Introduction to Teaching second languages

Language Experience Requirement

All students in the MA program are expected to have undergone a significant amount of second or foreign language learning. Students who have not had such experience before entering the program are required to take at least one semester of language study, which does not count towards the 36-credit MA.

Students who have completed two or more years of a foreign language at the college or university level within three years of being accepted into the program are exempted from this requirement. Students who have recently used a foreign/second language extensively, especially those who have resided in the country where the language is spoken, may be exempted from this requirement after filing a petition.

Non-native speakers of English are automatically exempted, and there may be other circumstances which will qualify students for exemption.

Scholarly Paper Requirement

Plan B and Plan C students are required to write a Scholarly Paper (SP) before competing the MA degree. This is usually based on previously written term papers which have been subject to review and criticism. The quality of a SP should reflect that of articles normally appearing in the standard research journals of the field. Scholarly papers are evaluated by two faculty members in terms of the significance of the problem addressed, scholarship, objectivity, soundness of procedure and method, clarity of presentation, insight and perspective. Some scholarly papers have been accepted for inclusion in the Department’s Working Papers in SLS , a publication which is distributed to selected universities and libraries. Other scholarly papers have been selected for publication in major journals.

The SP process involves several steps. First, the student should consult with her or his advisor or other faculty members about the topic that is of interest. As noted above, this might start as a discussion related to work done previously in a course. The student should begin this normally at least in the semester prior to the expected graduation date. The student will then ask a faculty member to become the first reader of and, SP advisor for, the paper. Generally, the SP advisor will read at least one draft of the paper, and it will have been revised, before the student selects a second reader for the paper. Both readers should be familiar with the student’s area of specialization.

The student should attempt to have the final revised version of the paper finished April 15 for Spring Semester and November 15 for Fall Semester graduation. This means, however, that relatively complete versions should be considered by the advisor well in advance of these dates. It is important for the student to keep the SP advisor aware of the progress that is being made.

Transfer of Credit and Course Substitutions

If a student has already had course work equivalent to required courses in the MA program, the Graduate Faculty sometimes permits the student to substitute other courses for those required courses. Such substitutions do not reduce the total credit-hour requirements.

Under certain circumstances, courses recently taken at another institution may fulfill part of the requirements for the MA in SLS, thus reducing the total credit hours which must be taken at Hawai‘i. A maximum of 15 credits (9 credits from outside UH) may be approved for transfer provided: 1) that the credits were not used to obtain a previous degree, 2) that the credits represent B performance or better in courses that are applicable for graduate credit, and 3) that the courses are deemed relevant to the MA program by the SLS Graduate Faculty. Because of these restrictions, transfer of credit is very uncommon. International students are advised that approval for transfer of credit from a foreign institution is seldom granted.

The SLS Graduate Faculty does not consider course substitutions or transfer of credits prior to enrollment; these matters are handled during the first semester in the program. Students who wish to request credit transfers or course substitutions should bring a copy of the catalog description, the syllabus, the list of texts used in each course, and any relevant course work.

Graduate Credit for Seniors at the University of Hawai‘i

Seniors at UH may earn credit toward the MA in SLS in their last semester as an undergraduate student, provided they receive approval in advance. See the current University of Hawai‘i Catalog for more information.

Conditional Admission

Conditional admission is rare. The UHM admissions standards require a minimum GPA of 3.0 (A = 4.0) in the last two years of undergraduate study and in all post-baccalaureate work. A student whose grade point average falls below 3.0 can only be admitted conditionally.

A student offered conditional admission who fails to meet the minimum requirement of 3.0 GPA after completing one semester (minimum 9 credits) of degree-related course work will be placed on academic probation for the following semester. All grades for courses taken during the probationary semester, as well as the grades for all previously taken classified credits, will be included in calculating the GPA at the end of the probationary semester. No extensions of the probationary semester may be granted due to incompletes (I).

A student on academic probation who fails to attain the minimum standards at the end of the probationary semester will be denied further registration in the MA in SLS program. For purposes of these rules, a “semester” is the calendar period, regardless of the number of credit hours taken.

Admission as an Unclassified Student

A student may attend the University as a Post-Baccalaureate Unclassified Student (PBU). An unclassified student has not been admitted to any advanced degree program. Unclassified students sometimes enroll in SLS graduate courses (if there is space), and sometimes they later apply to the MA program. PBU applicants to the MA in SLS degree program are subject to the same application process and requirements as all applicants. There is a limit of 12 credits that can be transferred into the degree program, so unclassified students may not get credit for all of the courses taken. PBU status is not available to international students. For information on admission as a PBU, contact the Office of Admissions and Records, University of Hawai‘i, 2600 Campus Road, Honolulu HI 96822.


Center for Second Language Research
In 1983, the Department established the Center for Second Language Research. The Center conducts research on the learning and use of second/foreign languages in formal and non-formal settings, as well as on aspects of pidgin and creole use and learning. Students in the Department’s graduate programs may be employed as research assistants in the Center.

National Foreign Language Resource Center
Under a grant from the U. S. Department of Education that began in 1990, the National Foreign Language Resource Center at  UH has served as one of a small number of resource centers established to improve and enrich foreign language education nationwide. The Center engages in research and materials development projects and conducts summer institutes for language professionals. The Center’s publications division distributes teaching materials, as well as a series of technical and research reports. Students in the Department’s graduate programs may be employed as research assistants in the Center. See the NFLRC webpage for information:

Charlene Sato Center for Pidgin, Creole, and Dialect Studies
The Sato Center was established in January 2002. Its aim is to conduct research on pidgin and creole languages as well as nonstandard dialects, with a focus on research that can benefit speakers of such varieties.


The Department of SLS offers a small number of courses in the summer. A list of courses may be obtained by contacting the Department after December 1. There are also relevant elective courses in other departments. It is not possible to pursue an MA in SLS by taking summer courses only.

Admission to the Summer Session
It is possible to take courses during the summer without having been admitted to the Graduate Division. Application materials are usually available in mid-March. They may be obtained from: Outreach College, UH. Admission to Summer Session does not constitute admission to the Graduate Division.


The University
The main campus of the University of Hawai‘i is located in Mānoa, a valley close to the heart of metropolitan Honolulu. In many ways the University of Hawai‘i is similar to large state universities on the U. S. Mainland. It is unique, however, in the amount of attention it gives to students concerned with Asia and the Pacific Basin. In addition, the multicultural and multilingual heritage of Hawai‘i creates an especially favorable environment for the study of languages and cultures, language teaching, language acquisition, language use, and linguistic description.

Language Courses
The University offers a large number of courses in both modern and classical languages. Along with courses in the modern and classic European languages, there are unusually rich and varied offerings in Asian and Pacific languages: Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Japanese, Korean, Cambodian, Hawaiian, Hindi, Ilokano, Indonesian, Lao, Samoan, Tagalog, Tahitian, Thai, and Vietnamese. Many of these languages can be taken in regular or accelerated programs; many are offered in summer sessions as well as in regular sessions. Because of the cosmopolitan character of Hawai’i and the University, there are unique and invaluable opportunities to use these languages outside of the classroom.

Living Accommodations
Campus housing for graduate students (other than East-West Center grantees) is limited, resulting in heavy demand for off-campus housing. The Student Housing Office maintains files on such housing and gives all possible assistance in locating suitable accommodations after the student arrives, but because of rapid turnover the names of landlords cannot be sent through the mail. Negotiations with off-campus landlords must be handled directly by the student. Inquiries concerning housing should be directed to the Student Housing Office.

The department’s graduate program is a substantial component of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Hawai’i, enrolling both American and foreign students. There is a student organization called Second Language Studies Student Association (SLSSA). Members of SLSSA participate in departmental committees, arrange Student-Faculty Colloquia, advise incoming students at the Orientation Meeting, and organize various events for both students and faculty, including a student-run conference. For the past 30 years, SLSSA and the Department have organized a faculty-student overnight retreat, held in early or late in September at a camp outside Honolulu. Useful information for new students,  is also found on SLSSA’s web site.

The strength of the SLS program is  to be found in (among other places) its faculty, many of whom are internationally recognized as leaders in their fields. This recognition is reflected in the wide range of their research-based and pedagogical article and book publications, editorship of journals, leadership in professional organizations, and speaking invitations at conferences. Visit the faculty pages for more detailed information about each faculty member.

Orientation and Registration
New students are informed by the Graduate Division concerning the date of registration, which takes place in the second half of August. The Department holds an Orientation Meeting each August for new students. Information about the time, place, and content of the meeting is sent to all incoming students a few weeks prior to the meeting.

Additional Information
Additional information about University and Graduate Division policies may be obtained by contacting

Graduate Chair of SLS
(808) 956-8610



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