June 13, 2006 Letters of Recommendation & Foreign Language Evaluation    

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Requesting Letters of Recommendation
Tips for Letters of Reference & Language Evaluation
General Questions Answered
Country Specific Questions Answered
The Fulbright Experience: Perspectives from a Disabled Grantee
Tips for Letters of Reference & Language Evaluation
by Valeria Hymas, Program Manager - Europe/Eurasia

Letters of Reference/Recommendation

1. Applicants should ask for references from people who have some knowledge of the field, or host country who can speak intelligently about the applicant’s ability to carry out the proposed project. They should also comment specifically on the feasibility of the applicant’s project in terms of resources available abroad, linguistic preparation of the proposed project and the candidate’s ability to adapt to a different cultural environment. They are free to comment upon any other factors that they believe may have a bearing on the applicant’s successful overseas experience. They should also indicate their feelings as to the merit or validity of the project itself. For arts candidates, letter writers should discuss the applicant’s potential for growth.

2. We do not recommend applicants use reference letters from university placement services for their Fulbright applications since your recommendation writers must address the specific issues that we ask about on our Letter of Recommendation form. These issues are specific to the goals of the Fulbright program and reference letters that address them will be more beneficial to your application. Letters from a service will not be specific to your application so are not as strong as those that you request specifically for your Fulbright project.

3. Many of your recommendation letter writers may prefer to use institutional letterhead instead of the form provided by Fulbright. This is perfectly acceptable. However, you should still provide a copy of the form to your letter writers so that they may follow the necessary instructions. It is important that they note your full name, field of study and country of application at the top of each page of their letter--which must be on institutional letterhead. Also, they should be advised to write on only one side of the page as we will not photocopy the backs of any pages of your application.

4. In general, as stated above, it is best to ask for references from people who have knowledge of your field of study, project and host country. However, some applicants may find it difficult to obtain all three letters of recommendation from people who can fulfill these guidelines. It may not always be possible to include references from professors or other field specialists. You will need to use your best judgment as to who could provide the best reference for your application. These letters can come from supervisors or employers. We recommend trying to obtain as many letters as possible from people who meet our guidelines, but you can submit a reference letter from anyone that you wish.

Language Evaluation

6. One of the biggest myths of the Fulbright program is that applicants must be proficient in the host country’s language to even consider applying to any particular country. Although, language proficiency may be a factor in competitiveness it does not mean that a candidate is ineligible to apply. In general, an applicant should have the necessary language skills to complete the project that they design given whatever language skills they have. Therefore, the onus is on the applicant to design their projects so that they are feasible.

5.  If English is not the official language of the country to which your are applying, then you must submit the Foreign Language Evaluation form, even if English is an acceptable substitute. .  This is true even if (1) you have no language skills in the host countries official language, and (2) your project does not require that you use (speak, read, or write) in the host country language.  If you have absolutely no language skills in the host country language, then you may indicate this on the Language Evaluation Form and attach a statement outlining what you will do over the course of the next year, to obtain a hospitality/survival level of the host country’s language. You would not, in this case, need to have your language skills evaluated.  The Fulbright program is a mutual understanding program so learning some of the language before going shows a commitment to the host country's culture. Those applicants who speak some of the host language are advised to have their skill level evaluatedd even if they do not need the language for the project.

6. Foreign language evaluations should come from an instructor in the language. For widely spoken languages (i.e., Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Russian, etc.) there really is no reason why any candidate could not find a language teacher to evaluate them. However, for lesser known languages it is fine for the applicant to have an evaluation done by a native speaker of this language. If possible, we would recommend obtaining an evaluation from a native speaker who is also a college professor, but if that is not feasible then any native speaker, except a family member, may complete the form. Some recommendations for finding a native speaker include: host country’s embassy, cultural center, international students.

7. Some project proposals require an applicant to have knowledge of more than one foreign language. In this circumstance, it is required that you submit a language evaluation for each of the languages that you will need for your project.

8. Creative and Performing Arts candidates and those proposing projects in the hard sciences often do not need to speak the host language for their projects at all. In general, the language expectations for these candidates are more relaxed than for academic projects. However, given the cultural understanding aspect of this program we still recommend that these candidates make an effort to learn at least a hospitality level of the host language before taking up the grant.

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This Newsletter aims to help you throughout the Fulbright application process. Each issue will be sent to your email account every two weeks until the application deadlineóOct. 21st.


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